EPT9 London Day 1B: The place to play for 50 years
The Vic is one of the longest established casinos in the country, celebrating its 50th anniversary next year. Word has it that in the 1960s The Vic was one of the places to be seen with visitors from as far away as the United States flying to London specifically to play here.
You could say things have hardly changed. Among the field today 10 per cent are from North America. They may have come for the EPT rather than the casino itself, but this place remains popular, even with several high profile rivals a short tube ride away.
Even on a Monday afternoon it's busy and alongside the poker room the usual practices of casino business go on, with afternoon punters looking to spin up a little extra to pay the bar bill, or pass the time before a shift somewhere nearby.
Poker wasn't always much of a draw at the Vic, but as the poker boom struck it became more and more prevalent, and the increased demand granted the Vic's poker room iconic status. It was the place to come and play. That said it was hard to play anywhere else. Now, on a normal day, it seats 250 players, taking over the entire second floor.
London has always had some draw for gamblers. For centuries actually.
One of the first notable big gamblers was John Montagu (1718-1792), also known as the fourth Earl of Sandwich, who famously loved gambling so much that he refused to leave the table to eat. Instead he called on his valet to bring him some salted meat between two pieces of bread, which he would eat while playing cards. Others like the idea and called for the "the same as Sandwich", giving birth to the wilted, very cold package that comes with a free drink at the local supermarket.
The tournament room at The Vic
This is a theme that has continued to this day and players, keen to keep the traditions of the great Earl alive, order food which they eat while playing. Even the EPT tried this. When the tour was here several years ago dinner was served to players while they played at the table. Plates of either salmon or beef stroganov were passed along by human chain to the hard-to-reach tables, followed by a knife and then a fork.
Hundreds of years after Sandwich, London was still the centre of card games and such. At the time the Vic opened London was alive with various gaming halls. Clubs such as the Cromwellian Club in South Kensington, Charley Chester's, The Mint on Kilburn Road, John Aspinal's Clermont Club, Quents and Crockfords vied for attention in swinging London. Most of these establishments have now faded from memory but at the time competition was fierce. Legend has it that one local casino painted a large pair of dice on its roof so people staying at the nearby Hilton hotel would see it. Now those same signs are flashed on television screens attracting people to the online equivalents.
But poker remains pure in London and the Vic remains its capital. But however hard it is to enter (it takes courage to walk into a members casino for the first time) it's harder to leave behind for good. Some people were sceptical when it was announced this event was returning to the Vic. That's now a sentiment looking a little premature.
Stephen Bartley is a PokerStars Blog reporter