Shuffle up and deal in the world’s best poker rooms
For ardent players of Texas Hold’em poker, there really is nothing quite like the theatre of playing in a casino poker room. For newbies, playing in a casino can be somewhat daunting, as you’re pushed to bring your ‘A Game’ against a bunch of strangers that you’ve never met before. It’s a battle of minds and wills, which is why poker rooms still reign supreme in some of the finest land-based casinos around the world.
There’s a real clash of personalities in many poker rooms around the world. Some like to be loud and brash, while others like to sit there in silence and soak up the tells from their opponents. It’s almost like a social experiment! If you’ve always fancied playing in a purpose-built poker room rather than at your friend’s dining table, these five locations will get the pulse racing in no time at all.
Pack your bags for Sin City
You can’t beat the history and the glamor of the casinos dotted along the Las Vegas Boulevard Strip. Although Vegas has since been overtaken in terms of annual gaming revenues, it remains the entertainment capital of the world, a city where time stands still. Texas Hold’em poker was brought to life in Sin City, with the World Series of Poker giving rise to the poker ‘boom’ of the mid-2000s.
Selecting the best poker rooms in Vegas can be somewhat subjective depending on the calibre of poker player. Nevertheless, if you want the best possible gaming experience, you should pay a visit to the Venetian and the Bellagio poker rooms. The former is the larger of the two rooms, with 14,000 sq ft of floor space, incorporating 59 poker tables and plenty of flat-screen televisions to keep you entertained when you’re dealt a 2/7 off-suit. Their exclusive tournaments have $100-$300 buy-ins, while the cash games tend to start from $1/3 for no-limit and $4/8 for limit Hold’em. Meanwhile, the Bellagio poker room is half the size but you can’t beat it for star-spotting. It’s one of the favourite haunts of many legendary poker pros such as Doyle Brunson but is also great for accommodating low-roller tourists with modest cash game bankrolls!
A Catalan poker fiesta
If you’re travelling around mainland Spain, there’s no better place to pull up with a chip and a chair than the Catalan capital of Barcelona. The Casino Barcelona is the only place you can play, as the headquarters of the European Poker Tour (EPT) and a stop on the World Poker Tour (WPT) calendar. In fact, it’s the only place in the city where it is legal to play poker!
Casino Barcelona is most renowned for its great selection of multi-table poker tournaments rather than its cash games, although their 12-plus cash game tables have a decent level of action that most low-to-mid stakes grinders should feel comfortable playing in. Every day, Casino Barcelona hosted multi-table tournaments, many with unlimited re-entry. The buy-ins range from $25 to over $400 for Main Events. Its fantastic location near the city’s Marina and Parc de la Ciutadella also means it’s easily accessible on foot and via the Barcelona Metro system.
Poker by the Mediterranean
High-class poker guaranteed on the French Riviera
Head due north-east of Barcelona by boat and you’d eventually reach our next port of call, the south of France. This stunning piece of Mediterranean coastline is home to some of the most prestigious towns and cities on the planet, namely Monaco. Monte Carlo is the most glamorous suburb of Monaco and is also the home to three highly exclusive poker rooms that offer a great spread of poker action in decadent settings.
The Casino de Monte-Carlo is perhaps the most iconic casino in Monte Carlo, founded in 1863 at the base of the Maritime Alps, overlooking the French Riviera. There’s 108,000 sq ft of gaming space in its historic casino, as well as a poker room for prestigious tournaments. The nearby Casino Le Café de Paris and Sun Casino also have poker action intermittently available within their many gaming rooms.
The ‘Vegas of the Orient’
Macau: the only place to gamble legally in China
First things first, poker in Macau is nothing like what you might experience in Las Vegas but it’s certainly growing in popularity. In fact, it’s not unheard of for poker rooms in Macau to have waiting lists of up to 60-70 people at any time! As poker is more of a novelty in Macau, it’s something of a spectacle in the casino resorts. The Wynn and Venetian poker rooms are obviously some of Macau’s best-run poker rooms given that they operate in a similar fashion to their Vegas-based resorts.
Both the Poker King Club Macau and the Macau Billionaire Poker Room offer comfortable surroundings and 24/7 action, with comparatively high stakes in terms of cash games. That’s because stringent regulations from the Chinese government mean that the casinos need to raise the stakes to increase their returns. The Poker King Club is particularly pleasant; it’s now a non-smoking poker room and has very comfortable seating, plentiful televisions within view of the tables and USB charging ports for mobile devices.
Online action from the comfort of your hotel
Of course, if you still feel too intimidated to wander into any of these exclusive poker rooms on your travels overseas you could instead look to play online from the comfort of your hotel room. All you need is a laptop or tablet device and a reliable Wi-Fi or 3-to-4G mobile data connection and you can play for as long as you wish. Fortunately, there are cash games and poker tournaments available online that cater for players of all skill levels and bankroll sizes. Sit & Go (SNG) poker tournaments are the most frequently available games online, as these are open 24/7, but bear in mind these will only start once every seat in the tournament has been filled. If you prefer structure and starting at a specified time, multi-table tournaments (MTTs) can turn modest bankrolls into monster ones with one successful tournament.
Wherever you end up playing, it’s important to remember the basic strategy of tournament poker. Keep things tight in the early stages and only play your best hands aggressively but be prepared to take the shackles off as the tournament moves into the latter stages and other players become acutely aware of what’s at stake. This will allow you to bully some players out of pots and accumulate even more chips in the process. On the whole, this article really does reinforce that Texas Hold’em remains a global pull for card players.