Ask most people where the best poker games are played and Las Vegas will frequently be amongst the top locations mentioned, particularly when asking Americans who like to chance their hand at the gaming tables. After all, for many decades, the Nevada city was the undisputed capital of casinos anywhere in the world.
However, both the rise in popularity of internet gaming and greater ease of international travel than ever before has opened up a whole new realm of possibilities for avid poker players; from amateur aficionados to hardened hold ‘em professionals. The fabled ‘Sin City’ casinos aren’t the only places to catch a great game of poker, because tables at the following hotspots are now hosting some of the best games around.
Atlantis Casino (Nassau, Bahamas)
As one of the foremost Caribbean tourism hotspots, The Bahamas has plenty to offer visitors beyond the sun-kissed islands with golden beaches and crystal-clear waters. Across the bay from Nassau harbor lies Paradise Island, known locally as Hog Island prior to the first major redevelopment in the 1960s, however, the luxury accommodation and attractions modern visitors will find these days certainly won’t leave them feeling like a pig in a poke.
Paradise Island featured prominently in the 2006 James Bond movie, Casino Royale, with Daniel Craig starring as the fictional British super-spy in the reboot of the franchise. Central to the plot was a thrilling high-stakes Texas hold ‘em poker game, which is one of the many classic table games visitors to the Atlantis Casino can enjoy, as part of the myriad of attractions at the expansive resort complex.
At traditional casinos around the world, the gaming action typically takes place indoors, but one of the signature attractions at the Atlantis Casino is poolside gaming at The Cove Pool, providing a refreshing opportunity to take a dip between hands of poker or blackjack. Certainly, this is an altogether different experience for novice and high rollers alike chancing their hand at the tables in the Bahamas.
Commerce Casino (Los Angeles, California)
Established in 1983 and said to boast the largest dedicated cardroom in the world, the Commerce Casino is certainly the most renown gambling hotspot in Los Angeles. Along with the action at the tables, the complex is also frequently host to live boxing, professional wrestling and MMA bouts, including headline UFC events. That said, there’s no need to fight for a place at the gaming tables, with over 240 on site offering a wide variety of card games.
Undoubtedly, it’s card games that reign supreme at this casino, attracting local Angelinos and international visitors alike. Baccarat and blackjack can be played at some of the tables, but poker is most definitely king of card games here, with practically every variant of the game you could think of – from Texas hold ‘em and Omaha, to Pai Gow and Mississippi Stud; all with limit, pot limit and no limit table options available.
With such a strong focus on poker, it’s no surprise that Commerce Casino is also the home of several prominent tournaments. From January through March there’s the Los Angeles Poker Classic, which also incorporates a World Poker Tour event and is the first to pack a busy calendar throughout the year. The California State Poker Championship is held at the venue each May, followed in September by the signature Commerce Hold’em Series in September, then the L.A. Poker Open in November.
Casino Barcelona (Barcelona, Spain)
Despite the name, when Casino Barcelona first opened its doors in 1978 it was actually located around 40km outside the city, in San Pedro de Ribas at a rural stately home known as Mas Solers, the opulent former residence of the Marquis of Argentera. Although gambling and casino games such as poker were legalized with the return of democracy to Spain, following the end of the Franco regime, establishing casinos was still prohibited in urban areas.
In 1999, Casino Barcelona relocated to expansive new facilities located beneath the emblematic Hotel Arts, a luxury hotel operated by Ritz-Carlton overlooking the Port Olímpic marina and the Mediterranean. Since then, the 75,000 square feet casino has earned renown as one of the most popular in Spain, particularly in the poker circuit and thanks to its prime coastal location in the culturally rich Catalan city of Barcelona.
Between May 24th and June 4th 2018, Casino Barcelona will host an 888poker LIVE event, which is set to be one of the highlights of the year’s international poker calendar, with around $1 million up for grabs and featuring a wide variety of poker tournaments. The casino and the neighboring hotel are already familiar with hosting some of the most prestigious poker tournaments in the world, having been a regular stage for the European Poker Tour since 2004.
Crown Poker Room (Melbourne, Australia)
It’s no secret that Australians are fiercely competitive and justifiably proud of their sporting achievements, so it should come as no surprise that they’re also hosting some of the best games of poker around, welcoming visitors from far and wide to participate in the wealthiest tournaments on offer in the southern hemisphere.
The biggest of them all is the annual Crown Australian Poker Championship, better known as Aussie Millions, regularly attracting the best poker players from every corner of the globe to the Crown Poker Room in Melbourne. First held in 1998, the event has grown both in reputation and richness of prizes up for grabs. At the 2018 event which attracted 800 players, European Poker Tour champion Toby Lewis from England reigned supreme, taking AUS $1,458,198 in winnings after the final table game.
Between 2011 and 2016, additional Super High Roller tournaments were held at the same time with a staggering AUS $250,000 buy-in, American poker star Phil Ivey won three events out of six and, most impressively, landed a personal fortune of AUS $4 million from the 2014 event. With such large sums of money in prizes on offer, it’s no wonder the best of the best head to this casino, overlooking the Yarra River in Melbourne.
The Wider World of Poker
As mentioned right at the top, the world is a much smaller place these days. All the locations mentioned, and many more, are all within easier reach than ever before. For anyone getting tired of the local poker action, or looking beyond what’s on offer in the famous Las Vegas casinos, these poker hotspots will certainly whet the appetite.