Located roughly 20 kilometers north of Paris, Enghien-les-Bains, the host of the 2013 World Series of Poker Europe, is a quaint little town that neighbors the Lac d’Enghien. The first half of the name is Belgian and is taken from the Lordship of Enghien, a small city near Mons. The latter part of the city’s name, “les bains,” is French for baths.
In 1766, an Oratorian priest discovered sulfuric water near the lake, and in 1820 a spa was built. Half a century later, King Louis XVII used the waters to heal an ulcer in his leg, and when news spread that the lake was therapeutic it became a very fashionable place to go on holiday.
The town’s motto is: Dant robur virtutemque fonts, which translates to “The sources that give strength and courage.”
As the 20th century neared, many wealthy French families began building mansions near the lake, including curator of the Louvre Frederic Reiset. In 1878, the casino was inaugurated, and in the early 1900’s there was a theatre added. During the first World War the gambling halls were cleared and used as a military hospital.
Casino gaming took a severe hit in 1919 when the National Assembly voted to prohibit gambling within a 100 km radius of Paris. Enghien-les-Bains saw spa revenues plummet until 1931, when the law was finally relaxed.
During World War II, the Germans used Enghien-les-Bains for temporary lodging. The city was also used to host a Kommandantur — an SS command headquarters.
After the Second World War passed, casino gambling started to grow again. In 1988, the Lucien Barrière Group was granted the concession for the spa and the casino, and today it is named the Casino Barrière d’Enghien-les-Bains.
The drive from Paris to Enghien-les-Bains is quite pleasant. At first you are racing through the city streets, weaving in and out of taxi traffic while avoiding tourists with their shopping bags from the Avenue des Champs-Élysée, and then suddenly you are on the highway, buzzing by trees. If you sneak a peak out the window of your taxi on a clear day, you can see the Eiffel Tower standing tall to the south. At night, the monument flashes lights every hour on the hour for five minutes or so, and can be seen from miles and miles.
If you’re not pressed for time and are willing to take a longer journey, Enghien-les-Bains is also accessible by bus.
As you enter the town, it looks no different than any other small countryside town in Europe. But when you turn the bend and the lake comes into view, then you realize why Enghien-les-Bains is a popular holiday spot. Even on a cloudy, brisk Fall day, the lake's waters appear inviting. The casino sits right alongside the water and is flanked by hotels owned by Barrière.
While none of the events are being held at the main casino, there is still a massive WSOP Europe banner that features a gold bracelet. Across the lake at the Hôtel du Lac, where the tournaments are being held, there is another banner along with three black BMWs. The presentation is very sleek, and the three German autos bring one word to mind: Baller.
The inside of the venue is very clean as well. In the tournament rooms, the wall facing the lake is entirely made of windows. This not only allows the players to enjoy the beautiful view, but they also can get a bit of sunlight, which is very foreign in poker tournaments. Also, Red Bull appears to be a big sponsor of the event, because there are mini-fridges everywhere stocked with free cans. For poker players and media members grinding long hours, this is very welcoming.
This is the third European city to host the WSOP Europe, and there are both pros and cons when compared to London and Cannes. The venue is much larger than the previous two, with more tables and more space to breath. Like the abundance of Red Bulls, this is beneficiary for both the players and the staff. The area is also a lot more affordable than the previous two locations, because you're dealing in Euros rather than British Pounds and you're on the Lac d’Enghien, not the French Riviera.
There are less options for food and nightlife though because the town is rather quiet. Unlike London or Cannes, where you can find a great restaurant or club on every street, Enghien-les-Bains has a few small shops, a McDonalds, and a Subway. For more extravagant dining, you need to take a trip south to Paris.
The first event of the WSOP Europe is in the books, and Jackie Glazier is now a bracelet holder, but there are seven more titles to hand out. Be sure to stay tuned to PokerNews for more feature pieces from France and a recap of each day’s events.
Historical information courtesy of ville-enghienlesbains.fr