Three Days in London for the PokerStars Festival
So you've traveled all the way to London to play a poker tournament and you've had your aces cracked early on Day 1 to bust. This is not how you saw it going. Life sucks and you now find yourself with three days on your hands and nothing to do. There's some good news though; there are far worse cities than London to bust a poker tournament in.
Turns out that this city of almost nine million inhabitants has a vast array of culture, restaurants, bars and activities to keep even the most tilted poker player entertained. So before you flick in that side event buy-in, check out what London has to offer.
Prep Like a boss: The easiest way to get around London is on the Tube. If your bank card has the contactless symbol on it then you can just tap in and tap out using that. Simple. If not you'll need to grab yourself an Oyster Card, which are available at all London Underground stations.
It also goes without saying that for many of the activities and restaurants suggested, booking ahead is a good idea.
There are plenty of ways to flex your mental muscles that don't involve working out how to play pocket jacks. You'll find most of them a short walk from King's Cross station. clueQuest, Time Run, HintHunt, Enigma Escape and Secret Studio are all popular 'escape room' franchises operating in London, each with their own quirks. The premise for most is simple: You and your teammates are locked in a room and have 60 minutes to escape. To do so, you must work together and solve clues. Common sense, teamwork and logic are needed to succeed here.
Nearest Tube stop: King's Cross
After all that sleuthing, you've no doubt worked up an appetite so a trip to the iconic Borough Market is in order. It's a 10-minute Tube ride from King's Cross and London's oldest food market is worth the trip. Though Borough Market has existed for over 1,000 years, today you'll find stalls selling everything, from cheese, chocolate and coffee, to over 30 street food stalls selling tasty hot food. Take your pick from salt beef bagels, Indian vegetarian street food, hot British pies and much more. Just don't spend all day there, alright?! A word to the wise: Don't visit on Sunday when the market is closed.
Nearest Tube stop: Borough/London Bridge
What better way to discover this fantastic city than to view it from above? A stone's throw from Borough Market you'll find the tallest building in the United Kingdom aka The Shard. This 95 floor skyscraper stands over 309 meters tall and features an observation deck on the 72nd floor that offers spectacular panoramic views of the city. What's more, with a fully stocked bar, you can drink in the likes of Buckingham Palace, St Paul's Cathedral and Wembley Stadium, all with a glass of champagne in hand.
Nearest Tube stop: London Bridge
London has a world-class restaurant scene, from blow-your-mind burgers to Michelin-starred madness, there's something for everyone. After the disappointment of busting from the PokerStars Festival, there are some great options to get a meat-heavy dinner and soothe your sorrows.
Budget Burgers: In the last few years, London has been graced with plenty of fantastic options to grab a humble (yet fantastic) burger. Assuming you're still near the Hippodrome Casino in central London, you can't go wrong by choosing to eat at Patty & Bun, MeatLiquor, Honest Burger or any branch of the rapidly expanding Byron. You shouldn't need a booking for any of these but might have a bit of a wait if you're going at primetime on the weekend. But don't worry - the wait will be worth it!
Blowout Beef Heaven: Burgers are great but sometimes it's worth pushing the boat out, raising the ante and getting a juicy steak instead. London has you covered here too, with plenty of options that will and won't break the bank. Flat Iron is a cheap option where you can get a flat iron steak (obviously) for just £10. On the higher end, Hawksmoor and Goodman have had stellar reputations in the city for many years, and both have swanky bars where you can grab a cocktail to either prepare for the succulent rib-eye, or to help you digest it afterwards. If your wallet is prepared to take it up one further notch then famous American chef Wolfgang Puck now has a branch of his steakhouse franchise Cut in London too - just beware of the wagyu beef if you have been running bad at the tables!
Where to drink
Soho Nights: London's Soho may have cleaned up its act in the past twenty years - for better or worse is a matter of personal opinion - but it's still one of the best places to spend a night in the Big Smoke.
