The European Poker Tour (EPT) is currently taking place at the Salle des Etoiles in Monte Carlo, a stunning and historic venue that might just be the best place to play poker in the world. But what makes it so special?
Many of my all-time favourite meals took place on tiny plastic furniture next to a small food cart by the side of a busy road on a humid night, tucking into cheap, plentiful and delicious food as motorbikes whizzed past just meters away.
The point is, sometimes the best things come in humble packages.
Think of your fondest poker memories. They probably took place in a friend’s basement, or playing with family around the dining table during the holidays.
The truth is, all you really need for a great game of poker is a deck of cards, a set of poker chips, and a table and chairs. Everything else is a bonus.
But those occasions when you decide to take things up a notch – either by treating yourself to a fine-dining, Michelin-starred meal, or by playing poker in a spectacular venue? Those occasions can become equally special and memorable. They might even be a once or twice-in-a-lifetime thing.
And let us tell you, without any recency bias, that there’s no poker venue on the planet quite as spectacular as the Salle des Etoiles in Monte Carlo – currently hosting the European Poker Tour (EPT). Playing here is a poker experience you should definitely add to the old bucket list.
But what makes this unique room so special? What’s the history of the venue? And when was poker first played here?
Let’s take a walk through the Salle des Etoiles (any excuse, honestly) and answer those questions.
WHAT MAKES THE SALLE DES ETOILES SO SPECIAL?
There are hundreds of awesome poker venues around the world, and many of them have played host to PokerStars Live events over the years. But we’ve never seen a poker room quite like the Salle des Etoiles, located at the Sporting Club, part of the Monte Carlo Bay Resort & Hotel.
It’s a mix of space, comfort and theatrics that make it one of the most interesting event spaces in Europe, not to mention such a unique place to play poker.
For starters, its immense windows offer stunning views of Monaco. For those moments when you need to step away from the tables for a spot of fresh air, the gorgeous location just couldn’t be better.
The room itself is also enormous, allowing for separate tournament areas and plenty of space in between tables. This makes it a very pleasurable poker-playing experience.
But the star of the show is the Salle des Etoiles’ roof. Yep, the roof.
It’s retractable and can be opened and closed on demand. This means that when PokerStars staff and tournament dealers arrive to work, they’re greeted with blue skies and a cool ocean breeze that drifts in from the French Riviera.
For other events, such as award shows or weddings, the roof can be opened in the evenings to allow guests to see a firework display, or simply to revel in the starry night sky.
Unfortunately, when the tournaments are being filmed for live streams, PokerStars has to close the roof and cover the windows to avoid unwanted glare.
So, here’s a tip:
If you ever plan on making the trip or trying to qualify for EPT Monte Carlo, try to come early each day, before play officially begins, because you’ll see something you won’t see anywhere else on the EPT. Likewise, if you play events before filming begins, you might be treated to an unforgettable poker experience.
THE HISTORY OF THE SALLE DES ETOILES
The Salles des Etoiles is part of the Monte-Carlo Sporting, a building complex that was initially opened in 1974 before being renovated in 1999.
Instantly recognised as one of the most magical and majestic venues in Europe when it was inaugurated by Joséphine Baker, the 1000m² grand hall has since become the venue of choice for various award shows and galas.
Such events include the legendary Monaco Rose Ball, an annual charity event organised by the Princess Grace of Monaco as a way to raise money for The Princess Grace Foundation, her charity supporting sick children.
It’s also the home of the Monte-Carlo Sporting Summer Festival, an open-to-the-public festival celebrating art, culture, shopping, and all the pleasures Monaco has to offer.
An eclectic mix of musical acts has graced the Salle des Etoiles stage during the festival, including Frank Sinatra, Rihanna, The Who, Stevie Wonder, Tina Turner, Eric Clapton, Elton John, Céline Dion, Lionel Richie, Peter Gabriel, Robert Plant, and Alicia Keys, to name but a few.
The World Music Awards, Monaco Red Cross Ball and World Athletics Gala are just some of the other prestigious events that choose the Salle des Etoiles as their home.
WHEN WAS POKER FIRST PLAYED AT THE SALLE DES ETOILES?
As far as we know, the first official poker event to ever take place at the Salle des Etoiles was in 2005, when the EPT Monte Carlo Grand Final first came to Monaco.
The tour has returned to the Salles des Etoiles every year since (except for 2020).
Interestingly, only three EPT tournaments in Europe have ever awarded winners’ prizes of more than €2 million, and all were in Monte Carlo. In addition to Pieter de Korver’s €2.3 million Main Event triumph in 2009, Glen Chorny won €2.02 million at the 2008 Main Event and Erik Seidel won €2.015 million in the 2015 Super High Roller.
Here’s the full list of results from former visits to Monte Carlo. Click the winner’s name for the tournament reports.
|2009||Pieter de Korver||935||€2,300,000||€9,350,000||Results|
SUPER HIGH ROLLER
More about EPT Monte Carlo
- Main EPT site
- EPT Monte Carlo coverage hub
- The complete guide to Monte Carlo
- PokerStars Travel
- All Monte Carlo Blog coverage