The World Series of Poker will soon reach the 10,000-competitor mark (it had nearly 9,000 entrants in 2019). In that size of crowd, it’s easy to get lost — and even easier to get taken out by a lucky fool who draws the winning hand with a gutshot straight flush, and then apologizes to you as you’re escorted from the table with “Sorry, dude. I thought you were bluffing.”
But you can experience that same bitter disillusionment in front of far fewer embarrassed onlookers. You can, in fact, do so on a daily basis. Man, you are a glutton for punishment, dude. Join the club.
But just as likely is the possibility that your odds of winning in a hold’em tournament are much higher.
Sure, winning $10 is cool, but only one person in 9,000 was going to win that.
Me, I tend to favor my odds when they are limited to just me and 19 other cardsharps. There’s a place for WSOP, of course, but there’s a place for the smaller ponds, too.
I’m talking, of course, about the several-times-daily multi-table tournaments you can find at dozens of Las Vegas poker rooms. With entry fees in low ranges (typically $75 to $150) rather than the four-, five-, and even six-digit range of events like WSOP and DeepStack events, the winnings aren’t at world-class levels (2019’s WSOP top prize was $10 million), but they can be equally as satisfying, albeit not quite at the life-changing level.
But if you’re happy with your life, as most of us are, you’ll find a three- or four-table tournament. Here, if you’re lucky, skilled, and lucky (yes, I said lucky twice), you can get two solid hours of hold’em thrills — plus the distinct pleasure of watching fools and their money parted sooner than later.
Incidentally, most of the Vegas poker rooms are now non-smoking — which is fair; it’s one thing to complain about cigar or cigarette smoke when you can just get up and leave, but in a tournament (unless you want to forfeit the game), you’re kind of trapped. So no smoking. You can always smoke twice as many before or after the tourney. Do this in the keno room for best results.
Be that as it may, in no apparent order, here are some good poker rooms in Las Vegas with the right idea about Texas hold’em tournaments.
South Point (Henderson)
South Point is host to many equestrian events, which might account for why I like it there. I was raised on a ranch, and the air at South Point often has the lingering aroma of horse sweat and that other stuff horses produce that just says “welcome home” to me. The fact that they don’t make me milk cows is an added bonus.
South Point runs three tournaments daily, at 10am, 2pm, and 6pm. While the 10am and 6pm tourneys are all some form of no-limit hold’em, the 2pm game changes with the day: no-limit Hold’em Monday; Omaha Tuesday and Thursday; no-limit Crazy Pineapple Wednesday and Sunday; and no-limit “stamina” hold’em on Saturday. Buy-ins range from $60 for the morning dailies, all the way up to $200 for the Friday 6pm “megastack” no-limit hold’em tourney.
With 35 tables, you know The Orleans is committed to poker. The room features two tournaments a day, the majority of which are Texas hold’em, but there are a couple of tourneys for H.O.R.S.E. and Omaha, as well. Buy-in starts at $100 and goes up a bit for the alternative games and on the weekends.
Home of the Deep Stack series (an independent alternative to the World Series of Poker), the Venetian fields 39 tables dealing hold’em, omaha, and even 7-card stud (remember that game?). Incidentally, I recall California card rooms where we all sneered at the increasing number of weird “texas foldem” tables in our way to get to the stud tables. Guess who’s sneering now, eh? Not me, of course; I for one welcome the arrival of our new hold’em overlords.
This is a popular poker room for locals, so be warned. The tables (and the daily tournaments) have more than a scattering of older players who supplement their social security checks with poker. Those old guys and gals eyeing you as you walk toward their table? They’re not in this for the entertainment or the excitement. They are not amateurs, is what I’m saying.
Still, it’s possible to win a tourney here, luck being the damnable inevitability in hold’em tournaments.
GVR (as it’s known to the locals) runs semi-daily no-limit hold’em tournaments, with the cheapest buy-in $50 for the Saturday 10:15am tourney, and the others running between $125 (Wednesday 10:15 and Sunday noon tourneys) and $150 (Friday 10:15 tournament).
You’ll see a better ratio of cardsharps to suckers at the poker room at Binion’s Casino downtown. Come on, this is Vegas. Of course there are going to be experienced players seated at your table.
Sadly, Binion’s has moved its poker room (and downsized it considerably in the process) — you’ll find a total of six tables dealing cards (and fewer actually participating in the tournaments). Still, Binion’s was once home to the WSOP, and many consider it the birthplace of modern poker rooms, so it’s worth a visit just for the atmosphere, and, you know, the story.
Despite its now-diminutive size, Binion’s poker room runs two no-limit hold’em tournaments daily — one at 1pm and the other at 8pm — and each costs a modest $75 for buy-ins.
