Monday, 1 April 2013

If Roger Moore had gone into town planning...

If Roger Moore had gone into town planning instead of acting, he would have come up with Monte Carlo. The “Jewel Box of the Riviera” exudes the kind of expensive but naff seventies chic that would bring a tear to old Rog’s eye. As the EPT Grand Final prepares to descend on this bizarre little tax haven, here’s Bluff’s guide to lording up in the most shamelessly expensive location in the world.

Getting there

Back at the height of the poker boom, online poker companies would think nothing of flying us poker journalists out to places like Monte Carlo, putting us up in the fanciest hotels – oh, those were the days. These days we’re lucky if we get to cover the GUKPT Stockton. Nothing against Stockton – just saying.

We fondly remember arriving at Nice airport and hopping on the helicopter that transports you along the beautiful coastline into Monte Carlo. We were a bit scared because it was our first helicopter ride, but the idea of dying in a helicopter crash in Monte Carlo actually sounded pretty cool. Yep, that’s pretty much how we figured we’d go anyway. The point of this ramble is that if you get the plane to Nice you MUST get the helicopter because a taxi is pretty much the same price. Or you could just sail there in your yacht.

Where to Eat

Normally you’d be very upset to draw a seat on Phil Ivey’s direct right, unless of course you happen to be at Maxim’s restaurant for the FullTilt Thanksgiving dinner. But this is exactly what happened to us, back in 2005. Being British, this was our first ever Thanksgiving. We said, “Phil, is this traditional?” toying with the turkey and wild mushroom compote with Cranberry reduction, and he was like, “Is it fuck?” The previous day Phil had won $1,000,000 at the Monte Carlo Millions, 6-bet bluffing Paul Jackson heads-up along the way. Later that night he won another $600k at the Full Tilt Invitational. We stole his bread roll and thought about selling it on eBay. True story!

So, that’s what passes as a restaurant review in this magazine. They may not know how to cook Thanksgiving dinner here to Mr Ivey’s satisfaction, but if you’re after the finest French cuisine, Maxim’s is about the best in town. You can find it at 20 Avenue de la Costa.


Where to Drink

Call us philistines, but when in Monte Carlo we do most of our drinking in the Irish pub. Every European city has one – even Monte Carlo – and McCarthy’s, at 7 Rue de Portier, is a lively sort of place, especially when the poker players come to town. It’s also one of the few establishments where you can buy a round and get change from €100.


No visit to Monte Carlo is complete without a trip to Jimmy’Z, Le Sporting Club, Avenue Princess Grace. This legendary hotspot is where the vulgar rich get shamelessly jiggy with it. Make sure you have money to burn before you darken its doors. Prices are insane!

A lot of the most stylish joints are located in the hotels around town and a spot of bar-hopping is a great way to experience the Monte Carlo cocktail guzzling lifestyle. Our favourite is the Bar Américain at the renowned Hotel de Paris, where you can sip Martinis to crazy jazz beats until you puke (probably best not to puke).

Where to Stay

The Hotel de Paris is one of the most luxurious places to stay in the world. Wandering through the lobby transports us back to La Belle Epoque (the golden period before the First World War when apparently everything was beautiful and awesome) when a young Winston Churchill was among the regular visitors. In the lobby stands a statue of Louis XIV on horseback. Legend has it that rubbing the horse’s knees will bring luck at the tables. We did and it didn’t.

Casino Montre Carlo


The Casino Monte Carlo was Europe’s first ever casino and remains its most impressive. Built by Charles Garnier 1873, its all neo-baroque rococo flourishes and makes Brighton Pavilion look like a two-up-two-down in Margate. Expect to have to pay to get in and be turned away if you’re wearing jeans. But once through the door – oh, what delights! Frescoes, chandeliers, the works. They even have a smoking room decked out in brown leather – the walls, ceilings, upholstery, everything.

For those who prefer to gamble in a less formal environment, nip down the road to the Sun Casino, which has more of a Vegas vibe and, unlike the Casino Monte Carlo, spreads poker.

Casino Monte Carlo
Monte Carlo Gambling Factoids

• The local populace are forbidden from gambling anywhere in the Principality of Monaco and that includes the royal family.

• Gamblers lost millions in 1913 when the roulette wheel turned up black 26 times in a row. Reasoning that there must be an imbalance in the wheel, they lumped their livelihoods on black on the 27th spin, only for it to come up red. It was just a phat dose of variance, suckers!

• The hysteria may have been caused by the fact that, in 1873, an engineer named Joseph Jagger did in fact detect a minute bias in one of the roulette wheels and cleaned the casino out, winning millions and millions in today’s money.

Tags: Monte Carlo, poker, travel