World Series of Poker Europe

The PokerNews Top 10: Top Poker Destinations

The PokerNews Top 10: Top Poker Destinations 0001

Poker has truly grown into a worldwide phenomenon. With the rapid expansion of the tournament circuit to far-flung locales in Asia, Europe, and South America, it's easier than ever to incorporate poker into one's holiday. At PokerNews, we're constantly traveling the world to cover events and have been lucky enough to experience poker on nearly every continent. It's more convenient than ever to satellite into events online and win both your buy-in and travel expenses — but where to start? Take a look at our top ten poker destinations and find out which one fits your bill.

10. Dublin, Ireland

Dublin has a rich poker history and a thriving local community of players who populate the city's card clubs like Fitzwilliam and the Jackpot. The city also plays host to the Irish Open each year, the country's longest-running major tournament. Poker is also a significant presence in Dublin's plethora of watering holes, many of which host pub poker leagues. Dublin also is home to perhaps the greatest bang-for-your-buck tournament the world over, the European Deep Stack Championships. For the €1,500 buy-in, players get 50,000 in starting chips and blinds that begin at 25/50—that's an utterly staggering 1,000 big blinds to start, allowing for days of skillful, deep stacked play (compare that to the 60 big blinds players start with during a $1,500 WSOP event). And if you do manage to get knocked out, there are a number of second-chance events to play with buy-ins starting at only €200.

9. San Jose, Costa Rica

Want to add a little adventure to your poker vacation? San Jose, Costa Rica could be the destination you're looking for. Gambling is legal in this tiny Central American country and there are dozens of casinos to choose from in the area. San Jose also hosts a stop on Poker Stars' Latin American Poker Tour, featuring a $3,500 Main Event that boasted a million-dollar prize pool last season. When you're not check-raising your heart out, take a canopy tour and ride down a zip line through the trees for a once-in-a-lifetime thrill. Surfers will love the beaches and nature lovers will marvel at the waterfalls, volcanoes, and orchid gardens just outside the city.

8. Los Angeles, CA

It may surprise you, but the world's largest poker room isn't in Las Vegas. It's at the Commerce Casino, located ten minutes south of downtown Los Angeles in Commerce, CA. Commerce is home to two cavernous poker rooms — a sprawling low-limit area (we're talking over 100 tables here) and a high-limit room that hosts some of the biggest games on the west coast. It's not unusual to find 800 players in a tournament at Commerce and the cash games are some of the juiciest you'll find on the planet. L.A. is not just a one-cardroom town, either. Only a few miles down the road from Commerce are the Bicycle Casino and Hawaiian Gardens, while Hollywood Park and Larry Flynt's Hustler Casino and are only a short freeway ride away. While there isn't much by way of sightseeing in the light-industrial suburbs that house L.A.'s cardrooms, everything Southern California has to offer is right at your feet — first-class shopping and restaurants, historic Hollywood, Disneyland, major league sporting events, and some of the world's most breathtaking beaches.

7. Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona is an absolute must-see on any European itinerary. Home to sandy beaches, a gorgeous gothic quarter, Gaudi's unfinished masterpiece the Sagrada Familia and a roaring nightlife, Barcelona also has its very own state-run casino. Located mere steps away from the Mediterranean, the Casino de Barcelona is sleek, modern and home to some of the wildest cash-game action in Europe. The EPT stops here every September for the Barcelona Open and the games grow even juicier during the tournament, the waiting lists often reaching 100 names deep. While waiting for that €5/10 no-limit seat, there are dozens of restaurants and shops to enjoy right across the road in Vila Olimpica, situated right on the marina. If you're in the mood to splurge on a five-star hotel, look no further than the Hotel Arts, only a few hundred meters from the casino door (Patrik Antonius cites it as his favorite hotel in the world—and he's a very well-traveled guy!)


The PokerNews Top 10: Top Poker Destinations 101

The entrance to the elegant Casino de Barcelona</center>

6. Macau, China

Getting there requires a long-haul flight (or two) from the U.S. or Europe, but Macau is the gaming capital of the East, boasting 28 casinos including the massive Venetian Macau, which is shockingly similar to its Las Vegas counterpart. Though gambling has been legal in Macau since the 19th century, poker was only introduced two years ago, but since then has taken off and is rapidly expanding. The Wynn Macau and the Grand Lisboa casinos both have opened poker rooms while Poker Stars has their own official live cardroom at the Grand Waldo Casino where live tournaments are held every weekend. For those looking to venture outside the principality, Hong Kong is located only 37 miles from Macau and is accessible by high-speed ferry.


