Places to Play
All tournaments are NOT created equal. Structures, rake, customer service, and field size are all important. The number of fish in the field also varies wildly, as well as the playing environment, service provided, and food options nearby. No venue is perfect in all respects, but with our brief write up on each venue and tournament series you should be able to make informed choices about where to spend your time and money.
The World Series of Poker at The Rio
The WSoP is a huge, glitzy, prestigious, incredible… mess. The fields are huge, and there are bracelets given away daily. Those huge fields are also very soft, because many of those fish think that if they could just win a WSoP bracelet they will become a rich and famous professional poker player. The bling brings the fish and the fish bring the sharks and before you know it there are 5,000 people in a $1,500 buy-in no-limit holdem event.
With such a strong brand, and so many fish chasing those shiny trinkets, Caesars Corp knows that they don’t have to treat players particularly well, and they make very little effort to do so. Expect to overpay for food at the “Poker Kitchen”, sit in a rotten chair all day, and you should definitely expect to wait in line for the privilege. There is money to be made at The Rio this summer, but there is also a great deal of frustration if you are used to good customer service at other hotels.
During the WSoP, The Rio is also the largest poker room in the world when it comes to cash games. Lots of $1/2 and $2/5 no-limit holdem and pot-limit Omaha games run 24/7, and sit and go tournaments that pay out in tournament lammers run constantly until about 3am and start up again around 10 am. You will be playing those cash games in cheap tournament chairs and the players will be no softer than they are anywhere else.
Venetian Deep Stacks III
The Venetian hosts the second biggest series of the summer, though we expect numbers to be down somewhat this year. There is a lot more competition than there has ever been before and Sands CEO Sheldon Adelson is public enemy #1 to many poker players because of his anti-online poker stance. The boycott probably won’t hurt the numbers drastically, but higher rake numbers, tougher fields, and so much competition, may work together with the boycott to bring the numbers down this year.
Service is slightly better at the Venetian than The Rio, and nearby food is much better. Staff at the Venetian are much better in general than the uninterested employees at the Rio. Much of the tournament area is in the midst of the casino floor, surrounded by ringing slot machines that can be very annoying. Fields are also definitely tougher at the Venetian than most other venues, though the smaller buy-in events can still be quite profitable.
Wynn Summer Classic 2014
The Wynn will have the best chairs, the best service, and the best nearby food, of any major tournament venue. The staff is excellent from the cocktail server to the head of the poker room, and it is clear that you are at a high end property when you are at The Wynn. This year’s Summer Classic is a simple schedule with great structures and big guarantees so we expect The Wynn to steal some players from other venues. If you are part of the Venetian boycott, The Wynn is a good place to spend your time instead.
Be aware that you are at a high end property and hanging out at The Wynn is not cheap. If you are just playing cards, it won’t cost you more than anywhere else, but if you are eating and drinking you will spend a few more dollars. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, since you will spend the same amount on food that would be spending at The Rio and the food and service will be infinitely better.
Golden Nugget Grand Series
The Grand Series at the Nugget has grown in recent years, mostly because they offer affordable buy-ins, reasonable food and drink prices, and a great schedule that mixes in multiple events every day and a nice mix of alternate game events. Rake has gone up slightly, and structures are only average, but for the money the Grand Series isn’t bad and the fields are fairly soft.
Binions Poker Classic
The annual Binions Poker Classic is usually a great value. The structures are great, the rake is reasonable, and the fields are soft, which makes it sound like a great series, and it is, but there is a definite downside. Binions tries harder to get you to play their events because they have to. Their reputation as a lower tier property causes some players to overlook Binions, the original home of the WSoP, and while it may not be the newest or cleanest property, and it is downtown on Fremont street, there is certainly money to be made in these events. Fields may not be huge, but they will be soft and friendly.
Planet Hollywood Phamous Series V
Planet Hollywood is taking over for Caesars after they sold their card room to the nightclub next door, and this Phamous series will be a partial replacement for the events that Caesars ran in the past. PH is not a bad property, underrated in terms of quality, but their poker room is small and not terribly professional. We expect a lot of fish in these events, but smaller fields and very average dealers and staff. We hope they prove us wrong.
Food nearby is reasonable. We have no idea where these events will happen, so you run the risk of being next to a slot machine and it may be best to ask around and see if anyone has played these events before you commit a day to a tournament with a very average structure and a small field.
Hollywood Poker Open Championship at M Resort
The HPO Championship is a very short series consisting of a few events and a few days of satellites leading up the main event. The $500k guarantee on the main event should be interesting since this is an out of the way venue and the Venetian is offering a similar event with a $300k guarantee on the same day. We expect someone to miss their guarantee, and we hope it’s the Venetian!
Service and staff are good at M Resort, and the structure is quite good for all of the events. These events are a good value, though fields may be small in the non-guaranteed events. It may be nice to get away from the constant hustle of the Rio for a few days and M is a nice place to get away from it all.
Bellagio High Roller Series
If you don’t know everything you need to know about this series of $10k buy-in events at The Bellagio, then you definitely shouldn’t play them. Fields will be tough and small. The Bellagio is great, but unless you are a serious player, avoid these small events with huge buy-ins and tough fields.
There are daily events all over the city, with a variety of structures and buy-ins. Because of space and time constraints we have not listed any daily events with a buy-in below $100. Smaller daily events often have fast structures and high rake percentages which nullify any skill advantage you might have over the hapless regulars. Daily events at The Rio will have huge fields, and daily events at Aria should draw nice fields and a much better structure.