Poker, poker everywhere, but nary a place to play.The five-card craze has spawned a plethora of poker-themed television shows, Web sites where rookies can test their skills and even a magazine called All In, which debuted in May. According to the American Gaming Association, poker revenue in the state of Nevada rose 18.2% last year, while New Jersey saw a 14.2% increase. But while the game's popularity is spreading, finding a casino with a great poker room can be more difficult than you'd expect. The reason: Casinos don't make much money off of poker because the house doesn't really have an edge when it comes to odds. In the majority of poker variants, especially the popular games seen in television tournaments, players bet against other players to take home the pot. As a result, the house is left to essentially charge "rent" for the use of the tables, taking a minuscule percentage of the winnings as a fee. Casinos aren't entirely resistant to the trend. Some are looking to expand their poker rooms, if only to bring in high rollers who will stay the night and spend their money at restaurants and shops. By and large, however, casinos have decided to either court poker players or ignore them -- which means poker, as played in a casino, can be a hit-or-miss proposition. (For more on casinos and poker,
Las Vegas on the East CoastAtlantic City's dozen casinos generated $4.5 billion in gaming revenue during 2003, just shy of the $4.8 billion in gaming revenue generated in Las Vegas. But while Atlantic City is a gaming mecca, a poker mecca it is not.
The Hollywood ShuffleThe only thing better than meeting celebrities is taking their money -- and you can do it at the Commerce Casino, seven miles south of downtown Los Angeles and not far from Disneyland. Celebrities love poker these days, with failed sitcom stars, B-list Hollywood actors and two-bit comedians popping up on television shows like Bravo's Celebrity Poker Showdown and the World Poker Tour's Hollywood Home Game. And when the stars look to throw some cards and chops around, they head to Commerce, or the Bicycle Casino, nicknamed "The Bike" and home to the Legends of Poker tournament, which is also in Los Angeles. But the Commerce is the one that's been grabbing headlines lately. In June, Ben Affleck won Commerce Casino's California State Poker Championship, walking off with $356,000 in prize money, a seat at next April's World Poker Tour Championship and bragging rights for beating a 90-player field, which included a number of poker pros and other A-list names, like Spider-Man 2 star Tobey McGuire. Such celebrity sightings are nothing new for Commerce, which has developed a reputation for catering to stars over the last 21 years by keeping the star-struck at bay and giving celebs special treatment. "We value and protect their privacy," explained Nancy Friedman, spokesperson for the casino. "That's a very important practice for us. They feel comfortable coming down here to our casino to play just like any other person." Commerce, the self-described "Poker Capital of the World" and new home to the World Poker Tour Poker Walk of Fame, offers more poker than anywhere else in the United States. Because of California's gaming regulations, you won't find any jangling slot machines at the Commerce, where its Babylonian-themed interior sports more than 200 tables, a wide variety of betting limits and at least 10 different poker variants, including harder-to-find games like Pineapple, Low-Ball and Mexican Poker.
Take a Flyer on ParisIn 1907, in the wake of World War I, a group of French aviators got together and created a little club to play poker. Nearly a century later, the Aviation Club de France embodies everything you'd expect from a time when a generation of sartorial gentlemen played games of chance. "You walk right off the Champs-Elysees and enter the era of Louis the XVI," said Lipscomb. "The walls are covered in elaborate wood paneling; there are statues and a chandelier hanging from the ceiling. It's just a block-and-a-half from the Arc de Triumph. And it virtually defines sex appeal. If you're looking for a place you'll talk about for the rest of your life, this is it." With a long history and a location unmatched by any other casino on Earth, the Aviation Club is the kind of throwback that Las Vegas can only pull off with faux finishes. This authenticity attracts an upscale clientele and some of Europe's best poker players, who pass their time lounging around on the red leather furniture, inspecting the fine artwork on the walls and eating in the four-star restaurant -- that is, when they're not playing poker.
|Three Quick Poker Tips From the Pros |
Playing cards at home is one thing, but playing in a casino can be a nerve-shredding, money-losing experience. Here's what two pros had to say to avoid making rookie mistakes
|Ask for help, as that's what it's there for.||"Before you sit down, you should watch for a good 20 minutes. And when you want to play, make sure you talk to a floor man. He will help you get your chips and will provide you with a smooth transition into playing in person." -- Daniel Negreanu|
|Suckers and sharks like to talk.||"To spot a shark, look around and see who is talking a lot. If you see a lot of friendly chatter, chances are they could be the sucker -- but if they're not, they could be one of the professionals, conversing with the rest of the clique." -- Negreanu|
|Calm down and play slowly.||"I would say the best advice I can give is 'be patient' and 'wait for hands.' Don't be involved in every single pot. The first thing I always say is, 'you play too many hands,' before I even know how they play." -- Jennifer Harman|