Among the pandemic-impacted tales to emerge from the 2021 World Series of Poker, there’s perhaps been no niche more affected early in the series than the Kings Cash Game Lounge, the luxurious room-within-a-room that’s been featured at the WSOP since 2017.
It’s no secret that traffic in the King’s Lounge was way off during the first couple of weeks of the series, through absolutely no fault of the room itself. The lounge, which takes up perhaps a sixth of the massive Pavilion Room space, is a semi-exclusive area featuring high-stakes cash games and predominantly European players. It was created as a marketing tool for the WSOP Europe series, and it’s served as a home away from home for plenty of Euros in Vegas.
The plush and roomy relaxation area adjacent to the poker tables often as not serves up football matches from European leagues. Deluxe snacks and beverages are always available, and the poker tables themselves are wired for smart-device use. There’s even the “Leon’s Room” two-table setup at the heart of the lounge, where in normal years you’re likely to find King’s Casino owner Leon Tsoukernik when he’s not busy in a WSOP tourney elsewhere in the Rio.
Tsoukernik was unable to make it to the early part of the series, due to COVID travel restrictions. The same was true for hundreds of other European players. This all led to a sparsely-used King’s Lounge at the Rio during the first part of the series.
‘An island of cash-game pleasure’
Upselling the KIng’s Lounge’s luxury settings has been Fabien Richard’s job throughout the first part of the 2021 WSOP. Normally it’s an easy sell. The open-air but walled room has it’s own security, floor person, and, when it’s busy, waiting lists for high-stakes NLH and PLO games. This year, it’s been tougher. It’s even involved working with the WSOP to move over an occasional high-stakes game from the WSOP’s own nearby cash-game area. That’s a win for everyone involved — King’s, the WSOP, and especially the players themselves.
“It’s like an island of pleasure for the people who want to play in very good conditions,” said Richard. “We have the tables, the chairs; we have a port for meetings so if you want to take time with with your friends, to speak with the other players, it’s really good.”
The allure of King’s Casino is its ambience, to the extent it can be recreated within the surrounding bustle of the WSOP. As Richard explained, that ambiance allows players unfamiliar with King’s to feel at home immediately, to bring a piece of Rozvadov and the Czech Republic all the way to Las Vegas. “I hope that we have the same feeling here as we do in the Czech Republic,” said Richard. “I have this hope every day.” Meanwhile, Richard waxes enthusiastically about the French and Italian coffees available in King’s Lounge that can’t be found anywhere else at the WSOP.
Eased international travel restrictions promise late-series boost
Traffic in the King’s Lounge has climbed slowly, week after week. In the WSOP’s first few days, just a table or two of cash-game action ran. That’s already improved, with six to eight tables normally running in the lounge during prime cash-game hours on nights and weekends. And the best is almost certainly still to come.
As Poker.org’s David Consolazio reported on Monday, the U.S.’s decision to ease pandemic-related travel decisions for nearly all European visitors will have a pronounced positive effect on the last two weeks of the WSOP. WSOP quickly restructured November’s Main Event, adding two extra starting days that are expected to be flooded with European pros.
At least some percentage of those pros will spend some of their tourney downtime in cash games, and that means the King’s Lounge should enjoy a late traffic surge. Being able to avoid the prior two-week quarantine period is huge for these arriving players. As Richard admitted, “Sometimes it’s not possible to lose two weeks to be in quarantine in another country,” just to wait out a pending trip to the WSOP.
It’s likely too late for King’s Lounge to enjoy a truly profitable summer, but they’re in a far better position than just a week ago. And they will enjoy at least some of the promotional benefit that comes from being onsite at the WSOP. For Richard’s “island of pleasure” amid the Pavilion Room sea, more foot traffic can’t come too soon.
Featured image source: Haley Hintze