EPT10 London: Welcome to the incredible, inconceivable and inflammable Grand Connaught Rooms
Years ago a member of the fire brigade, addressing an office meeting about the dangers of buildings burning down, suggested that the role of fire marshal be disbanded, given the tendency of these volunteers to burn in much the same way as everybody else. That message is no in operation here. The fire marshal patrols his jurisdiction, on the lookout, keeping us safe.
It's not at every event that you see men in luminous yellow bibs with "fire marshal" stamped on them, walking around a tournament room. It's not clear where the fire risk comes from exactly. There's the bar I suppose, occupying one end of the room. Should a brawl break out, perhaps over a missing Headpiece from the Staff of Ra for instance, like in Indiana Jones, and someone gets flung across the bar, the bottles of rum, tequila and sambuca could prove hazardous. But other than that the biggest fire threat is static from the handful of players who didn't put gel in their hair this morning.
Inside the Grand Connaught Rooms
Those he keeps safe are the playing their opening day. It's a quiet start with a Sunday feel. There are a few empty spaces on each table as players arrive in an orderly, and unhurried, procession. What they find when they arrive is an art deco, wood-panelled room just off the main hall that hosts the feature table, where the Super High Rollers will shortly be underway.
For the main eventers though the picture they see is not unlike the Aviation Club in Paris on the Champs Elysees. There poker players are routinely couched in elegance and grandeur, and the effect here is not much different. The Art Deco interior extends to the windows, doors and light fittings, successful in its attempt to add glamour and exuberance to an historic venue.
Great Queen Street, on which the Grand Connaught Rooms are located, dates back to the 17th century. It is at the heart of the freemasonry movement, which was known in its day for not holding back on architectural fees. Next door to this very building is the Freemason's Hall, with its enormous stone exterior that catches the eye of everyone from one end of Covent Garden to the other.
The suitable clad Grand Connaught Rooms
It's not just the Freemasons who had an eye for a good spot. The Rooms became Connaught Rooms in the early 20th century, in honour of the Grand Master, the Duke of Connaught, the seventh son of Queen Victoria. From then this place opened its doors to such noble institutions as the Geological Society and the English Football Association, both of which were founded here. It was even used for the bon voyage party of Charles Dickens before he embarked on his tour of the United States in 1842.
And if that wasn't enough the European Poker Tour now adds its name to the list of organisations with an affinity to the place and it remains, after all these years, undamaged by fire.
Stephen Bartley is a PokerStars Blog reporter.