The first ever WSOP Europe is designed to celebrate the cultural differences between European and American style casinos. WSOP Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack said the WSOP Europe have a very different spirit from Vegas because “the London club properties are fairly intimate and exclusive […]. And we also want to be authentic to the European marketplace. London is a city that has tremendous style and we think that putting a little different style on World Series of Poker Europe will be both appropriate and fun.”

This is a quite good summary of the main difference between poker (and casinos in general) in Europe and America: American casinos tend to be all-inclusive entertainment centers that are usually part of city-sized mega-hotels; while European casinos have traditionally been small, exclusive (or clandestine), and privately owned and run. For Europeans gambling was either a luxury not to be shared or a vice not to be disclosed, while for Americans it is an egalitarian, even “democratic” from of entertainment, with tourists in Bermudas playing next to businessmen in suits.

Historically there have been quite a few similarities between the American and European gambling schemes, which are now converging further thanks to the online poker boom. In both sides of the Atlantic, gambling started as an illegal activity that slowly won its way into the mainstream, and initially it was linked to organized crime and political corruption before cleaning up its act and going corporate. In both continents it has also worked as a powerful economic engine to bring people, jobs and capital to low income destinations – just think of Las Vegas before the casinos!

And now for the differences: while the American approach to casino gambling has been one of general encouragement – low taxes, supporting local growth – the European have taken many different but generally restrictive approaches. Here is the lowdown from William R. Eadington of the University of Reno: “The European legislative models for casinos range from State-owned monopolies in Sweden, Finland, Austria and the Netherlands, to “invisible” clubs in the United Kingdom, to highly taxed private sector or private/public sector partnership exclusive franchise regional monopolies in most of the other EU countries.” 

Another big difference is in the style of the casinos – while the welcoming, democratic American casinos allow patrons to wear shorts and baseball hats and offer encouraging systems like the “paycheck spins”, European casinos were (and are) more likely to have a dress code and require membership and/or entrance fees. This makes for an entirely different playing atmosphere, and one the WSOP Europe is hoping to bank on: apparently they have yet to decide whether blazers will be required at the table, which to some will be as big a change as the infamous new cards were at the last WSOP. 

Before we move on to the differences in play, a bit of trivia: did you know that cards are dealt differently on both sides of the ocean? Here, courtesy of Wikipedia, are the two dealing styles for you to practice at home: 

In American-style dealing, the deck is held in one hand, and the dealer pinches the front-right corner of the top card between the other thumb and index finger. The card is then thrown to the player, with a wrist extending motion. 

European-style dealers touch only the top of each card being dealt. The card is pushed off the top of the deck to the table surface in front of the dealer. The dealer then propels the card toward the recipient, usually imparting some spin to the card for stability. 

Two more trivial facts: European style chips are thinner and lighter than American chips, and in European casinos roulette croupiers use the long stick known as “rake” to sweep in chips, while American dealers use their arms and hands. Armed with this knowledge, you are now ready for our next section: what the pros from both sides of the ocean have to say about the other side.

Stay tuned for part III…

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