Poker Clubs in Slovakia, Part 1: Bratislava
Slovakia is in the great shadow of bigger neighbor countries – the Ukraine, Romania, Poland, Czech Republic. The size doesn’t matter here though as this country is ahead of the biggest poker countries in the world in some way. And there are reasons for that.
The author of this text is professional poker player Slonovyev (GipsyTeam forums nickname), he has personally been in the described places and travelled around many countries looking for poker adventures.
The record holding country
The traditional main destinations of European “poker tourism” are Austria and Czech Republic (Prague in particular, with its famous series) and strong center of the gambling industry – the biggest poker club in Europe - King’s Casino in Rozvadov on the border with Germany.
Less advertised neighbor Slovakia is still for some reason left without attention of travelling poker players. And the country holds the lead on the number of poker clubs per capita (the population is 5.5 million) among European counties: there are tens of facilities (for comparison – Denmark has the same population and only one poker facility!).
Almost every little town has its own poker club, or even several clubs. To be fair, common tendency of reduction of number of poker players can be seen in Slovakia as well. The action dropped down in latest 3 or 4 years, probably in half, the skill of players improved, but even considering all this this country is advantageous in comparison with its neighbors.
Poker as a mass phenomena
Liberal gambling laws of Slovakia for low barrier to entering the poker market, there is absolutely no pressure on the industry from authorities and community (for instance, poker is prohibited in some towns and provinces of neighbor Czech Republic). The low cost of the license doesn’t allow to monopolize the market, like it happened in the Hungary nearby. There are many chip tournaments – unlike in Austrian poker industry. There are no obstacles of entry tickets, like in Romania, or crazy taxes, like in Poland that absolutely kill the game.
Consequently, poker in Slovakia is a phenomena for masses, there are plenty of cash festivals, cash marathons, the infrastructure is well developed, the managements is at the highest level. Slovakian poker clubs are in great order and visitors have great knowledge of poker etiquette. The only exception is smoking at the tables, even during the tournaments; this is nonsense that can’t be met in other countries.
Speaking about the strength of the field, Slovakia is in the third place after Belarus and Romania. There are plenty of regulars. The significant part of the players still grinds at lower stakes to work for a leaving (though this part is smaller than in Romania). The average salary in the country (about 1000 euros) is significantly lower than in other countries of European Union and people use poker as an alternative to leaving for the richer countries.
For many people poker is still an entertainment so there are many recreational players in the tournaments, unlike in Balkan countries, so they ensure guaranteed prize funds of the tournaments with their buy-ins.
Peculiarities of poker industry in Slovakia
The disadvantages are the following:
- the tourism and transport infrastructure is not very well developed (absence of connection between some regions as the regions are rocky and sparsely populated),
- Hotels, food and service are expensive due to less competition in the market in comparison with Czech Republic;
- Games are seasonal (this is weakly expressed though): there are more visitors in some clubs in wintertime (as there are ski and thermal resorts in the area: Preshov, Poprad, Chadca, Piestiani t.c.)
Positive factor for ex-USSR visitors is that the language and mentality is very close to them, as well as the climate of the country.
National currency is euro, all the buy-ins in tournaments and cash games are credited in this currency. Visiting any facility, one has o show the passport, which allows the management of the room to issue a members card.
Poker clubs in Bratislava
Now let us review the poker facilities of Slovakia, Their number is so big, ten parts of this article wouldn’t be enough to describe them all so let’s focus on the major clubs.
Let us start with the capital – Bratislava. This is a rather small town for the capital of the state to world and European standards with population of 450,000 people but the number of poker clubs and tables is overwhelming here.
One of the oldest facilities of the town is Golden Vegas. It has about 12 tables and I is not the biggest club, which however has many visitors. The cub has inexpensive tournament buy-ins, players rating, and is situated in the well-populated neighborhood (people who come from work often visit the club on their way home). There are cash games as well, but it is not the major specialty of the room. They practice Mississippi straddles play Omaha with micro stakes of 20-30 bb here at 1-1. It is difficult to get an edge here as no one fold at any of the streets. The skill of players is incredibly low here as these stakes aren’t too interesting to the regs. There are many female players – about 50%.
Diamond Сlub is gaining popularity. It is the department of the poker club network in the capital. The tournaments are inexpensive here, the number of visitors is not very big, but there are regulars.
Banco Casino Bratislava
Banco network successfully expanses Czech Republic and Slovakia, Casino Banco is a relatively new poker club, which opened in summer of 2015and gained popularity among Bratislava residents and guests of the town. It is in the historical center, the personnel is very well prepared, the interior and service are wonderful, there are plenty of tournaments for you to choose from – about 15 tables, which are rarely empty in the end of the week.
Cash games have 2-4 tables, no Mississippi, stakes 1-1 and 1-2, and the pool of players is stronger here: travelling regs can easily commute here, and the service is great.
Old Olympic network also has a nice rep and lots of departments in Eastern Europe. Poker is only available on a daily basis in Olympic Casino Carlton, while there are almost no regular play in Olympic Casino Eurovea.
Olympic Casino Carlton
The placement is practically the same, the stakes are 1-2, but there are few tables, they almost don’t host cheap tournaments (the ones that they hold have high buy-ins and small number of players). The facility is for the middle class people and foreign expats.
Ex-Concord (CCC Bratislava)
I’d like to highlight the end of operating of the club Concord of Austrian network owned by Turks. These guys took a great start but couldn’t keep up to the competition. As it turned out, ripping off clients without knowing any local traditions is not a good way to build a long-term business. The room had a bad rep in Austria as stuff was hunting for tips from players, but it didn’t last long here, continuing to operate in Vienna though.
In the following part we’ll talk of the clubs in Slovak province – namely towns of Kosice, Preshov, Mihalovce, Terevishov, Spishska-Nova-Ves, Poprad etc.
More interesting and useful articles from the world of poker you can read in our blog. Also search for poker clubs in the country or city, get to know about upcoming poker tournaments or cash games at PokerDiscover.com portal.
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