Norwegian poker fans return to Dublin

Despite their gambling laws being relaxed in recent times...

Norwegian poker fans return to Dublin

Picture by: Niall Carson / PA Archive/Press Association Images

The Norwegian Poker Championships 2016 are in full swing... in a Dublin hotel.

For the fifth year in a row, the Scandinavian nation’s flagship poker tournament goes down on Irish soil.

This time however, the close to 2,000 Norwegians making Citywest their home are not in exile.

It’s a situation that initially had everything to do with the stringent gambling laws in place in Norway. With legislation forcing the event to Sweden, Latvia and England in its early years, it found a true home-from-home in Dublin, with the Irish and Norwegians mixing extremely well over cards (and drinks), in tandem with the JP Poker Masters event.

Following Norwegian challenges arguing that poker is a game of skill, rather than simply luck – such as when poker pro Ola “Odd Oddsen” Amundsrud publicly defeated Progress Party politician Erlend Wiborg in a game – a 2014 recommendation by their Minister of Culture saw the laws relaxed considerably.

With regulations now allowing for tournaments to be held in Norway, the first home-based, “official” Norwegian Poker Championships took place late last year. Oslo player Felix Stephensen won the historic tournament in his home town in November.

Not that a successful Norway edition meant curtains for its foreign iterations.

The Norwegian permit for the tournament is extremely limited, allowing for a maximum of three tournaments with a combined total buy-in of approximately €1,000 and no cash games.

The fact it has only been granted for three years so far means an air of uncertainty remains around the longevity of the whole endeavour.

The popularity and pedigree of the Irish event is clear, with organiser Frode Fagerli eager not to end what is now a healthy, lucrative, relationship. The Championships will now continue in both Oslo and Dublin, with smaller Norwegian events also being held in Las Vegas, Australia and across Europe.

The Norwegian Poker Championships in Citywest will come to their proper competitive climax on Tuesday, when the €800 buy-in No Limit Hold'em main event gets underway.