The décor is as dark as a spade flush and it takes a few moments to sort out that this is, in fact, a poker room. But even that’s not totally accurate.
“It’s a Poker Lounge,” says Hard Rock Hotel Poker Lounge marketing director Steve Cyr, who, as his title implies, is in charge of making this hand a winner. He’s got some hot cards. A rarity among poker rooms, the Poker Lounge provides bottle service and a full menu offered 24/7. Restrooms have been installed inside the space, so players don’t have to venture to the casino to find relief, and sports bettors can even wager from inside the lounge from a sports book window, sort of a gambler’s biathlon. Also, RockSpa masseuses will be made available to players, slot and video poker machines sit near the tables, and an all-women VIP host staff who are versed in poker rules (try asking them what to do with your hands and see what happens).
It comfortable, even womblike, in the Poker Lounge, like stepping into Phil Ivey's rec room. The black-and-tan décor runs in concert with the rest of the Hard Rock Hotel’s recent design updates since it was purchased a couple of years ago by the Morgans Hotel Group. It used to be “The Rock,” as it was termed by hep locals, was sort of purple-hued. No more. The space seems great for spelunking, but for the framed visages of such pop-culture icons Ozzy Osbourne, David Bowie and Billy Bob Thornton, who has a room dedicated to him opposite the entrance. It’s cool to the touch, this place.
“We want it muted, but not too muted,” Hard Rock President and CEO Randy Kwasiniewski said. “We want to appeal to people who just want to come in and play poker and have a good time, not just for pros.”
I told Kwasniewski about the lone time I nearly sat at a poker table in Las Vegas, about 10 years ago at the Palace Station, where the only sound was the drone of clicking chips and the most of the players (muted, too) sat silently, smoking.
“Interesting,” Kwasniewski said. “We want the Poker Lounge to be welcoming. We want to appeal to casual players.” I mentioned that the room could actually serve as an ultra-lounge, absent poker, if he decided to play that hand.
“It could, but that’s not what we have in mind,” he said. “We want to take the poker rooms to the next level.” And here, the Hard Rock is (we can’t resist the poker term) all in.