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Leon Tsoukernik: “We Want to Be THE Poker Place in Europe”
In the King’s Casino in Rozvadov, Czech Republic, there are several displays with various poker trophies in them.
Some are in the form of silver cups; others are sculptures. Some are WSOP bracelets.
Fedor Holz, for example, left his bracelet from his €1.3m win in the $111,111 One Drop at King’s. There’s even a WSOP Main Event bracelet on display - namely the one German Pius Heinz won in 2011.
One that’s missing, though?
The one belonging to King’s Casino's own CEO, Leon Tsoukernik. Tsoukernik won the last-ever EPT €50k High Roller event in Prague last December and told us his will be joining the rest - as soon as he's got his fill at home.
“Until now," he said at the recent 888Live Festival in Rozvadov, one of a growing list of festivals planned for the rapidly expanding poker mecca, "I haven’t brought it in.
"I’m still enjoying it at home because it means so much to me. We’re going to build a special area for it.”
Big and Getting Bigger
"Special" seems to be a theme for the King's Casino these days.
More events, more tables, an expanding gaming area and a new hotel – all are in progress as King’s has partnered up with the biggest players in the industry to become the center of European poker.
That 'special area' Tsoukernik mentions above will probably be in the new gaming hall still under construction. There is also a hotel being built right next to it, supposed to be finished by August.
“It’s an 1,800 square meter or 19,000 square foot area," Tsoukernik says, "directly connected to the casino and the hotel. It’ll be a gaming area with poker, blackjack and other card games and it’ll also have a VIP area.”
“There are 150 people working on the sites 24 hours a day and the casino expansion is going to be finished even before the hotel.”
These projects add to a casino that already has around 180 poker tables, all the table games you can think of, slot machines and a high-stakes cash game regularly streamed online.
Featured players have includes Sam Trickett, Bertrand Grospellier, Theo Jorgensen, Jan-Peter Jachtmann and many others playing as high as €100/€200 NLHE with the occasional double straddle.
All this is complemented by a 24/7 cold and warm buffet free for all players. Apparently, the ambitions are high.
Annual Turnover of €300 Million
What used to be a standalone casino in a remote place on the Czech-German border has developed into the largest gaming place in Europe.
Where there used to be tournaments only known because there were so many overlays, there is now a crammed schedule of events that includes all the big names in the poker industry.
“We are now talking about roughly 250,000 customers per year," Tsoukernik says, "giving us an annual turnover of about €300m.”
The WSOP recently signed a contract to bring both the WSOP Circuit and the WSOP Europe here through 2019. partypoker will host a 1M guaranteed in April.
PokerStars is bringing its new lower-stakes Festival series here and, very recently, 888poker held its first 888Live Festival outside of its own poker room at Aspers Casino.
“888 did a marvellous job and we’re thrilled to push their events and make them even bigger," Tsoukernik says. "It was a wonderful week with a lot of celebrities, a lot of players in the tournaments and everybody’s happy.
"We’ll definitely have more of their events.”
There are plenty of regional events like the GCOP, the GPD, the Spanish Championships and the Dutch Classics, too. The list goes on and on.
A "Strong Presence of Poker"
What’s striking about the casino is that despite how busy it is there doesn’t seem to be any security personnel.
“My vision is you shouldn’t see security," Tsoukernik says, "but they should see you. And don’t worry, they see you. I have 42 personnel on location and you don’t see any of them.
“I hate a club where you have to pass a big guy with a gun at the entrance. I want to see a lady with a smile on her face welcoming me.
“But the most important thing is the safety of the players. People wouldn’t come here if they had the slightest bit of worry about their security.”
During our stay we heard rumours that even infra-red cameras are used at King’s.
Says Tsoukernik: “We’re using top notch technology and infra-red cameras to disclose card-marking is just one of several security systems we have in place.
“My idea is to have a strong presence of poker here. We want to be the poker place in Europe.”