Neon nights in Macau</center>

5. London, U.K.

Poker's elite descend on London each September for the one-two punch of the World Series of Poker-Europe and the EPT's U.K. stop, and most will agree that the trip is well worth it. London is home to a number of casinos and card clubs, including the popular Grosvenor Victoria, the elegant Fifty, and the neon-and-crystal Empire, which hosts the WSOP-E. With the pound having fallen so dramatically against the dollar (currently &pound;1= $1.37) there has never been a better time to travel to Britain and there's no shortage of culture to take in when you're away from the tables. The giant ferris wheel-like London Eye offers magnificent views of the city and attractions such as Big Ben, Parliament, the Tate Modern Museum, and the National Gallery are only a short walk away. Theatre buffs will love the West End and those looking for a more natural setting will feel at home in one of the city's Royal Parks (Kensington Gardens and Hampstead Heath are two of this writer's favorites).

4. Monte Carlo, Monaco

If you're looking to travel on a budget, Monte Carlo isn't going to fit the bill, but if you're up for a splurge and want to live in the lap of luxury for a few days, this tiny principality tucked between the French and Italian borders on the Mediterranean coast will fulfill all your champagne wishes and caviar dreams. Just get ready for a little sticker shock — €25 is the going rate for a cheeseburger. Easily accessible by car or helicopter from Nice Airport, Monte Carlo hosts Europe's richest poker tournament — the EPT Grand Final, which typically falls in the second or third week of April each year. Walk the cliffsides along Avenue Saint-Martin, engage in some retail therapy at the plethora of designer boutiques in the Golden Circle area or put on your finest duds and channel James Bond as you play baccarat at the Grand Casino. If you don't spot a celebrity or two, at least you'll feel like one.


The stunning view at Monte Carlo</center>

3. Paradise Island, Bahamas

Each January, online poker players from all over the world descend upon the Atlantis Resort on tiny Paradise Island in the Bahamas for the PokerStars Carribean Adventure. Now an official stop on the European Poker Tour, the PCA drew over 1,200 players this year, most of whom won their tournament buy-in and travel expenses via a PokerStars satellite. Aside from the obvious perks that come with traveling to the Bahamas in January, the PCA is a great stop for families on the international poker circuit. While you grind it out at a tournament table, the kids can enjoy the Dolphin Cay, take a ride on a water slide, or swim in one of the resort's beautifully landscaped pools.

2. Melbourne, Australia

The land of Oz is home to a laid-back beach culture as well as the largest casino in the southern hemisphere—Melbourne's Crown Casino, which hosts the Aussie Millions every January and the PokerNews Cup each October. The Crown complex is situated in Melbourne's Southbank area along the Yarra River and is packed with shops, cafes, and excellent restaurants (try Rockpool for mouth-watering steaks and Cervo for a glass of Aussie Shiraz and a fine mushroom risotto). The complex also sports two hotels, the four-star Crown Promenade and the uber-luxe Crown Towers, which are only a five-minute walk from the poker room. Poker in Australia is still booming and many players are still learning, resulting in cash-game action that will blow your mind and pad your bankroll. And after you've quit your game or busted from the tournament, there's no shortage of things to do. Take a walk around the beach community of St. Kilda and grab a pint at one of the local watering holes. Visit the Melbourne Zoo and pet a kangaroo. Or, if you're up for a little road trip, hire a car and drive the Great Ocean Road or experience the penguin parade on Philip Island.


The nighttime skyline in Melbourne, home to the Aussie Millions</center>

1. Las Vegas, Nevada

When it comes to poker, there's still nowhere in the world like Las Vegas. It's still home to the biggest cash-game action and the world's richest poker tournament in the <a Href="">WSOP Main Event.</a> Almost any bankroll and any budget can be made to work in Vegas and with the U.S. deep in a recession, flights and hotel rooms have never been priced lower than they are now (the Wynn for $129/a night? Yes, you can!) Local rounders and deep-pocketed tourists tend to populate the poker rooms at Bellagio and the Venetian while a younger weekend crowd can be found at the $1-$2 and $2-$5 no-limit tables at MGM Grand and Mandalay Bay. If you're a hold'em newbie you can ride with your training wheels at the Treasure Island's low buy-in daily tournaments or find plenty of $2-$4 and $3-$6 limit hold'em action at The Mirage or Imperial Palace. And if you win big and are looking to celebrate? There's a nightclub with bottle service in every hotel (try Tao at Venetian or Bank at Bellagio) or… a number of Vegas' finest gentlemen's clubs only a short cab ride away.


The fountains outside the Bellagio draw tourists by the thousands,
while some of the world's best poker waits inside

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