There's something for everyone in Soho. Jazz fans can hit the famous Ronnie Scott's or visit Ain't Nothin But Blues near Carnaby Street, which transforms into a live music den late at night. If cocktails are more your thing then you can travel back in time to the 1940s at Cahoots, party with the student crowd at any All Bar One or, for the sophisticated among you, retire to The Luggage Room in Mayfair to drink in a reimagined New York speakeasy.
The Bermondsey Beer Mile (Saturday only): You're in the UK and that means drinking is an activity! But the Bermondsey Beer Mile is a pub crawl with a difference and features up to nine independent breweries that open their doors to the public on a Saturday and allow you to taste their tipples. If you know your IPAs from your pale ales, then this is for you.
Nearest Train stop: South Bermondsey
Saturday is a busy sports day in London, and with five Premier League football teams situated in the capital and a sixth (Watford) nearby, chances are (if you're visiting between the middle of August and early May) there'll be a game on in town. Getting tickets for the matches can be tricky, but if you plan far enough in advance, you should be able to secure one for most teams.
Your best starting point is to try the clubs' own websites as some operate ticket exchanges. If you're out of luck, then on any given weekend there are a host of clubs in England's second tier, for which it's easier to secure a match ticket. There's also top class rugby in the capital too.
Have a few laughs: They say laughter is the best medicine, so to help heal any bad beat wounds, head on down to watch some live stand-up comedy. The Comedy Store in Piccadilly has been open since 1979 and has shows six nights a week. The Piccadilly Comedy Club nearby is another good option, offering live shows for less than £10, and then there's the Soho Theatre where established comedians such as Eddie Izzard and Russell Brand test out their new material before going on tour. Plan ahead if you want to catch some of the big names as demand will understandably be high.
Where to eat
Cheap as Fish and Chips: Fish and chips is as delicious a combination off the poker table as it is on it and no trip to the capital is complete without trying the nation's favorite dish. Most pubs will do a solid version and as long as you avoid the tourist traps you'll be alright.
However, for those that want specifics: If you're staying centrally, the Golden Hind is our pick; or head east to Spitalfields Market to try the catch of the day at Poppies Fish & Chips; or if you're situated south of the river then The Fish Club in Clapham is a must visit.
London's Southbank: While London's weather can be unpredictable, a stroll along London's Southbank leaves disappointment drawing dead. While it's a cliché to say there's something for everyone, there's a wide variety of cultural institutions situated along the Southbank and it really allows you to take your pick from what floats your boat.
A trip on the London Eye can be followed by a visit to the Tate Modern Art Gallery, The British Film Institute (BFI) to watch a film or The Globe for some Shakespeare plays. When the weather allows, the Queen Elizabeth Hall Roof Garden is transformed into a rooftop bar and is a great place to go for an alfresco drink. You could lose days in this rich cultural hub of London.
The Theatre District: To complete your day of culture, head to London's West End, which is known as the Theatre District. Discount tickets for an ever-changing lineup of musicals and plays can be purchased online through VisitLondon, the official visitor guide, or from any number of tickets booths dotted around the area. Be sure to look out for the STAR (Secure Tickets from Authorised Retailers) symbol if you don't recognize a ticket outlet or booth, however; you want to be on the edge of your seat, not out on the pavement. .
Nearest tube: Leicester Square
Where to eat
European Food Tour: London is blessed with many outstanding restaurants influenced by the continent. Tapas fans should check out one of Barrafina, Ember Yard or Copita - all offer outstanding fresh food and buzzing, exciting atmospheres to match. If Italian is more your thing then Bocca Di Lupo, Padella or ubiquitous superstar chef Jamie Oliver's Jamie's Italian chain will all satisfy any pasta cravings you might have.
Going All-in: It's your final night in London and who knows when you might be back so it's worth celebrating the end of your trip in style. London is host to numerous Michelin starred restaurants and you'd have a memorable night at any of them. Try Dinner by Heston to sample innovative chef Heston Blumenthal's unique cuisine, get a rare booking at The Ledbury to enjoy one of the UK's only two Michelin starred meals or check out Dabbous for some of the most exciting Mediterranean dishes in the city. These are just a few of the dozens of options that are perfect for a blow-out evening to end a great trip.