Night Life — a Private Poker Party from Grosvenor Casino, Bournemouth

Whether you’re a high-roller or a reluctant risk-taker, we show what can be expected from a night down this particular casino…

If you weren’t already aware, it was my birthday yesterday. I’m a big lover of celebrating it regardless of whether it’s a milestone or not, and I try to do something a little different every year. This time around, I decided to follow through on a recommendation a couple of my friends had given me. To hire a poker table at the Bournemouth branch of Grosvenor Casino.

The deal: £15 per person for two hours (or £20 for three) of poker, with a free drink and a buffet meal. Pretty good on the surface, but what happens when we put the Expensive Tastes microscope over it?

SETUP

As a venue, there are few that can beat the setup of a casino, and Grosvenor is no exception. Say nothing of all the gambling paraphernalia, roulette wheels, etcetera; the lounge-bars and the restaurant beyond. It’s easy to get comfortable in there, even if you’re not there to gamble. The TVs adorning the walls are always showing the important sports.

The only real issue some people may find is the walkways, which are narrow enough trying to navigate around the various rooms before you add fellow customers to the equation.

When it comes to the poker game itself, you are moved to the separate card room, where a valet service is provided for drinks during. A minimum of six and a maximum of ten people can play for one of these private bookings. The game you play is Texas Hold ‘Em, which you’re guided through by the professional dealer. Options of gameplay style, blind amounts and whatnot are given to you on the night. It is worth mentioning that any prize money involved is dealt with amongst yourselves, not by the casino. We will talk about the poker some more in the Service section of the review.

Overall, you get what you expect in such a location.

9/10

FOOD

The poker buffet includes burgers, hot dogs, barbeque chicken wings and corn on the cobs.

Aside from the poker, the main event is the buffet meal, which can be partaken of before, during or after the poker game. Our game was to start 30 minutes later than booked, so we decided we would sit down for food first.

It’s basically everything you’d expect of a good barbeque in the summer, to be honest. Burgers, hot dogs, chicken wings, classic corn on the cob, and chips. Only issue here is that most of that isn’t suitable for vegetarians. I learned that the hard way, not knowing one of my party was a vegetarian. The casino staff impressed me in dealing with this issue promptly and having a veggie burger prepared for my friend.

As food goes, while I will opine I’ve had worse, I can also say I’ve had much better when the chefs have been aware of our coming for weeks. There was nothing wrong with the burgers or the hot dogs, I will admit, but I found the chicken wings and the chips, in particular, to feel a little dried-out and dehydrated. The sweetcorn was juicy — perhaps too much so.

7/10

SERVICE

The level of service received by Grosvenor in organising this event was something of a mixed bag. On the night, apart from one or two hiccups, such as the game starting half an hour late, the service staff were more or less fantastic. To make up for that, the casino offered us a second round of complimentary drinks. Furthermore, we had rearranged the buffet to be served before the game instead of afterwards and they dealt with that change brilliantly. And in addition, the humour, patience and tolerance of the card dealer Gianluca is to commended immensely. Get seven men around a card table under the influence of alcohol – it’s never going to be a peaceful affair.

However, when it came to arranging the event, I was less impressed. From my earliest inquiry, I suspected they were either very busy or just a little disorganised, since it took a good week or so for the events team to respond to my first email. My reply did not receive a response for another three. It’s just as well I’m over-organised enough to start planning these things well in advance; I’d advise anyone thinking of doing this to do the same!

I think they were obliged to buck their ideas up a bit, because after that, the emails were quite prompt and helpful. However, one final thing really exasperated me and has brought the service score down somewhat. A £5 per person deposit was required, as you would expect, which I paid in person in cash at the upstairs cash desk. It was in an envelope with all possible details written on the front. The young lad serving me, I believe, did not have too great an understanding of English, since he had failed to comprehend the cash was in the envelope I had given him.

You might think that sounds quite harsh, but that’s only half the story. About five days later, I received an email from the events team asking me if I wanted to pay the deposit over the phone! The same deposit that I had paid literally days ago! After I explained, it was all resolved. But the sheer lack of communication between departments truly astounded me. It’s something to be mindful of if you’re thinking of booking such an event.

6.5/10

VERDICT

Aside from the turbulence in the booking and arrangements that we just ranted about, I think there’s always a good night to be had in a poker game. Especially when in the proper surroundings. Get the suits and cocktail dresses out and enjoy a night of glitz, glamour and gambling. Just be organised and don’t rely on the venue to do everything and you’ll be okay!

7.5/10

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