Every now and then, members of the UK Poker News team venture out to play in a little tournament and use the moment to take a look around. Last week we sauntered down to Southend-On-Sea in Essex to play a tournament in the Mini March Poker Festival at Spielers Casino on the seafront at Westcliff. Due to other commitments, we played in the £150 Shootout tournament (£10,000 guaranteed, about which more later) which was played the day before the Main Event, a £300 No Limit Hold'em tournament.
What happened to us specifically in the tournament is not the purpose of this article so we will move swiftly on; suffice to say we did not make it to the final table. But what of the tournament itself, the facilities, surroundings and general environment in which it was held?
First the casino. It is splendidly located right on the waters edge along the seafront of Westcliff-on-Sea with plenty of members' car parking out front between the carriageways of the promenade road. That was the first concern out of the way having travelled the best part of 100 miles by road to get there. Compare that to the Grosvenor at Brighton which we visited a couple of months ago. Parking is at a premium and expensive once found. This is a particular problem in Brighton town centre, a difficulty not shared by the Grosvenor's rival, the Rendezvous, which is in spacious grounds on the superb Brighton Marina - although it is a good mile or two out of town by road.
Back to Southend, the Spielers Casino is annexed to the bigger Westcliff Casino, the latter being open on the afternoon we arrived, whereas Spielers, where the poker was being held, was not open until 7pm according to what appeared to be a security man who eventually came to the door. He directed us into the Westcliff Casino entrance. Once inside, it led into some very impressive-looking casino space, almost like a smaller version of some of the Vegas splashes, but this has a panoramic view of the Thames Estuary. Although the view was somewhat grey in appearance on this day, it is sure to be very pleasant on a warm sunny day, with access to the balcony-cum-veranda.
As 7pm approached, we made our way to the connecting doors allowing access to Spielers Casino from Westcliff Casino. There was a young lady getting the desk ready but no other outward sign of activity. Enquiries revealed a lack of knowledge about what the card room's arrangements were, and confusion reigned for a while until a message emerged that the kick-off would be delayed in the hope of getting more players registered, the main issue being that the advertised time was half an hour earlier than the usual £20 game held on Fridays. As it was, one or two customers were arriving hoping to play the regular game. Some staff coordination would not go amiss next time, as overall it wasn't a good advert for the festival.
In the end, 40 players registered for the £150 Shootout. The twelve or more dealers were in for an easy night because only six tables were needed! It has to be considered a disappointing turn out for the casino, particularly with a £10,000 guarantee attached. Here the small print kicked in as at least 55 players were stipulated for the guarantee to function as a guarantee. Whether that means that "guarantee" was ever the right word is a point for debate.
The tournament itself seemed to run smoothly enough and we have no complaints on that score although we didn't hang around for the finish. Given the right kind of event in the future, and maybe a gorgeous Summer's Day on which to view the water from the balcony, another visit will be worthwhile.
At least the M25 ran well.
Edit note: Improve your outlook at London Poker Club with a $3,000 freeroll exclusive to UK Poker News