Up Fremont Street from Binion’s is the Golden Nugget, which seems hell-bent on claiming at least some of Binion’s former glory. With a tad more than twice the poker tables of Binion’s (13, to be exact), the Golden Nugget’s poker room tries harder, with luxurious surroundings, from the plush chairs to the low-key golden-hued lighting over each of the tables.
The poker room at the Golden Nugget runs an astonishing four (count ‘em, four!) no-limit Texas hold’em tournaments a day every day except Sunday (only once on Sunday is their motto, apparently). All other days, there are $70 buy-in tourneys at 11am and 7pm and $50 buy-in tourneys at 3pm and 10pm. Sundays, the buy-in is $125, but this “Special Sunday Tournament” has a guaranteed $5,000 prize pool.
I almost didn’t include Planet Ho’s poker “room” in this list simply because it is in what the casino calls the Pleasure Pit. Well, actually, it’s near the Pleasure Pit — which is just as bad.
Maybe I should explain the Pleasure Pit. It’s an open area of the casino where scantily clad dancers gyrate atop tables while gamblers attempt to split tens and what-not a few feet away. Naturally, the pounding beat of the music they’re dancing to makes it a bit difficult to concentrate on your hand and even more difficult to hear things the dealer or your opponents say.
Okay, now you have something of an idea of why I am not fond of Planet Ho’s poker venue.
But it does have its advantages. The dancers and the pounding music attract a much younger demographic — and this demo is statistically easier to beat in a poker competition, simply because they tend to be convinced of their own infallibility, or at least of the necessity of appearing infallible.
I’m not saying you’re not going to encounter some damned good poker players there, but I like the odds. Besides, I’m already going deaf in one ear, so really, why not own the set?
Planet Hollywood’s ten-table poker, um, area, runs five tournaments daily, all with a buy-in of $80 — except for the 10am Sunday tourney, which is a $125 buy-in. The daily tourneys are scheduled at 10am, 1pm, 4pm, 7pm, and 10pm.
Incidentally, Planet Hollywood, being in the Caesars Entertainment family, hosts a number of WSOP series games — which would be interesting to watch, unless you showed up ready to play in one of the regular tourneys.
The 16-table poker room at Caesars Palace feels larger than it is, and it is always bustling. They run a multitude of daily tournaments but don’t offer a schedule on their website. That’s okay, I guess. You can always drop by and pick up a copy of the schedule from the poker room attendants.
Maybe it’s just me, but the room is somewhat daunting to a recreational (pronounced “unskilled”) hold’em aficionado like me. Everyone there looks like a WSOP pro — even that 21-year-old kid with the hoodie and the mirrored sunglasses at the midnight tourney. Especially that 21-year-old kid with the hoodie and the mirrored sunglasses at the midnight tourney.
The consensus among commenters on various blogs says (and I recall this schedule or something very similar from my own visits) daily no-limit hold’em tournaments run at 10am, 2pm, 6pm, 9pm, and get this — 11:59pm. Buy-ins range from $100 to $150.
People claim the new location of the poker room (to the left of the sportsbook instead of to the right), is better, but I kind of liked the old location. Sure, it was secluded, but I really don’t need passersby telling me I should fold my hand and find something that was more my speed, like tic-tac-toe. Or Candyland.
You can find everything you wanted to know but were afraid to ask about Caesars Palace poker room tournaments (except for a tournament schedule, that is) here.
Alas, Poor Yorick…
Sorry to end on a sad note, but Treasure Island shut down its small (seven tables) poker room in 2018. A spokesman for TI said at the time that the tiny room just could not compete with the much larger poker rooms on the Strip and Downtown. That’s too bad, because the two- and three-table tournaments held there daily were intimate, fun, and imminently winnable.
I still recall the look of disbelief on the face of my opponent there during one such tourney. He had pocket aces. The flop was ace-ten-ten. With an aces-full boat, his sneer of confidence as he matched my all-in is quite understandable.
I, of course, had pocket tens. That’s when the look of utter disbelief appeared on his face. The buy-in was $45, but that look was, as Mastercard points out, priceless.
Yes, I’ll be dining out on that story for years. By myself, unfortunately; my wife says she’s heard it often enough to recite it in her sleep. Plus, she says eating a cheeseburger in the McDonalds parking lot is not what she had in mind for a “dream date.” I’m also beginning to suspect that her idea of a dream date has someone accompanying her who looks a lot more like Channing Tatum than me. And I look nothing like Channing Tatum, my many tweets and Facebook posts on the subject notwithstanding.
In any case, good luck!
J.W. Paine is one of the most experienced writers at GamblingSites.com. He's written for television and the printed media, and is a published novelist (as Tom Elliott).
Paine loves writing about Las Vegas nearly as much he loves living here. An experienced gambler, he's especially familiar with poker, blackjack, and slots.