On weekends they come from across the country. They pack a light handbag, kiss their loved ones goodbye, and get on a plane.
Destination: Las Vegas.
Some come for the dazzling shows. Others for the food or the Vegas experience.
But most are here for one thing only:
To play poker.
They are the poker pilgrims, and the poker rooms of Las Vegas are the ultimate adventure.
The casinos of Las Vegas have always had an affinity to poker. From the Bellagio and MGM Grand all the way to the small poker rooms in the narrow alleys off the alluring Strip, the poker tables are set, and the games are on almost 24 hours a day. Tourneys and cash games never stop. Nor does the endless line of players streaming in the casinos.
But the question on everybody’s mind who’s planning a trip to the Sin City is this:
Which is the best poker room among the dozens that fill the Strip and the areas around it?
Whether you’re a casual player looking for some fun and entertainment or a dedicated player who takes your game seriously and plays to win money, it all comes down to one thing. Which poker room offers more action, has friendly dealers, and — maybe most importantly – has the softest competition.
Does this mean that you should avoid the famous casinos with their luxurious ambiance and great atmosphere because of sharks?
In fact, if you’re going to Vegas to make some money at the tables, then there’s a type of player you should worry about more than sharks. I’m talking about the ones chasing freerolls. They are attracted by promotions, and they won’t be playing many hands or putting a lot of money in the pot.
In other words, these are the players to avoid. These tables are neither fun nor are they worth your time.
Which brings us back to the main question:
Which rooms are the best both for recreational and career poker players as well?
And which ones should you avoid?
Here are 7 poker rooms in Vegas that made the cut.
1. The Aria
This visually-striking hotel and casino is one of the newest additions to the Strip. Despite that, it has attracted a decent clientele who love the poker room’s swiveling chairs, which make you feel like you’re sitting on a cloud. Any time of the day or night, the Aria is teeming with players.
And there’s never a shortage of tables.
Apart from the beautiful poker room, with its dark shades of red and brown, the Aria offers a lively atmosphere and lots of action. They feature lots of cash games spread throughout the peak hours. The Aria also runs decent tourneys (even on weekdays), including their popular $125 buy-in tournament at 7pm.
You can expect to find $1/$3, $2/$5, $5/$10 NLHE games as well as $1/$3 and $2/$5 PLO.
For higher stakes, they have Ivey’s room, named after Phil Ivey. There you’ll find famous players competing in the $300/$600 mixed game.
The Aria’s dedicated poker room, with about 24 tables, is among the few places where you can find games running in the morning hours between 7am and 12pm. There you can expect to find a wide range of skills, which is great if you’re looking to improve your game.
Besides the experienced rounders who play for high stakes, most of the players who frequent the Aria are recreational players with a lot of money.
And with such lively action, you always have options to move tables if you need to.
2. The Venetian
The Venetian Resort is one of largest hotels in the world. It stands to reason that they should have a dedicated poker room to match. The 59-table poker room is well-managed, with two separate high-limit areas. It’s more spacious and laid back than most poker rooms on the Strip, even if the action is more subdued.
Cash games run from $1/$2 to $5/$10 NLHE. They also offer low stakes LHE and Omaha. They also have some good deep-stack tourneys, as well as two big daily tournaments at 12:05 PM and 7:05 PM.
Competition-wise, you can find many soft games, even though the daily tournament schedule attracts local players. You can recognize the locals from the tourists quickly. The locals are the ones the dealer calls by name.
3. The Bellagio
The Bellagio is always lively and full of all popular cash games and tournaments. The poker room is not as big as the Venetian, but it still looks opulent and luxurious.
Just because it’s a big and a relatively old casino frequented by famous players doesn’t mean you should shy away from it. You can find easier competition there. Plenty of tourists play recklessly there.
If you want to find the best action and softest games, you should play there between Wednesday and Sunday. These are the major fly-in days for most out-of-towners. Tourists tend to go far too hard the first day they hit the Strip. They drink like fish and play accordingly — like fish.
