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Card Games Many of the provincial casinos in the U.K. have 'Card Rooms'. This is a room set aside, or an area partitioned off in some way, where soft games can be played.Mah Jong tile In the eyes of the Gambling Commission there is a difference between the bankers games, which the house plays and games they call 'even chance', which get played in Card Rooms. This distinction ties up with each area inside a casino having to be licensed for the activity which is going on there. So a casino can't suddenly start moving Blackjack tables into the Card Room without first getting a new licence.
3-Card Brag

Now there are only a handful of games that can be played. All of these are treated in the Games section so what we show here is the special way they have of running them inside casinos.

What's the point? You might well be thinking, ' if the casino doesn't make money from these games, why allow them?'. Good thinking but casinos only do things for money and the truth is they make plenty. Here's how;

  • Charging - FeeThe casinos with Card Rooms in London, plus the busy ones in places like Luton and Birmingham, charge a table fee. This is an amount per hour for sitting down in a game in the Card Room.
  • Charging - Rake With the increase in popularity many casinos have poker rooms where you can sit and be dealt into a game by a house dealer. Each pot will be raked a percentage, normally 5% up to a capped level.
  • Spin Off Many people who enjoy their poker or backgammon games would not enter a casino nearly so often without the lure of a little private action. The very fact of being inside a casino gives them the opportunity to gamble and they do more than they otherwise would.
  • Big Action Casinos often arrange special tournaments within their Card Rooms with money added to the prize fund for the players to win. This brings people great distances to particular events and into casinos that they would never normally visit. These travellers bring a lot money with them and they too get tempted to play the house games.

So its part of the plan to rid you of your money. However there is no reason why you shouldn't just play the games you like and miss out the house games. Tip If you just turn up to play poker or Kalooki for free (where you can), its a good idea not to annoy the casino into thinking you are taking liberty with their hospitality. Visit the bar at least, the restaurant if they have one, and they won't be tempted to show you the Red Card.

Poker   Top of PageKalooki
Sharp looking card playerReal poker gets played in the Card Rooms of casinos in the U.K. In other countries there are specific clubs just for the playing of Poker as well as those in the casinos. Its not illegal in this country to play poker in clubs, but it has had a tough history of maintaining commercial viability.
There are two types of poker you will find, 1) Organised 2) Private.

Organised Poker The more successful casino Card Rooms have managers or organisers to deal specially with activities in the Card Rooms. Poker is their main diet and tables for specific types of poker are reserved for players and a house dealer is supplied. Players are charged per hour for sitting at the table. The type of poker on offer is generally Texas Hold'em but others, like 7-card Stud and Omaha, are also spread.

Poker laid on by the casino breaks down four ways

  • Cash Games The staple diet of a prosperous Card room is the cash game. Players purchase chips from the Card Room attendant and play each other with a house dealer. This is what makes the Card Room commercially viable.
  • Poker Festivals A busy Card Room will hope to raise their profile with money laden journeymen who will visit for a big event. Also these events help to raise the status of the Card Room within the casino organisation where there is much political jockeying for credit.
  • Regular Tournaments Weekly scheduled events will help to keep local players coming in and not going to the opposition. The tournaments have fixed time limits so that people are freed for the cash games.
  • Beginners Nights One night per week is set aside by the smarter Card Room managers who see new blood as the only way to develop poker in their area of the country.

Private The smaller Card Rooms, generally in the provinces, allow poker players to organise private schools. These groups generally play a variety of poker games to satisfy the gambling instinct of the players. The games are often called wild and can have very eccentric rules. GGG recommends only the most experienced players should attempt them.

These groups, or schools, often play for free although packs of cards are paid for. Occasionally Kem cards can be hired from the house for a deposit.

NOTE Poker in British casinos uses the Pot Limit style of betting. Some private games may use variations on this theme like half-Pot-Limit. This is a distinctly different game from that which is generally played in the USA and Europe where the rule is Limit betting. The differences can be found in the section on poker but the implications for British poker are far reaching. We basically exist in our own world and the cross-over is very difficult. More importantly the Pot Limit style makes it difficult for beginners to advance.

Link to our main Poker Pages
Kalooki   PokerBackgammon

Kalooki is basically promoted within the casino business in much the same format as poker is (see above). There are cash games (charged and free) and tournaments (regular and special). The group of people playing Kalooki is smaller than that playing poker but casinos still see merit in providing facilities for it.

There is also a game called mythical which is a special derivative of Kalooki. This is played by an even smaller group but specifically allowed in some casinos.

Backgammon   KalookiBrag

Backgammon BoardBackgammon is a rare thing these days. There simply isn't the volume of players out there for casinos to promote this as a viable game commercially. The are still small pockets of resistance however where Backgammon is played but these flow with the tide as well. As far as we know only Crockfords (elite customers only), Luton Grosvenor and the Midland Wheel Club (Birmingham) have had regular tournaments. Call them if you are a member to find out if there is any action.

Clubs with Card Rooms generally will have boards to play with, though they can be very tatty. If they don't they will not mind if you bring your own, though ask in advance. If you find someone to play with, a friend perhaps, then maybe other people will request action. Give it a try. GGG recommends a note of caution when you play Backgammon against people you do not know. Set the rules at the beginning of play and insist that payment is done after every game. Play well within your financial limits.

Big events like the Poker festivals in the Isle Of Man often have Backgammon tournaments or at Backgammon Boardleast some side action. In general, the place to find Backgammon nowadays is in private clubs that meet once or twice a week, or share facilities with Bridge Clubs.

Brag   BackgammonMahJong

Ace Two ThreeBrag is a popular game in homes around the country but it is losing ground, especially in the South. Tournaments are held in some casinos though you won't find any in London or on the South Coast.

Mah Jong   Brag
Mah Jong flower tiles

Mah Jong is the domain of the Chinese community. Casinos love that section of their clientele and pour added prize money into weekly tournaments to make sure they get a big attendance. Competitions are held in many places around the country and entry is open to all. However you will not find many non-Chinese people taking part and those that do will have a tough time with all their competitors speaking a foreign language.

You might be thinking that all competitions should have English as their language and you would be right. That is the rule. Casinos just aren't too interested in pushing the point out and upsetting their customers.

If you speak Chinese (Mandarin or Cantonese) and are good at this game then we recommend you try some tournaments because of the tremendous added value that is given by the casinos. If you keep winning don't be surprised to be shown the Red Card if you are not part of the community.

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