POKER playing is enjoying a boom time on Majorca - from a little over 100 players three years ago, there are now more than 1'200 of them on the island, Antonio Socias, poker professional and website administrator said yesterday.

The explosion of enthusiasts, Socias explained, is due to the coverage the game has been given on television and in the cinema, but above all to the facilities that are made available for poker on the internet.

Of the 1'200 or so players on Majorca, 20 of them manage to earn a living out of poker, whether it's by sitting at a card table or in front of a computer screen. Earnings can be up to 5'000 euros a month.

Added to the game's current popularity on the island, is the fact that it could potentially have even more followers after the only legal gambling hall on Majorca - the Casino - moves to the old cinema complex at Porto Pi in Palma from its present site at Magalluf.

Juan Jose Herraez, otherwise known as Kosuke, a professional poker player and website administrator for Optimus Poker and said yesterday that the move of the Casino, which is expected shortly, could in fact triple the number of poker enthusiasts on the island.

In contrast to what the public at large may believe, said Herraez, a poker player needs to study for years before he (or she) ventures into the professional world. Knowledge of mathematics and statistics is vital and successful players are frequently keen sportsmen, and have good mental control and astuteness.

Players can't start a “professional” life until they are 30 years old. Youngsters clamour for online games whilst the veterans spend their time at the Casino.

Although poker is sometimes painted as a game where players can “get rich quick,” Socias warned that it is also possible to lose everything. Any games that are played in a private home which involve sums of over 624 euros are considered illegal. Players can only bet vast quantities in the Casino or on the internet.

Enthusiasts reportedly divide into two groups - one called “the payers” who are comfortably off and trust to their luck, and the other known as the “regulars” who bide their time, waiting to catch “the payers.”