The voice of poker, Jesse May, on his love of poker and drinking: “At the poker room bar we are all just players”

Whoever said poker and alcohol don’t mix clearly never spent time at some of the world’s best cardroom bars with Jesse May

Poker can sometimes be a lonely game, tough to muddle through on your own. We poker players need release away from the hustle and bustle of the table. We need to talk shop and share stories, and the place we do that is at the bar. The poker room bar is a place where you don’t have to justify your vocation, where everybody accepts you for what you are, and where there is neither criticism nor reprisals. At the poker room bar we are all just players.

The bar at the Holland Casino in Amsterdam will never disappoint. It’s a semicircular bar with a cool metal railing to lean on, and to drink at that bar during the Master Classics tournament you are likely to be in the company of the great Surinder Sunar, who is of such celebrity status there that you might think he owns the casino. Everybody who plays in Amsterdam gravitates to that bar, morning to night, drinking draught beer out of glasses long and thin. Surinder told me one time, late at night when I’d had more than my fair share, that we should all live by the words of his 108-year-old grandfather, who says, ‘It’s all right to drink as long as you don’t fall down. Because if you do fall down, it’s time to stop.’


I also love the poker room bar at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. How could you not? The Margaritas are made from scratch and the White Russians are richly potent. It’s a bar that can be so good it’s better than the poker room itself. I remember posting myself there for about 16 hours one weekend when the $25,000 WPT Championship was on, played at tables only steps away out on the casino floor. You only had to turn your head to eavesdrop on a great conversation or have one yourself.

In the days when the WSOP was still held at Binion’s, the bar during the Series absolutely could not be topped. This was the bar that the Europeans lived at from the beginning to the end, the focal point for everybody who came downtown. It was your morning coffee, your midnight chat and your daily bread. One half of the bar was called the English bar and the other side was known as the Irish bar, but it didn’t really matter. If you wanted to find any European at any time during the WSOP that bar was your first and last stop. It was just home room.

Radio Days

If there’s one thing internet poker is missing it’s a poker room bar. Sure, there are poker forums and poker blogs, which are fine for discussing strategy, but the poker room bar is better than a $200-an-hour shrink with a sign. Which is sort of how Padraig Parkinson and myself came up with the idea for The Poker Show. The Poker Show is a radio show accessible through the internet. It is live three nights a week for four hours at a time, and it is all call-in all the time. It will be Padraig Parkinson, Matt Broughton and myself trying to recreate the atmosphere of the poker room bar. We will chat, we will gossip, we will look at blogs, forums, and big games on the internet. We will spend 12 hours a week chatting with whoever decides to stop by our bar, at I hope you find time to tune in.

It’s impossible for me to neglect to mention what always was, and still is, the best bar of all time. The best bar in the history of poker is the one every Easter at the Irish Open. It’s moved around over the years, from the Jurys Hotel to the Burlington and now out to Citywest. But it never seems to matter because the people are what makes it great. It’s great poker people. ‘It’s friends it is,’ as one popular Irish player likes to say, ‘and you gotta keep what you got.’

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