You’ll find all limits of cash games in the Bellagio. Starting from $1/$2 NLHE all the way to $20,000 buy-in games in Bobby’s Room. You also get other games like Omaha and stud.
4. The Wynn
Conveniently located near Encore Players Club, this spacious room has 28 tables.
Entertainment is not in short supply with the 37 TV screens and the nearby restaurants offering a variety of foods.
Some people who play at the Wynn claim the competition is tougher than most. The Wynn Casino also has one of the busiest poker rooms in Vegas, with anywhere from 10 to 30 games going on at any given time.
You can even find a game running at 5am here. Most poker rooms slow down after 1am. This says something about the Wynn and its customers.
The stakes for cash games range from $1/$3 NLHE all the way up to higher stakes games with no maximum buy-ins. Besides the daily tournaments, there are seasonal tournaments which are always popular because of the high guarantees.
But perhaps the things players like most about the Wynn are the laid-back atmosphere, prompt service, and sharp and friendly dealers. They all make for an enjoyable experience in that beautiful and artsy room.
5. MGM Grand
The poker room at this illustrious hotel is grand and smoke-free all the time, which says a lot about the management of the room. Perhaps because of its proximity to Centrifuge Bar, the room always feels lively as the drinks, always free for players, keep flowing. It’s easy to walk in and mistake it for a party.
The level of play is similar to that at the Aria. There’s a real mix of players here, and the games can be profitable depending on your skill level.
That said, on Friday and Saturday late night, this can be a great place to find some tipsy players. They’re mostly people staying at the hotel playing $1/$2 stakes in soft games. For the most part, they don’t know what they’re doing.
They offer daily tournaments and cash games at $1/$2 and $2/$5 NLHE.
If this is your first visit, the MGM poker room is the best place to introduce you to the game in Las Vegas. The chances of meeting a serious player here or a professional-hopeful are slim.
Caesars is another non-smoking poker room with a great atmosphere. They focus on providing a good place to play. For starters, the room is completely separated from anything else at the casino. You also get free drinks, and the buffet offers outstanding food.
But there are 2 things not going for this room:
- The players are mostly good, making the competition here stiffer than elsewhere.
- The blind structures are not to the players’ advantage.
Because let’s face it, even if you’re going to the casino to throw away chips at the poker tables, you still want to have some fun with like-minded players. The last thing you want is to play in a room full of sharks who’ll take your money before you even have a chance to finish your first dry martini.
The untold secret which every player who’s visited Vegas knows, but won’t talk about aloud, is that the more luxury resorts have the nicest rooms, but also the toughest competition. On the other hand, most of the rooms that run a $1/$2 game will have a lot of recreational players.
Of course, this isn’t always true. There are good and bad places in all parts of town. But it stands to reason that the high rollers would love to play at big casinos on the Strip. That’s where the big action is. Also, they’re looking to bust up the weekend players coming to town.
Caesars offers a standard low-stakes spread of $1/$2, which runs every day, and $2/$5 every night and on weekends. You can play in four tournaments every day with buy-ins between $125 and $150.
Excalibur is not as big a room as the other ones on this list. Despite that, it seems to attract mainly tourists and weekend warriors.
Located in the back of the casino, the Excalibur’s cardroom might be the softest room on the strip. If you know what you’re doing, you can turn a quick profit here.
From midnight to 6am, you’ll always get loose and soft play. However, during the day, the games get tighter.
The tournaments on offer have buy-ins between $40 and $45 and play four times a day. Cash games are usually $1/$2 NLHE with a few tables every now and then for $2/$6 LH.
If this is the first time you’re playing poker in Vegas, then you should play tight and conservative at first. You want to get a good feel for the game, the players, and the skill levels at the table. Despite what you may have heard, the games in Las Vegas are softer than you might think.
Also, it’s worth noting that the game gets even softer on big convention times. Special occasions like the National Finals Rodeo, Super Bowl, Final Four, and CES Show are the best times to plan your poker trip to the Strip.