POKER LIFESTYLE

Poker in Lisbon

By Ashley Adams
December 28, 2023

Lisbon is the capital of Portugal, the western-most country in Continental Europe, located on the Iberian Peninsula along with Spain. Lisbon is a historic city, dating back to Roman times, with great museums, fine art, terrific cuisine, clean beaches, decent weather year-round, beautiful music, and a great transportation system.  It’s an ideal place for a vacation. Oh, and the poker in Lisbon is pretty great, too!

I visited Lisbon for five days in December. The weather was ideal for me. The temperature was between 50-70°F every day; pretty mild for the winter! Though the skies were typically cloudy, it only rained one day while I visited. It was perfect weather for walking, seeing the sights, listening to the music, eating, and playing poker of course!

Poker in Lisbon

This is not meant to be a thorough travelogue of Lisbon or Portugal. There are many other resources for that. Let’s just say that there are great pastries, including the iconic pastel de nata, great seafood, including bacalhau (codfish), and great music, especially Fado – that lamenting vocal and guitar music played in night clubs and restaurants all across the city. There are also great castles and palaces to visit, beaches to enjoy, and great walking and hiking, up and down the many steep hills of this city.

And, yes, there is poker, too!

The vast majority of visitors to Lisbon stay in a hotel within the city of Lisbon. But, since my visit centered around poker, and since there are no poker rooms in the city of Lisbon itself (The Casino Lisboa does not have poker), I opted for a different vacation plan. I stayed about 35 minutes west of the city in the beautiful town of Estoril.

Poker in Lisbon: Casino Estoril

There is only one place that regularly hosts poker cash games in the greater Lisbon area: that’s Casino Estoril, in the town of Estoril.

Poker in Lisbon Casino Estoril

Estoril is a town within the municipality of Cascais. This area is known as the Portuguese Riviera. It is a seaside resort, lined to the south with beautiful clean beaches. It is the wealthiest section of Portugal, filled with luxury autos, high-end stores, and beautiful homes. It’s a 30-minute train ride from Lisbon – with regular service, every 10 minutes or so, starting at 5AM and ending at 1AM each day.

Rooms at the casino itself were beyond my budget. But I found a great room for only about $60 a night right across the parking lot from the casino, at the Hotel Alvorada. I could leave my room and be at the poker table in less than three minutes.

The hotel was perfect for my interests. They provided a clean room with an outdoor porch, daily housekeeping, and a comfortable bed. The hotel also provided an excellent, ample breakfast buffet for a modest cost.

Alvorado Hotel

View of Casino Estoril from my room at the Hotel Alvorada

The casino is the oldest in Portugal, dating to 1918. Ian Fleming, during World War II, allegedly got his inspiration for his James Bond novel Casino Royale at Casino Estoril. It’s been updated considerably since then with lots of remodeling, and no dress code anymore. So there’s no longer any resemblance to the casino which Fleming visited and wrote about. Still, it’s an impressive full-service casino.

The casino hours are 3pm to 3am, seven days a week – with the poker room open during the entire time. I visited on five occasions, and found games in full swing every time. There were always two tables running of $1/3 no limit hold’em, $600 maximum buy-in. I was told that on Friday night, a time I didn’t visit and never play, they get a $5/5 PLO game, that really rocks. I’ll leave that for braver souls to explore.

Poker at Casino Estoril

The players consisted of a good mix of regulars and tourists. During my sessions I’d say the ratio was roughly 60% regs to 40% tourists – making for a very good game. There was moderate pre-flop raising, typically to $10 or $15. 3-bets to $25 to $40 were unusual but not rare. I never encountered a 4-bet during my sessions.

Players did not seem especially aggressive after the flop. Flops were frequently checked. This was not a game where players typically played for stacks. There was little if any drinking of alcoholic beverages at the table from what I observed. It would never be described as a wild or crazy game.

Players at Estoril Casino

Straddles are allowed, but only under-the-gun. Re-straddles are allowed as well, all the way around to the button if desired, but I only noticed one re-straddle during my play. There is waitress service. Non-alcoholic drinks are free. Unlike in the US, tips are not automatic.

The poker is raked at 5% up to $15, with no rake taken until or unless the pot reaches $20. There are no additional drops for the house – as there are no bad beat, high hand, or other promotions.

The games were all well dealt, with attentive but inobtrusive dealers, newish cards and chips, good felt, comfortable if relatively basic chairs, and good lighting. The floor was engaged and friendly, standing nearby to aid in settling any disputes, seating players, and in general keeping the game a well organized, fun affair.

Casino Estoril at night

The casino has a few restaurants. I did not sample the food, but was told the Asian restaurant, Estoril Mandarin, is excellent. They are known for their dim sum and Peking Duck. But don’t plan on an early dinner, as they don’t open until 7PM.

My Lisbon Poker Vacation

For me, the beauty of a poker vacation lies in the ease with which I can both tour and play. Anyone who has read some of my previous articles about poker in Iceland or poker in Alberta, Canada (for example) would know this. I developed a routine that I enjoyed during my time in Lisbon and Estoril.

I awoke early and walked five minutes or so down to the beach – often before sunrise. I then strolled on the walkway along the beach for about an hour, watching the sun rise over the ocean, returning to the hotel in time to shower and sit down to the large breakfast buffet served by the hotel. I took full advantage of it, eating leisurely their fresh fruit, eggs, bacon, potatoes, cheese, cereal, juice, and expresso coffee beverages.

I then began my day of touring around – either driving or taking the train into Lisbon. (I bought a 72-hour Lisboa Card, that afforded me unlimited train, tram, and bus rides while also providing me with free or reduced cost admission to all of the museums and tourist sites).

When my touring for the day was over, I’d typically find a restaurant in Lisbon or Estoril for dinner, return to my hotel, and then amble over to the casino to play some poker. On a couple of occasions, I was so tired after dinner, that I went to bed, only to wake up at midnight or so – and head across the parking lot to the still-open poker room, where I’d play until closing.

Palace in Sintra

My sample size of play was small and not necessarily indicative of anything. But I profited from my sessions, in spite of the stiff $15 maximum rake. I didn’t cover the full cost of my trip with my winnings; but I did put a nice dent in it.

This proved to be a relatively inexpensive European trip for me. The cost of meals was considerably less than it is in other western European and major American cities. A traveler with an eye toward value, as I have, could easily eat out for under $60 a day, as I did.

This being the off season for travel to Portugal, I was also able to find an extremely inexpensive flight from Boston to Lisbon – using Skyscanner and booking the round-trip flight, two weeks before my departure, for $425. All totaled, leaving for Lisbon Saturday evening and returning to Boston Thursday night, including meals out, rental car, hotel, local transportation, museums, concerts, and airfare, I spent less than $1,000 US.  Not too bad for a great solo poker vacation. It was so delightful that I am already planning my return trip with my wife.

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Ashley Adams poker author
Written By.

Ashley Adams

Ashley Adams has been playing and writing about poker since 2001. He has authored two poker books: Winning 7-card Stud and Winning Poker in 30 Minutes a Day. His articles have appeared in Card Player Magazine and Poker Player Newspaper; and can be found on many internet sites including: pokernews.com, thepokerforum.com, and pokerology.com. He is […]

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