In September, I was in France for my honeymoon, so like any good new husband I wanted to get out and play some poker while I was there. After researching some Paris poker rooms, I ended up playing just a few hours at the Cercle Cadet poker club. This post will contain a few tips it might help you to know if you plan on playing there and my general impression of the card room and players.
Before getting to Paris, I had initially considered hitting the Aviation Club, that being the most famous and well-known one. But it turned out they were in the last days of a large televised tournament when I was there, and my emails to them asking if they were having normal cash games weren’t returned quickly. Also, I wasn’t terribly interested in paying the Aviation Club’s 100 Euro annual membership fee just for the privilege of playing there for a few hours. (They must make a killing in tourists paying that fee for a single small trip to Paris.)
I Googled other poker clubs in Paris and the Cercle Cadet was the only other well-mentioned one I saw. And it only had a 30 Euro annual membership fee, which was more palatable.
The “Cercle” in the name of the club comes from the expression “cercle du jeu”, which translates as “game circle”, which is just their way of saying a social gaming club. “Cadet” is because the club is located on the Rue Cadet (“rue” being the word for street), which is off of the Rue la Fayette, a major road in the 9th arrondissement of Paris (an “arrondissement” means a city district and is their way of breaking up the city into sections).
I played at the Cercle Cadet from only about 2 pm to 6 pm on a Monday. Not a long time; would have loved to have played longer but I had to catch an opera-you know how that goes.
First bit of advice: bring your passport. I didn’t bring mine and had to go back to the hotel and get it, which killed an hour of play time.
The membership process is pretty painless. Just pay your money, they take your picture, you sign something, and they give you a card.
The club is very nicely decorated and looks very chic. Everyone is dressed very nicely and you feel like you’re in a really classy establishment. Everyone made me feel welcome despite not understanding half of what I was saying.
The downstairs area has table games; blackjack and stuff like that, which I ignored so I couldn’t tell you much about it.
The 2nd floor and 3rd floor are where the poker is. The 2nd floor had a bar area and about 6 1-2 Euro NLHE games going. The 3rd floor had three 2-4 Euro NL games going when I arrived and like a 115-Euro buy-in tournament going on. (They have a tournament schedule on their website.) It was pretty good action considering it was a Monday afternoon. There was no maximum buy-in for any of the cash games.
The 2-4 was the maximum stakes game going when I was there, but I’ve heard they spread up to 5-10 and higher occasionally. (Also heard a rumor that David Benyamine plays there occasionally.)
I only waited a few minutes before they opened a new 2-4 table upstairs. The chips were all crazy colors and it took me a while to become comfortable with them. Another weird thing; the dealer doesn’t have his own chips. He makes all his change from the people at the table, which seemed to really slow the games down sometimes as he was constantly making change for the rake and people’s change.
I was the only American at the table, and probably also the only tourist from what I could tell. When each new dealer sat down, I would ask him, “Vous parlez anglais?”, just so that they would know I was a foreigner, in the hopes they’d be more careful with me. (This is actually just a basic good strategy if you don’t know how to speak French. It’s polite to not just start speaking English to people, as that can come across as pretty arrogant. If the person doesn’t know how to speak English they can usually guide you to someone who can.)
I also asked the dealer the French words for “raise” and “all-in”. Those are: “relance” (ree-lawns) and “a tapis” (ah tap-ee) or just “tapis”. (Some more discussion of French translation of poker lingo here: http://www.pokerforums.org/general-poker-discussion/8373-presenting-how-play-texas-holdem-french-class-need-help.html)
I was the only American or English-speaker at my table, though I expect there’d be more during the weekends or during the higher tourist summer months. My French is actually pretty decent, though even with no French you’d get along very well. For instance, once when I wanted to reraise but had forgotten what to say, I just jerked my thumb upwards and the dealer knew what was going on. It’s amazing how little spoken language you really need in order to play poker, and this was the first time that really struck home for me.
As for the game itself; it was a short time I was there, so what I saw there isn’t necessarily standard. The guys at my table where all fairly young, under 30, with a couple middle-aged guys. I bought in for 470 Euros, and there was only one other guy when I saw down who had close to that; maybe 400 or so. Most guys had between 150-250 Euros, with a couple guys with less than 100. It was a pretty short-stacked game. But again, this could be due to the fact that it was a Monday afternoon and it had some high percentage of students or something. Right when I was getting ready to leave, a young kid sat down with 2,000 in chips, so maybe that was a sign that the games really get wild and crazy and more dangerous at night.
The play itself was really loose and gambly, considering how short most people were playing. There was a ridiculous amount of going all-in and substantial bets with sub-par holdings. In a couple hands, I realized that it would be one of those games where I just have to wait for hands, which is what I did. I basically played 5 hands the entire time I was there and won them all, for a little 250 Euro profit. The game was ridiculously soft and I would have loved to have stuck around. But again, it was a very small sample size.
A couple observations:
The rake is very high. I meant to ask what the max rake was, but I think it’s like 15 on pots over 200 or something. I saw them regularly scooping 8 Euros from around a 100 Euro pot. Some of this may have been going to a bad beat that they were advertising. But that is just a ridiculous amount of rake, unless I’m misunderstanding something. I don’t know much about how that affects the profitability, but that rake seems high enough to potentially make the game very hard to beat.
On the plus side, it’s Europe so you don’t have to worry as much about tipping. And due to the rake being so high, I definitely didn’t feel bad about not tipping. In fact, I didn’t tip once, except to the girl who helped me with the membership process.
The only other thing I’ve heard about Cercle Cadet is that the location isn’t as nice as the Aviation Club. The road was bustling when I was there during the day and safety definitely wasn’t an issue, but I’ve read on a few message boards that late at night it is not the safest area. So I can see that being an issue if you don’t know the area and you’re obviously a tourist and you’re coming out of the club with your passport and a bunch of money in your pocket.
All in all, except for the rake, the place seemed cool and a nice place to visit if you’re in Paris. I’m sure it’s a much better short-term value for tourists than the Aviation Club is. For more information, check out the Cercle Cadet website or search www.TwoPlusTwo.com for “Paris poker” or “Cercle Cadet” for some good discussions.