Canberra Casino

The capital is also home to an unusual poker venue. The Canberra Casino is situated amid 20 acres of parkland and gardens called Glebe Park, a complex that also includes the National Convention Center, the Royal Theater and the Parkroyal Hotel. The Casino itself is a beautiful place: Elegant and reminiscent of old-line European houses. But this is Australia, after all, and the atmosphere is inviting, relaxed and casual.

The place of interest is the poker lounge. It is unusual in that there are no slots around, so you can concentrate on the cards without distraction. The lounge wasn't in the original plans, but popular demand for the game changed all that, and it has become one of the most frequented facilities in the place, so popular, in fact, that the Thursday no-limit hold'em tournaments fill up early, and management asks that you register ($70 entry) 10 days ahead. You have to be a Casino Club member to play, but membership is free and comes with all kinds of promotional goodies. So why do you have to be a member? Ask the Aussies.

In the lounge, you can play a unique combination of variations: Texas hold'em, Omaha, five-card stud, seven-stud, draw, two and three-card Manila and faro. Signs indicate which is played where. Chips, which are clearly marked, are purchased from the croupier and are good at any table and for keno.

The casino has 39 gaming tables. That doesn't sound like much, but they cram a good variety of games into them, including blackjack, baccarat, sic bo, money wheel, pai gow and American roulette. In addition to the poker lounge, there is a keno lounge, two bars and a restaurant. Hours of operation are noon to 6 a.m., seven days a week. There is a countrywide minimum age of 18.

The casino hosts the annual National Poker Championship, which attract players worldwide. Canberra has plenty of accommodations. The Parkroyal is on the casino's doorstep, but not far are many hotels, from luxury to modest to campsites.

The capital itself is a great town for travel fun without burnout. It's a relatively small city, but there is enough going on to satisfy any poker-playing visitor and companion. Not really what it sounds like, Canberra is often called the "Bush Capital." That's because it's located near the vast expanse of Canberra Nature Park and Namadgi National Park. In fact, nearly half the land area of the Australian Capital Territory, in which Canberra is located (much like our own District of Columbia), is park or bush land. So if you crave the great outdoors, either to tour or explore on your own, this is the place. It is also home to hundreds of free-roaming kangaroos, unbeatable excitement for kids if you have the family along. Kids can also be distracted by the many children's attractions, such as the new National Museum of Australia, and the science museum with hands-on displays. You'll like it, too.

Far from "bush" league, Canberra is called the capital of arts because of its fine National Gallery of Australia, as well as exhibits at the Nolan Gallery, the Australian War Memorial, the Australian Institute of Sport and the Parliament House. The golf is excellent at the vast Federal Golf Course. There are many fine restaurants around town, and you can visit the origins of the fine Australian wines you've been drinking by touring the nearby vineyards.

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