The most common question I’m asked about Las Vegas poker is: Where are the best tournaments? Though the token “It depends” answer applies here, most Las Vegas players fall into one of three categories: those who seek no-limit hold’em tournaments that are less than $100, those who seek NLHE tournaments that are more than $100 and those who seek non-NLHE tournaments.
Las Vegas offers hundreds of daily tournaments that fit all budgets and preferences. Here’s a glimpse into a few of the more popular choices for these three categories, with some that are unique and may surprise you.
NLHE tournaments that are less than $100 are typically designed to be quick and convenient for the casual player.
Many rooms offer these events, including Excalibur ($25), Luxor ($60), Bill’s ($30) and O’Sheas ($55). This quick tournament tradition was broken a few years back when the Sahara (recently closed) decided to start offering a deepstack tournament that often lasted seven hours for only $65. This tournament proved enormously popular and caused its 7 p.m. tournament to often eclipse 150 players. Since then, many rooms have stepped up to offer deeper stacks and longer structures.
Nearly replicating the Sahara’s old structure is the Stratosphere, which offers players 8,500 chips for $65. Its tournaments run at 11 a.m., 7 p.m., and 11 p.m. daily and free pizza is provided for players during the 7 p.m. tournament’s break. Also check out Riviera’s daily tournaments.
The MGM Grand recently revamped its structures and offers a daily $80 event at 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. where players start with 6,000 chips that’s becoming popular. Orleans offers a daily event for $75 that offers 7,500 chips and has a strong local and tourist customer base.
Mirage has tournaments at 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. for only $60 and Treasure Island takes it a step further offering a tournament at 11 a.m., 2 p.m., 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. for only $50. These offer a bit more play than the traditional quick tournaments, but still have shorter stacks and a faster pace than the offerings at MGM Grand, Orleans and Stratosphere.
NLHE events that are more than $100 offer more play, deeper stacks and usually added levels, giving a more serious tournament experience. The two most popular tournament venues for more than $100 are Venetian and Aria.
Venetian offers a noon tournament for $150 and a 7 p.m. tournament for $120. Both start with 8K chips. The noon tournament usually has about 70 players and lasts about eight hours. The 7 p.m. event usually gets more than 100 players with first place exceeding $3,000.
Aria’s daily tournaments (1 p.m., 7 p.m.) issue 10,000 chips with 30-minute levels for $125. A few rooms spread a bigger buy-in tournament on the weekends, which often gets large numbers. Venetian’s Saturday noon tournament is $340 and gives players 12,000 chips and 40-minute levels.
Caesars Palace has a $235 tournament on Saturdays and Sundays that has 15K chips and includes a $15K guarantee prize pool. The largest buy-in regularly scheduled tournament in Las Vegas is the Bellagio ($540) on Fridays and Saturdays at 2 p.m. (10K chips, 40-minute blinds).
Finally, there are the non-NLHE tournaments. There are a few of these around town, including Orleans, which offers an Omaha/8 tournament on Mondays and Thursdays for $75 and a H.O.R.S.E. tournament on Fridays and Sundays. Also, Green Valley Ranch offers a pot-limit Omaha/8 tournament on Mondays for $45 and a $45 H.O.R.S.E. event on Wednesday evenings. Red Rock Resort in the Summerlin area of Las Vegas recently started offering an Omaha/8 event on Fridays for $60.
Though not as popular as the NLHE tournaments in the area, these non-NLHE tournaments are rapidly gaining popularity.
Nearly every room in Las Vegas offers a daily tournament schedule, and this was just a peek into what is available.
When planning your trip, take into consideration the many types of tournaments that exist. Some are designed to be short and sweet, with an average playing time of less than three hours from start to finish. Others are designed to be long and require a significant time investment, sometimes in excess of nine hours.
Some players want a serious professional quality tournament experience; others are just looking to kill a few hours before it’s time to go to dinner with friends. There are many resources to assist you with planning your tournament schedule ahead of time, including the Where to Play pages in the back of this magazine and on AllVegasPoker.com. So consider investing some time into your research and hopefully you will be rewarded with a seat at the final table. 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 Michael@AllVegasPoker.com.