African Poker Tours

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Published: 14/08/2012

In 2007, South African Raymond Rahme surprised even his own countrymen when he managed to reach the final table of the World Series of Poker WSOP) Main Event. Little did they know that he was the product of the informal “All-African Poker Tour,” a small but well-running machine that churns out top-notch players year after year.

The stationary “tour” is based in Swaziland, a tiny country that is almost entirely encompassed by South Africa. This is the home of the All Africa Poker Tournament, one of the oldest and richest of all poker events in this part of the world, inaugurated at Swaziland’s Piggs Peak Casino in the 1990s. Prizes of R1 million are awarded four times a year to the winners of installments conducted in February, May, August and November.

According to the press, “South African players such as Rahme, Warren Zackey, Jarred Solomon and Darren Kramer have each well represented the skill and dedication of the South African poker community while other well-known South African pros, such as Eric Hershler and Mark Vos … provide further testament that South Africa has a rightful place on the international poker scene.”

The African continent, of course, is huge and still in its infancy with regard to poker, but efforts to establish a formal poker tour are ongoing and the circuit continues to grow slowly with new venues for card play being added year by year.

For example, the first WSOP Africa tournament was conducted in 2010 at the Emerald Resort and Casino in Vanderbijlpark near Johannesburg, South Africa. That tournament consisted of just two events—a $1,100 Pot-Limit Omaha event with $300 rebuys and the $5,000 No Limit Main Event, which was won by Zackey of Johannesburg for $231,956.

Although there was no WSOP Africa in 2011, the series resumed in 2012 with six events, including a $10,400 High Roller No-Limit Hold’em event that drew 20 entries. The Main Event’s $158,595 prize was won by a former Sandton restaurateur turned poker pro named Joe-Boy Rahme. The WSOP sees this tournament as a way to provide a venue for players in South Africa and its fellow African countries to compete at a world-class level. Players from Namibia and Botswana participated in the most recent edition.

Other poker tours held in Africa include the Lemurian Poker Tour conducted in Madagascar and the Dakar Poker Tour, which was created under the initiative of Roger Hairabedian. In 2012, a new African Poker Tour was proposed to begin with its base in Lomé, the capital of Togo. The Espace de Jeux et de Loisirs of Taba was selected as the inaugural venue and a guaranteed prize of Francs CFA 5 million was announced.

Elsewhere, the beginnings of a new South African Poker Tour are being put in place. The web site PokerAce.co.za has announced that they will be a part of the tour; other satellite sites and partners are expected to follow suit. Meanwhile, groups such as the South African Poker Association (established in 2004) continue to spread the word about poker and support the South African National Poker Championship in Johannesburg.

One of the latest additions to the African poker scene has been the Happy Valley Casino Deepstack Freezeout at Swaziland’s Happy Valley Resort and Casino. Like the Piggs Peak All Africa events, it offers big prizes. In 2010, the inaugural installment drew 86 entrants was won by Alvin Pillay from Durban, who claimed a check for R270,000. In 2011, Jaime Vilela beat the field to win R260,000.

Published on: 14/08/2012

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