As one of the tourist hotspots in Central America, Costa Rica has a great deal to attract visitors from all around the world. Of course, it’s famous for its beaches but of equal appeal is its unspoilt interior where rainforests are home to a dazzling array of flora and fauna. It’s one of the most biodiverse countries in the world and home to around 6% of all species found on Earth. And, thanks to the country’s dedication to sustainability, it’s also a place where tourists can feel comfortable that they have made a “green” choice for their holiday. So, it’s for a very good reason that the country feels able to dub itself “the birthplace of ecotourism”.
The figures speak for themselves; each year around 3 million tourists visit the country, with over half of them coming from the United States. Their importance to the economy is undeniable contributing, as they do, around $1.7 billion a year.
But, as well as the natural beauty of the country, visitors also come to have a relaxing break indulging in favorite activities and pastimes. For many people, this includes a trip to the casino to enjoy a game of poker. Luckily, they’re well catered for here with plenty of activities available in San Jose, and exciting developments in the pipeline for Moín, near Limón.
Of course, the country does have something of heritage in the game with perhaps its most famous player being Humberto Brenes. The poker professional has lifetime earnings from the game of over $6 million and, although you’re unlikely to find him playing at any of the venues in Costa Rica, there’s a good chance you could come across his brother Alex. He’s not bad either, with career winnings of over $1.3 million. So here’s where to head for to get a game.
Costa Rica Hold’em Club at Hotel Del Rey
This has long been a favorite on the San Jose poker scene where many tourists have enjoyed a game of relatively low-stakes poker. It also pays to play there as long as you possibly can. That’s because twice a month they hold a freeroll for the 10 players who have put in the most hours with the prize of a share of the jackpot.
Winners Club at Best Western Irazu Hotel and Casino
Another popular spot on the poker circuit boasts no less than five separate tables so you’re sure to find the perfect game for your level. The other great thing about the Winners Club is the range of promotions and special events that it offers, even daily. For example, every single day it kicks things off with a ₡2000 super turbo tournament. The casino then adds ₡50,000 to the prize fund and everyone who finishes in the money is guaranteed a payout of at least ₡15,000. There are also prizes for the top four poker hands of the night with ₡50,000 each for the first and second hands and ₡20,000 each for the third and fourth places.
It’s also very popular thanks to the friendly atmosphere that the dealers create with some visitors commenting that it can feel more like a home game than one in a casino.
Grand Casino Escazu at the Sheraton Hotel
One of the most notable features of the games at the Escazu is that they’ve played in US dollars instead of Costa Rican colons – making it a favorite with visitors from the States. It’s also fairly unique in the fact that it has a partitioned off area for poker, giving the feel of a dedicated poker room. Minimum buy-in to most games is $100 so some fairly big wins are possible.
There are also several daily promotions including specified hours when the best texas Holdem hand can win $50 and a daily $1,000 “bad beat” jackpot. This is also the place to head for if you’re looking for some fairly serious tournament play. Most days there’s a No-Limit Hold’em event with a guaranteed $50,000 pot.
Taormina Hotel and Casino
Cash games and tournament play are also on offer at Taormina, although they’re run by separate teams. There’s the choice of playing No-Limit Hold’em or Pot Limit Omaha and this is another poker room that rewards frequent players with its biggest weekly promotion.
In this, as long as you play for 49 hours or more and you’ll qualify for the monthly freeroll with a prize fund of ₡2,500,000 and a guaranteed minimum payout of ₡50,000. It’s made even easier to qualify by letting you earn “double hours” between 9 pm and 2 am every day.
Keen poker players will also be pleased to learn that the grip that San Jose has on the country’s poker action will not last forever. This is thanks to a major new development that is progressing at Moín. Construction has already begun on the $400 million Casino City Caribe development. This is due for completion in 2027 but it will also have a phased opening in the meantime. No less than three casinos are included, along with hotels, business conference facilities, and a luxury spa. With the development looking for buyers it could even be one of the big Vegas names like the Sands Corporation or Caesars Palace might end up with a presence in Costa Rica.
But whoever does end up investing, it certainly means the future’s even brighter for poker in the country.