It wasn’t so long ago that poker was illegal in Catalonia. But Barcelona is rapidly styling itself as the game’s European capital, and is second only to Las Vegas as the most popular destination for the world’s top players.
This weekend, 93 players sat down to the European Poker Tour (EPT) Super High Roller tournament, which opened with table stakes of €50,000 (£36,000).
It is just one of this year’s 71 tournaments, attracting 4,000 players from 150 countries, hosted in Barcelona, which is aspiring to become the first non-American city to be part of the World Poker Tour. Poker was only legalised in Catalonia in 2003.
“For almost 15 days the best players in the world converge on Barcelona to transform the city into the poker capital of Europe,” said José Luis Cernuda, who runs the Casino Barcelona. “For us it is the biggest event of the year and it showcases the city of Barcelona to the world.”
Although the casino is unglamorously situated in the basement of the five-star Hotel Arts, it is right beside the sea, allowing players to escape the green baize and walk along the seafront to contemplate their fortune, or lack of it.
Barcelona – along with Malta, Prague, Dublin and Monaco – will host the EPT until at least 2017.
One reason it was chosen is because it is among the few European cities that can rustle up 250 croupiers at short notice. The casino runs a croupier school where candidates take a 500-hour course consisting of 300 hours of theory and 200 of practice.
“Barcelona has been a fixture on the EPT schedule since the very first season and its popularity is demonstrated by the increase in player numbers each year,” said Edgar Stuchly, president of the EPT.
Ever since it hosted the 1992 Olympics, Barcelona has been exploiting its location, climate and cuisine to attract international events to the city. The most lucrative is the Mobile World Congress, during which the 93,000 participants spent €436m in just four days earlier this year. Then there are the Primavera Sound and Sonar music festivals, Formula One and other sporting events.
Source: The Guardian