The roots of the modern game we recognise as poker can be found in card games played in France, the UK, and Germany. Some historians have noted that there are similarities with even Renaissance-period games – but what makes poker the popular game that it is today is the betting, and that really came into the game in the mid-18th Century in America.
As time went on, the game developed, with new ways to win and different game styles added. Modern poker as we know it today really became popular in the 1970s after the World Series of Poker was established. By the ‘80s, poker was recognised as a common recreational activity and featured in different films, movies, and other pop culture.
Playing poker online spiked the popularity of the game; not only could you play whenever you wanted, but you could also get involved with big money tournaments.
For those who want the live card room experience, there are several options for both recreational and tournament players in the UK – and below are five of the best.
Dusk Till Dawn, Nottingham
This was the first legal poker club to open in the UK, and when it launched in 2008 the owners Rob Yung and Nick Whitten wanted the club to be by poker players and for poker players.
45 tables hold up to 450 players, and while the action focuses on poker there are other table games available in the club as well as a restaurant.
The feel at Dusk Till Dawn is relaxed and friendly, with buy ins starting at just £1. Big money tournaments happen regularly, and the $1 million guaranteed UKIP Nottingham draws in the more professional players.
As a city, Nottingham offers so much more than just poker and exploring the local area while the casino is closed during the day will unearth some hidden gems, shopping malls, and cultural experiences.
The Vic – Grosvenor Victoria Casino, London
Offering the biggest and best poker tournaments in London, The Vic (as it is known by the regulars) is a grand casino offering all the games and experiences that you would expect from a brick-and-mortar casino.
The Poker Room was refurbished in 2013, and the 35 tables run cash games all day, every day. You can buy in for just £1 on some games, but for those with higher aspirations (and deeper pockets) there are £200-£400 mixed limit games available too.
The Vic hosts the London leg of the GUPKT as well as the Grand Final, and that means that you are likely to find the best poker players in London honing their craft, but there are many tourists and recreational players too.
At the heart of London which one of the many must see capitals, The Vic is in a great position to explore the capital , if you can tear yourself away from the exciting games.
Aspers Stratford, London
Another London venue, but this time in the East End. Stratford is the home of the biggest ‘in-town’ shopping mall in Europe, so it is only fitting that it is also home to the biggest casino in the UK. Aspers feels like Vegas, from the sportsbook bar to the interior design, and there are restaurants, bars, and hundreds of betting opportunities across the familiar casino games.
The poker room offers an innovative tournament schedule and buy-ins range from £10-£60, depending on your taste.
If you want a break from the cards, Aspers features regular live music, there are bars and restaurants, and you can even get some karaoke in if the mood takes you.
Outside of Aspers is all the shopping you could ever want, and every cuisine is catered for so there is something for everyone at Stratford.
The Hippodrome, London
In a building that was once a grand circus and a theatre, the cabaret-style Hippodrome Casino was opened in 2009 and offers so much in the way of entertainment beyond just poker. There are three floors of gaming, a shisha terrace and five different bars, as well as cabaret theatre and live music performances.
The PokerStars LIVE poker room is situated up the gallery theatre seating, and from this position in ‘the Gods’ (as it is known in the theatre), you get a brilliant view of all the action on the main casino floor as you play.
It might not be the biggest poker room in the UK, but with buy ins from £1-£2 it is perfect for the recreational player or tourist who wants a whole lot of entertainment outside the game they are playing.
The Hippodrome is right in the centre of London culture too, at the corner of Charing Cross Road and Leicester Square – so you could catch a movie premiere or take in a West End show as well as playing a few hands.
The Live Poker Experience
The four venues mentioned above epitomise the reason that players still head to brick-and-mortar casinos and poker rooms to get involved in games, even when access to online poker through mobile apps means that you can play wherever you are, whenever you want.
Only in a live poker room can you get the full experience of the atmosphere, the adrenaline, and the competition – and when the venues have so much personality and entertainment value, it becomes about so much more than just the game.
Visit a love poker room when you are next in the city and get involved in an experience that cannot be duplicated.