Karl Mahrenholz takes a look at London’s new casinos

The packed Schedule in London allowed me the chance to visit two of the capital’s newest poker hotspots. Neither the Hippodrome or Aspers disappointed. The contrast of the two venues is quite stark. The Hippodrome has carved a casino out of a building very much still identifiable as an old theatre. The maze-like layout has gaming spaces hidden around every corner and a poker room nestled away on the very top floor. The poker room here is PokerStars’ first venture into a permanent live venue in the UK . While you may expect something akin to the spacious surroundings of Dusk Till Dawn, the poker room here is actually quite modest and only houses around 10 permanent tables. However the ballroom will also be used for bigger events and the recently announced UKIP T series will have a cap of 200 runners per day. I just hope they don’t try to balance tables between the two rooms as by the time you’ve found your new table, you may have been blinded out!

In the shadows of the Olympic Park, Aspers Stratford may not boast the central location of its theatrical rival, but this brand new venue isn’t wanting for much. Inside it has the feel of a Vegas-style casino. Massive screens show every sporting event imaginable, there’s a selection of food outlets and the huge open-plan poker room is bustling with cash games and tournaments. Housed on the top floor of the Westfield shopping centre, every amenity possible is here and yes, that does include everyone’s favourite peri-peri fine dining experience. Not only did Aspers hold the WPT National event, it also hosted the recent PartyPoker Premier League. While I’m not sure Hellmuth popped down for a half chicken at the dinner break it’s easy to see why this venue is attracting such top events.
Although land based casinos are a great attraction, sometimes people are more suited to playing casinos online in the comfort of their own living room.

A baker’s dozen?

The biggest event of the London schedule was undoubtedly the EPT. I saw a hand from Day 1 which really stuck out between fellow Brits Chris Moorman and Steve Warburton. It took six bets to get them all-in but when Steve’s pocket Queens matched up against Moorman’s Q-T suited it looked a fairly handicapped race. However, I doubt the hand would be so memorable if Steve’s chances of a huge Day 1 stack weren’t flushed away in dramatic fashion. He later busted with 9-9 v 8-7 all-in preflop for a 100BB pot – it’s enough to send any player with a strong cash game pedigree back home wondering why they ever bothered with such a stupid game as tournament poker. Fortunately for Warburton no-one has asked me for a UK tip for big success this year, but if they did his name would be right at the top of my list.

One Moor Time

Not satisfied with a deep run at the EPT, Chris Moorman has also been lighting up the online felt this month, to the surprise of, well, nobody. Chris finally took down his first FTOPs event, winning $21,250 for his efforts in Event 3 (Rush PLO). It’s been a great start to this popular online series for the Brits with Moorman’s win coming only a day after Tom Middleton took down the first event for over $60,000. In April the eyes of the online poker world will turn towards another feast of tournament goodness in the shape of iPOPS IV. Featuring a $500k GTD main event and for the first time a ‘mini’ series running alongside the main schedule, I’ll be playing as many of the events as possible on Poker Encore.

Howay the girls

Congratulations to Ellie Biessek for becoming the first female winner of a main event at the Genting Poker Series. 400 runners braved the elements to make the trip to Newcastle for what must have been the coldest leg of the tour to date. There was nothing cold about Ellie’s run to victory though as she turned her Day 3 short stack into a dominant final table triumph. With Amy Trodd once again demoting me to second best player in our house by taking down the Thursday side event (in a final table that also featured Daiva Barauskaite) the GPS is proving to be a great breeding ground for female poker talent in this country.
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