Poker players visiting Las Vegas are sometimes overwhelmed with the number of poker rooms that await them once they arrive. At last count, the Vegas valley had 58 poker rooms all spread over an area of about 30 miles. Though most of these rooms are on the Strip, Las Vegas offers many very nice and comfortable rooms off Strip that entice players with large bad-beat jackpots, freeroll tournaments and other such gimmicks to get you into their room. My columns here at Ante Up Magazine will discuss the many different goings on in the REAL Las Vegas poker world, not the high-stakes version we all see on TV, but the poker rooms and the people that keep poker alive all year at the same stakes you and I play. For it’s these people (the $1-$2, $2-$5 and limit hold’em players) who truly keep the poker rooms thriving in Las Vegas.
As a way to introduce the true Las Vegas poker world, we need to have a basic understanding of the three major types of poker rooms offered. All 58 rooms in the Las Vegas valley can be broken into three distinct categories: destination, convenience and locals. After reading this article, you will have a better idea of what rooms fit you best when visiting.
Destination rooms are venues designed to attract a wide variety of players. When people think of Vegas as a “Poker Mecca,” it is the destination rooms to which they’re referring. This is the smallest category as far as number of rooms included yet these rooms have the most players and the most tables. Destination rooms are those that players specifically target to play poker. They will leave their hotel (that may have a poker room of its own) and make a special trip to play at a destination room.
Destination rooms take poker seriously, and usually the rooms are well-apportioned and offer the largest variety of limits. Destination rooms usually do not drop a jackpot dollar for rake as the players the room caters to are more serious and astute. Examples of destination rooms in Vegas include Bellagio, Venetian, MGM Grand and Aria. All of these rooms have more than 20 tables and are well-known as being the best overall poker rooms Vegas has to offer.
Convenience rooms are designed as a “convenience” for hotel and casino guests. The rooms are usually small (12 tables or fewer) and usually only offer the most common games ($1-$2 NLHE and $2-$4 or $3-$6 LHE). These rooms drop a jackpot rake and offer gimmicks such as progressive high-hand jackpots, bad-beat jackpots or low buy-in tournaments designed for a casual player looking to play for just a few hours. The vast majority of poker rooms around the Las Vegas Strip fit into this category. Examples of convenience rooms include Bally’s, Mandalay Bay, Treasure Island and Excalibur.
Finally, there are the locals’ rooms. These vary greatly in overall quality and amenities and cater strongly to poker players who live in Las Vegas. They vary in size from two tables to nearly 30, and are designed with the local player in mind. Usually offering things such as a large progressive bad-beat jackpot and freeroll tournaments with $100K-plus prize pools, these rooms are dominated by older local players who don’t want to bother with driving to the Strip for action. Many play poker strictly for the social aspects, and the locals’ rooms adapt themselves to this particular clientele by offering things such as water coolers, doughnuts in the morning and a casual, social atmosphere. Many of the locals play there all day, every day.
The competition in the locals-room market is the most fierce in Vegas at the moment, as many Strip rooms have resorted to “locals friendly” promotions to take some of the local players back from their local casinos. In turn, the locals’ casinos have stepped up their game as well, offering reduced rake, double or triple comps and a liberal promotions roster that includes guaranteed-money promotions for simply playing for extended hours in their rooms vs. other venues. Examples of locals’ rooms include the Orleans, the Palms, South Point, Red Rock and Santa Fe Station.
With 58 poker rooms to choose from, Las Vegas is a poker destination like no other. Do your homework before you descend on Sin City and know what rooms you’d like to experience. Good luck!
— Michael Hamai (a.k.a LasVegasMichael) resides in Las Vegas and is Content Manager and Editor of AllVegasPoker.com. You can follow him on Twitter @LasVegasMichael or email him at MichaelHamai@aol.com.