Ah London, my go-to destination when I wanted to get out of town for the weekend, play some cards, have a beer in a pub and hunt down a decent bottle of scotch. Gambling has been legal in the UK for a long time now. Several years ago it was more restricted though, as some casinos were still considered social clubs and you had to be a member to enter. Your other options were looking for private clubs out in the city that were more or less semi-legal. But now gambling laws are much more liberal and the gambling scene across London has really taken off.
The most central casino where you can find any game you want is the Empire Casino located in Leicester Square, right in the middle of the hustle and bustle that is central London. Years ago you had to be a member to get in the place which meant wearing decent clothes and paying a cover charge. But since gambling laws have relaxed casinos too have relaxed their admission standards. So no more cover charge, but if you look too drunk they will refuse you entry (personal experience…).
There are small poker clubs throughout the city which are generally in apartment buildings with a small sign somewhere near the entrance. Often the entrance will be a locked door with a camera, or at least a door man behind a desk away from the action. My favorite club was The Gutshot Poker Club until it closed down a few years ago. To find other poker clubs around town just sit in at the Empire Casino for an hour or so and you’re sure to find someone who knows where they all are.
Lodging – London is the city of opportunity, and there are endless possibilities for where to stay. You can stay in a decent hostel close to all the action for about $35 a night or you can stay in a hotel right in central London for about $140 a night. My choice for hostels was The Generator Hostel and it was a great time, although I did have to be careful about locking up cash there if I had a winning night at the casinos. For cheaper hotels I liked staying at The Strand Palace just a few blocks from Trafalgar Square.
Food & Drink – London is the melting pot of Europe, so naturally there are endless food options. Many times I would take a break from the Empire Casino to grab a cheap slice of pizza out on the street for about $2. Other times I would like to celebrate a winning night with a steak dinner. For the best London experience though I suggest stopping in any of the older-looking pubs scattered throughout London. These places always have a cold pint on hand and will make you possibly the best burger you’ve ever had.
Things to do - London is also my number one gambling destination for everything else the city has to offer outside the casinos. Besides the usual stops at Big Ben, Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus and London Bridge there are countless pubs and restaurants, shopping to suit all tastes, Broadway theater performances, nightclubs, discos and enough historical tours to fill an entire vacation. I recommend the Ripping Yarns tours about Jack the Ripper.
Keep in Mind
A lot of the time I was exploring these countries on my own, so I was free to spend as much or as little time in the casinos as I wanted. Sometimes that may be the better option rather than trying to organize a group outing with people who may or may not enjoy gambling as much as you do. Often gambling trips make for great solo trips!