Poker played at its highest level – or rather at its highest stakes - is like any other field of business: those with the money to play, and we’re talking $millions, want to be surrounded by the sort of luxury which reflects their success, or indulge their passion secluded from prying eyes, or are simply seeking the level of comfort which makes their high-stakes work pleasurable.
There is no one way to keep everyone happy, and the choice of high-stakes cardrooms across the globe reflect this, from kitsch-looking Vegas versions, to European modernity, to the opulence of the Far East – so let’s take a look at the most famous homes of the nosebleed cash game kings.
There will be few if any poker fans who haven’t heard of the Bellagio, home to the legendary Bobby’s Room – an exclusive elevated two-table chamber slightly apart from the main poker room.
The door is always open – because you can’t actually have a private game in a casino in Nevada – but you’ll still need an invite and a huge bankroll to take a seat here amidst the chandeliers, player portraits and, because it’s ‘America’ the ubiquitous massive plasma-screen TV.
The stained glass windows afford ordinary players and fans a glimpse of the Big Game - perhaps Tom Dwan, Doyle Brunson or Bobby Baldwin himself taking on the super-rich businessmen who flock there.
The infamous players painting hanging in Bobby’s Room
The ‘Big Game’ found a new venue to add to its rota of exclusive cardrooms in 2010 when Phil Ivey gave his name to the new high roller salon, the most-famous name in the game “honoured that Bill McBeath and the entire team at ARIA have decided to place my name on their one-table high-limit room.”
The single-table room has all the extras the richest poker players in the world would expect, including 24-hour tableside dining and immediate and direct access to the cashier – very important if you’ve just dusted off a million or two and a rich banker sits down next to you! Reload takes on a new meaning at this level.
Leon’s VIP Room/Kings Casino
Outside of Vegas, there is no poker room which even comes close to Leon Tsoukernik’s dream creation on the border between the Czech Republic and Germany, neither in size nor in attractiveness. And of course, with the multi-millionaire casino owner a huge fan of high-stakes action, the high-rollers are well taken care of too.
His ‘poker island’ in the tiny village of Rozvadov has seen almost every poker tour in Europe and beyond converge on its massive playing areas, but the select band of high-stakes players which includes Daniel ‘Jungleman’ Cates, Gus Hansen and Tony G play on a raised stage with a view out across the hundreds of ‘normal’ tables.
The open-plan idea creates a different kind of exclusivity, but the idea remains the same – if you’ve made it to Leon’s table you are simply in a different league, and the cash games can see millions of euros ebb and flow amidst the blue and gold of Kings.
Trickett’s Room/Dusk ‘Til Dawn
If Kings can be considered the biggest of Europe’s poker rooms, Dusk ‘Til Dawn in Nottingham can console itself with having an impeccable reputation and an ambience all of its own – and the high-stakes Trickett’s Room is probably the coolest of all places to stake your millions.
Named after the hugely-successful cash game and tournament pro Sam Trickett who began his career playing low stakes in the casino, the room was designed taking “inspiration from the 1970's Vegas scene and the swanky, glamorous 60’s Mad Men style, to come up with a space oozing with masculine elegance.”
Unlike the windowed Bobby’s Room or the open plan Kings VIP area, Trickett’s Room has a bespoke wooden wall partition with rotating panels, enabling the high rollers to choose who sees in or out and when.
The design has seen it entered for awards, its sleek, modern interior ‘appointed to a luxurious standard’ and offering ‘a unique experience to our most discerning customers’ – which have included well-known footballers as well as the late Dave ‘Devilfish’ Ulliott and high-rolling businessman Paul Newey.
Poker King Club/Macau
When it comes to the amount of money in play, Macau has always hosted the very biggest games on the planet – in fact their very own ‘Big Game’ has seen pots of $10million to $20 million if the rather sparse information to come out of the private games at the Venetian are to be believed.
With Macau’s biggest businessmen Paul Phua, Richard Yong and Winfred Yu combining to offer pro players the chance to mix it with some of the wealthiest and keenest amateurs from China, the games often see waiting lists – although the likes of Tom Dwan, Sam Trickett, Daniel Cates and Phil Ivey have always had a seat at the table.
The success and occasional troubles of the Macau gambling world led the far eastern Big Game to the Philippines for a while, the 3rd floor VIP suite of the Solaire Casino in Manila playing host to the huge cash games – strictly invite only of course.