Three Las Vegas poker rooms you need to visit

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Anyone who knows anything about poker in Las Vegas has heard of Bellagio, Venetian and MGM Grand. Casinos such as Aria, Wynn and Caesars Palace have large advertising budgets and invest millions in making sure even the most casual Las Vegas visitor knows about their poker rooms and many amenities. This article, however, is all about popular rooms of which you may have never heard.

These rooms are often packed with players, yet you rarely hear them talked about among pros or mentioned in other magazines. These rooms define what makes the Las Vegas poker landscape so unique, as they offer something different, such as game selection, location or the chance to light up a cigarette at the table.

ORLEANS: Every Vegas local knows about the Orleans poker room, yet most tourists probably don’t. It’s the largest of the off-Strip rooms, and is one of the busiest rooms in the city. Offering more than 30 tables, the Orleans is best known for two things: cheapest rake in the city and Omaha/8 spread 24 hours a day. The rake of the Orleans poker room is 10 percent up to $3 max (plus $1 for jackpot).

The Gaming Board stipulates that 100 percent of all jackpot money must be returned to the players, so the $3 per hand is the most the house takes off the game (compared to $4 and $5 at popular venues).

The game offerings of the Orleans are pretty standard with $1-$2 no-limit hold’em, $2-$4 and $4-$8 limit, However, the Orleans is the only room in town to spread limit Omaha/8 around the clock, offering it in $4-$8 and $8-$16 with a half kill on both games. The list for this game is often quite long, and can require an extensive wait, but the dedicated clientele doesn’t mind waiting.

The Orleans also offers daily tournaments, including a popular NLHE event on Friday nights that has often eclipsed 200 players for only a $125 buy-in. There also are two H.O.R.S.E. tournaments and two Omaha/8 events every week.

RED ROCK: If the Red Rock poker room was on the Strip, it would be compared with the big rooms. Offering 20 tables of limit and NLHE, the Red Rock is quite a ways off the Strip, in the luxurious community of Summerlin, near Red Rock Canyon.

One of the only off-Strip rooms to spread $2-$5 NLHE daily, Red Rock is part of the Stations Casinos family and is the busiest poker room of the chain. The manager, Mike Doe, understands the importance of game protection and long-term vitality of his diverse limit and NLHE offerings, and continues to restrict his $1-$2NLHE game to an industry low of $200 max. This allows for continued protection and lack of cannibalization of his daily $2-$5 game and allows the low-limit NL players to be protected for long-term play.

Red Rock is certainly one of the most luxurious properties off the Strip, and is known industry-wide as the crown jewel of the Stations poker empire.

BOULDER STATION: One of my personal favorite “guilty pleasure” rooms of the Las Vegas Valley is Boulder Station. Its poker room is something out of a Vegas poker history book from the 1980s. Though many would discount a random 11-table room east of the Strip on Boulder Highway, they would be wrong to do so. The room is often packed with lists that can reach the bottom of the screen. Why? The room offers the deepest and most action-packed $4-$8 limit game in the city (Omaha with half kill) and most important, cigarette smoking is permitted at the table.

Not more than eight years ago, cigarette smoking at the table was commonplace in Las Vegas cardrooms. Starting in 2003 through 2005, smoking tableside became a thing of the past everywhere except two rooms, with Boulder being the busiest and most popular (the other being Arizona Charlie’s Decatur). This niche market is one that continues to fill the Boulder Station poker room nightly, and offers a true look back into Vegas poker from back in the day.

When you decide to visit Las Vegas, there are more than 50 rooms to choose from, and not all are created equally. Though the big rooms are seen in magazines, talked about on Internet discussion boards and seen on TV daily, these three rooms show there’s so much more to the Las Vegas poker world than just what you hear and read.

— 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.