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Las Vegas Card Rooms

By Paul McGuire

During the three months I lived in Las Vegas, I regularly attended a few of my favorite card rooms. The Mirage, the Bellagio, the Mandalay Bay, the Palms, and the Excalibur were some of the casinos you’d find me wandering around at odd hours. Here’s a quick round up of each of their poker rooms. All of them are non-smoking.

The Bellagio

The Bellagio
The Bellagio - Source: Las Vegas & Poker
The Bellagio’s poker room underwent a recent facelift. It looks better than ever. They added a special room incased in glass called “Bobby’s Room.” It’s there to host private games for Bobby Baldwin, who is the CEO of the Mirage and one of the best poker players of all time. The infamous “Big Game” is sometimes held inside Bobby’s Room, where the brightest stars in poker can often be seen. I’ve spotted Doyle Brunson, Lyle Berman, Chau Giang, Barry Greenstein, Phil Ivey, Jennifer Harmon, Minh Ly, and Gus Hansen all playing inside Bobby’s Room during one of my many visits to the Bellagio. In addition to their daily $500 buy-in NL tournaments, the Bellagio holds some of the biggest stakes games in Las Vegas in their special high limit area in the back of the room. In addition to high limit Stud and Omaha, they have plenty of Hold’em too with tables offering $30/60, $60/120, $75/150 and even higher limits. They also spread a $10/20 NL game. If you play low limits, you do not have to worry. They have a $200 buy in NL game along with a $4/8 and $8/16 tables. The Bellagio has a long wait time at nights and on weekend. Luckily, there’s a bar right next to the poker room so you can get a drink while you wait and you might see a celebrity or two. The Bellagio allows the use of cell phones at the tables, which is rare.

The Excalibur

Without a doubt, the Excalibur is geared for beginner players and might be the best place to play if you are new to the game of poker. The Excalibur is one of the largest poker rooms on the South Strip and offers a $1-3 Spread Limit game where you can bet anywhere from $1 to $3 on any given hand. That’s the perfect place for newbies. I know my friends like the Excalibur because their wives and girlfriends can play on the smaller stakes tables. They always run a regular $2-6 Spread Limit game along with a $200 buy in NL game with $1-2 blinds. The Excalibur poker room has over twenty tables going and they are filled with a lot of locals who frequent the poker room because of their unique promotions. They offer you a free wheel spin if you get your pocket aces cracked or hit a bonus hand like four of a kind or a straight flush. The wheel is broken up into different dollar amounts and you win wherever the wheels stops. They also spread Seven-card Stud and have bad beat jackpots for both Stud and Hold’em. The dealers are super friendly and the staff offers up free lessons once a day for beginners, along with a free buffet around dinner time. They do not offer tournaments but the poker room manager said that they will be starting tournaments at some point in the future. They also have several big screen TVs in the room so you can keep an eye on the game while you are playing poker.

The Mirage

The Mirage
The Mirage - Source: Las Vegas & Poker
For many years, the Mirage was the epicenter of poker in Las Vegas. The Mirage offers a variety of limits from $3/6, $6/12, $10/20, $20/40, and $30/60 Texas Hold’em. The $10/20 game is one of the toughest to crack on the Strip because those tables are inhabited by sharks and some of the better Las Vegas locals you will come across. The Mirage also spreads a $500 No Limit game with $2/5 blinds. They also have Stud and Omaha tables. The Mirage runs some of the best tournaments in Las Vegas. The Sunday night NL tournament has been attracting some of the better players around Las Vegas over the past several years. The poker room is also located next to the Sports Book and some great restaurants. The only downside to the Mirage is the wait time, which balloons on the weekends, due to the poker room’s popularity.

The Mandalay Bay

This is one of the best smaller rooms in Las Vegas. Located next to the Race and Sports Book, the poker room has ten tables. Mandalay Bay is known for their low buy-in daily tournaments which cater to tourists. They offer $200 buy in NL and my favorite game in Las Vegas, the $4/8 Hold’em with a Half Kill. If someone wins two pots in a row, the limits are raised to $6/12. They also have a steady collection of locals who are regulars at Mandalay Bay because of the high hand bonuses that are awarded for straight flushes and four of a kind. A deli is conveniently located right next to the poker room, which is an added bonus if you are looking for a quick bite to eat. They also spread $2/4 Hold’em and Seven-card Stud.

The Palms

The Palms
Palms Sign - Source: Las Vegas & Poker
Smoking was recently banned from the poker room at the Palms so you don’t have to deal with what used to be one of the smokiest rooms in Las Vegas. The poker room at the Palms is split up into the No Limit area and the Limit area. They offer $100 to $500 buy in NL game with $2/5 blinds. They also spread $2/4 Hold’em and a juicy $4/8 with a Half Kill. Because of the popularity of the Palms with twenty-something tourists, there are plenty of younger and inexperienced players at the table. The Palms is a nice mixture of hipsters and locals. The Palms offers bonuses for high hands such as four of a kind and straight flushes, and that attracts the locals along with a generous comp policy. If you pan on playing a lot of poker at the Palms, get a Players Club card and track your play. The Palms also runs some pretty good daily tournaments with a $200 buy-in with rebuys, which weeds out a lot of new players and you’ll be up against some solid competition. Beware of the weekend rush. You can be waiting for over two hours or more for an open seat!

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