Where will the road take YOU?

Destination Diaries

The Poker Review:  Las Vegas

By:  Tim Ash


So if you play poker, then your dream is to one day build your bank roll to be able to play in the WSOP main event. You want to make it to the final table and become champion and a multi millionaire. Yeah... you and about 9,000 other people.

Recently I was in Vegas, and I played quite a few places while I was there, and I thought it would be cool to give a run down of the poker rooms  for newbies to semi-pros. I did not grow up playing poker in my home or at friend's houses. I actually discovered the game shortly after the "Moneymaker Effect" had come and gone, and I happened to be up late one night and caught an episode of Poker After Dark on NBC. A short time later I began my stride to become a WSOP champion. (A guy can dream, right?)

I stayed at Harrah's in Vegas. They have the best location for me on the strip. It is centered by everything I wanted to do. At Harrah's, you are within walking distince to some of the grandest casinos in Vegas. If you choose to stay at Harrah's, you will be right across the street from Caesar's Palace, and right down the street from the Venetian, the Bellagio, Aria, and Flamingo. You can catch the free shuttle to the Rio,

Harrah's promtions are about the best in the business. They had a free roll for those players who had played 15 hours in a week at cash games. If you qualified, then you could go to the desk and receive a free entry. The free roll was a $5000 free roll, meaning they paid the last ten players $500 each. The tourney had a turn out of 39 players, including myself. Sadly to say, it was not my day to finish in the top ten however, I was the dreaded "bubble boy", finishing in 11th place. Needless to say, it was a great promotion. There were a lot of regulars there who knew about the tournament, and very few new people.  The structure was good, as well, with 20 minute blinds.

Now onto other cash game promotions. They have aces full of anything beat, that pays $500 to the loser and $200 to the winner, plus the pot. The rest of the table receives $50 each. So not a bad little promotion. They do have new promotions every month, and with football season the promotions are even better.

With cash games, there seem to be no pros at Harrah's... just a lot of regulars. They play together a lot, and they know how to play the tourist. With that being said, the room itself is a must to play in if you have a little experience in poker playing. The buy ins start at $60 for 1-2 no limit. There is definitely money to be made here however, as you know all to well, there will be suck outs, and if you can avoid the two outters on the river, then you should do well. At Harrah's, the regulars do intend to want call all the way to the river, so just make sure you have a better hand and a better draw than they do, and you should be fine. Imagine 1-2 no limit from the mentality stand point of 3-6 limit game. That is how a lot of these players play. And just FYI, a lot of the regulars love AK. They play it like the nuts even if they don't have the nuts. I can't remember how many times I saw them raising on flops, turns, and rivers with just AK. There were a few chance encounters where I was on the receiving end of a suck out a few times... but it happens. So just pay attention to the players and their hands when they turn them over, and you will figure out the patterns, and you should be able to make a little money. On a rating scale, I would give Harrah's a Queen of Diamonds. This room is for the beginner to intermediate level players.

A poker room I didn't play in, but heard a lot about was Bill's Gambling Hall. I did walk through there a few times, as it is right near the Flamingo, which is just a 5 minute walk from Harrah's. The games they had were .50 and $1.00 poker. That's right... .50 and $1 Hold 'Em. So I would say this would be a great room to play in for beginners.

Caesars Palace is an amazing place to stay and play. The casino itself is huge and is indeed a palace. The poker room is ran with the utmost respect to all its players... new and regulars. When you walk into the room, there is no question that they are there every step of the way... from seating you to bringing your chips to the table, with full service bartenders every 5 minutes. This poker room is service oriented, a plus for any player to make them feel at home.

The games are a little more high stakes, so to speak. The buy ins start at $100 for a 1-2 no limit and cap off at $300. The 2-5 game has stakes of $200 to $1000. They also hold daily tournaments and have PLO and other games. The 1-3 game does have a few more regular players that have been around, and money means nothing to them. They will raise every hand, anywhere from 10 to 25 dollars, seemingly no matter what their cards are. These games tend to create a lot of action, which is good for the players who are patient and have the time to hang around for a while. But if you only have 2 hours to play before seeing a show, I would recommend playing elsewhere. As any poker player knows, time is where you make your money. They games are good, but I would say that you would need to be a little more experienced to play at Caesars.  

The promotion that was running while I was there was you take down any pot with $10 in it, and you would receive a ticket that would enter you in a drawing held everyday at 6pm and again at midnight for $100. They draw 5 of them at both times.

The room itself is very clean and has that vibe of poker that you would want if you have a good bank roll to play with.

I would give the poker room at Caesars a King of Diamonds. This room is intermediate to semi-pro players.

On to the Aria, and wow... what can I say? It is THE poker player's place to play. I still consider my self an intermediate style player, but this room was amazing. The decore was very nice and the staff was super friendly. They waited on you hand and foot. The tables were packed, and this is the place to play poker for now in Vegas. There were some very high limit games, as well as 1-3. But I had to play here just for pure fact that it was a fantastic poker room. The games are for all poker players, from newbies to pros at tables throughout. The games are 1-3 and up. The tables are well lit and very clean. The players come from all over, from tourist to the regulars. The action was good and the players seemed to all be having a good time, in which case makes the game better for all.

I would recommend playing here to anyone just due to the fact that the Ivey Room is here, and the pros show up to play. If you're into seeing some of the best players in the world, put this on your to-play list.

I would give this room the Ace of Diamonds. This room is great for all players.

Now, you can't visit Vegas and not see where the WSOP is held, so take a convenient shuttle ride from the strip over to the Rio.  I have been a few times over the past few years, and let me just say there is an air about the Rio... almost like walking into Madison Square Garden. The poker room is not the best to play in, however. For those who want to hit jack pots or bad beats to make a few extra bucks, then the Rio is not for you. The thrill of having your four of a kind beat by a royal flush or a better four of a kind is always in the back of my mind. Why the hell wouldn't you want the extra house money? Sad but true, the bad beat doesn't pay here.

The truth of the matter is that bad beats are part of the game. You will take them more than you think, but to have your quads beat by a better hand you betcha I want to have some compensation for it. However, the only promotion at the Rio was the high hand quads only.

The Rio is well known for the WSOP, and the only games running the few days I was there were 1-3 games. The Rio is good for the first timer to take some pics of the WSOP room and to have your photo taken in front of the real WSOP final table that has had some of, if not the greatest play on it. You can sit at the table with a stack of chips in font of you and take your picture, as a cool free keep sake.

I would have to give the Rio the 10 of Diamonds... good for all players but not with the extras that make poker a little more fun in the end.

Choosing where to play poker in Las Vegas can be daunting, but just remember to play in a room that seems to fit your skill level.  You can always visit other rooms, but it doesn't mean that you have to give them your money.