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Players will always argue about their favorite poker rooms. This is inevitable. We tend to be an opinionated lot, and we each carry with us our own biases. At last, however, I have written an entirely objective list of the five best poker rooms in the United States. To do this I used the undisputed barometer for evaluating such games: my opinion!
Seriously though, I've played poker in over 160 public poker rooms all over the world, at last count (not to mention another 150 or so private games). They each have something unique to recommend them. I have deliberately not just listed the five biggest rooms or the five rooms that would appeal most to the high roller. These U.S. poker rooms strike me as the very best - though they are very different. (And I mean no slight to the other 155 rooms I've played in.)
3600 S. Las Vegas Blvd.
Las Vegas, NV 89109
Room Reservations: 888-987-6667
General Information: 702-693-7111
The Bellagio is located in the heart of the famous Strip in Las Vegas. The casino itself is richly appointed, with the finest restaurants, an impressive art gallery, beautiful fountains and light shows, the highest limits, the most luxurious of suites, and the highest of the high rollers.
The poker room itself reflects this classy attitude. Its "Big Game" of $2,000/$4,000 limits is one of the few spectator events in the cash game world. The players in it, Doyle Brunson, Chip Reese, Jennifer Harmon, Johnny Chan, Barry Greenstein and the like, are legendary.
But the room is more than just the glitz and the glamour that surrounds it and its biggest game. Even without the "Big Game" the Bellagio has the biggest action, the biggest regular tournaments, and the most celebrity players gracing its felt. They routinely spread $300/600, $150/300, $75/150, $40/80, and $20/40. $8/16, and $4/8 limit Hold'em. They have the only $20/40 stud game in Las Vegas. They also have a full range of no limit hold'em, with blinds ranging from $1/2 all the way up to $100/200 in their high limit section.
The room is not without it's drawbacks, to be sure. On the weekends the wait for a medium or low stakes table can be hours. The staff sometime seems to carry with them the supercilious air of the haughty waiter; and getting comps often seems as difficult as winning a pot in the Big Game. Even so, it's a room that surely is worth seeing and playing in at least once. Whether you have the chops to hold your own or win against the line up of toughies is another story.
11999 Ave of Emperors
Elizabeth, IN 47117
Room Reservations: 1.866.766.2671
General Information: 1.877.237.6626
The biggest and best room in the mid-west is located just over the river from Louisville, Kentucky in Elizabeth, Indiana on the mighty Ohio River. It's an underrated jewel in the vast crown of Harrah's many high-class casinos. It is Caesar's Indiana riverboat casino.
Caesar's Indiana sure doesn't seem like a riverboat. It is by all measures the equal of the best non-floating gambling venues. There are thousands of slots, hundreds of tables, and seven restaurants in this 24-hour facility. There are also all of the shows and stage headliners one would expect of a top shelf Las Vegas or Atlantic City resort.
The poker room is also similarly first rate. There are 33 tables, spreading primarily $1/2 and $2/5 no limit and $2/4, $4/8 and $10/20 limit hold'em. The room also spreads mid-limit Omaha and stud high low split, as well as a fantastic $30/60 stud game that goes off on Friday night and continues until Sunday or Monday. Caesar's hosts daily and weekly poker tournaments (right now they're having daily World Series of Poker satellites) as well as two large tournaments, one of which is on the World Poker Tour event. And if this isn't enough, there is also a poker league with an eight-week schedule of regular tournaments for the lower stakes regular.
The room is exceedingly well run with a friendly staff, a nearby snack bar with its own soda bar with free beverages for players, and an average comp system of $1.00 an hour - good for any of the restaurants on the premises.
The games tend to be filled with happy casual poker players and gamblers. The lack of serious regular high limit action, and the fact that there's no major city like New York or Los Angeles nearby keeps serious professional poker players from making this room their home. So the games tend to be excellent. And if you run out of things to do at the casino, Louisville is a delightful city to visit. I try to come here at least once a year and recommend it highly.
Gold Strike Casino Resort
1010 Casino Center Drive
Tunica Resorts, MS 38664
Room Reservations: 1-888-24K-STAY
General Information: 1-662-357-1111
The Gold Strike is home to the annual World Poker Open, held in January of each year. It is a great multi-event tourney, attracting many of the major names in poker. While the tournament is in full swing, for nearly the entire month, medium and high limits are usually available. The rest of the year, this is a wonderful low and mid limit paradise, with plenty of $4/8, $6/12 and $10/20 limit, as well as $1/2 no limit hold'em.
The room comps are excellent. For instance, they offer a $19/night poker room rate during the slow months. You can usually get a lovely steak dinner for just a few hours of poker play. And from my five or six experiences there I can tell you that the staff really does go out of their way to make you feel special as a poker player. That's unusual.
There generally aren't any higher limits offered. But for that one need only walk a few hundred feet to Binions, right next door. There are also another four casinos in the Tunica area that offer poker - not to mention a PGA tour quality golf course, an excellent tennis and health facility, quite a few pretty good restaurants in and around the casinos, a nice river walk by the Mississippi, and weather that allows for outdoor activities year round.
Foxwoods Resort Casino
350 Trolley Line Boulevard
Mashantucket, CT 06338-3777
Poker Information: 800-48POKER
General Information: 800-FOXWOODS
I confess. I'm biased. Foxwoods was my first. I fell in love with poker here. It is an amazing place.
Foxwoods is the largest casino in the world, with over 300,000 feet of gaming space, six distinct but connected casinos, three magnificent hotels, thousands of slots and table games, and the second largest poker room in the world with over 125 tables (not counting the hundred more that are used during major tournaments).
The room is one of very few that actually spreads a full range of 7-card stud games: $1-3 and $1-5 in a low rollers section, as well as $5/10, $10/20, $20/40 and $75/150. Higher stakes of $150/300, $300/600 and even $2,000/4,000 are offered during the major tournaments.
There are also dozens of hold'em games spread daily. These include no limit with blinds of $1/2, $2/5, $5/10, and $10/25 and limit of $2/4, $4/8, $5/10, $10/20 and $20/40. On weekends and during the two annual major tournaments much higher limits are spread as well.
Foxwoods also boasts rich and full tournament action. There are three multi-table events every day - mostly no limit hold'em but also stud, stud8, omaha8, and limit hold'em. There are the two international major tournaments, the Foxwoods Poker Classic held in the spring and the World Poker Finals held in the Fall. There are sit and goes that go off every hour or so 7 days a week. And there are feeder tournaments, called Acts, that build toward the major tournaments - with winners of Act 1 getting a seat in Act 2, winners of Act 2 getting a seat in Act 3, and winners of Act 3 getting a seat in the main event.
Comps for players are consistent, if not overly generous, at roughly $1/hour (less at the low stakes tables, more at the high stakes tables). There are free drinks though there is no table-side food service. There's a very high quality snack bar in the poker room and 23 restaurants within the Foxwoods complex, including everything from burgers, pizza, fine dining, and my favorite, an Asian noodle soup bar that serves until 4AM.
As the world's largest casino, Foxwoods gets all of the big name performers, including championship boxing. There are also two nightclubs, a lounge, and five high (and mega-high) stakes gambling lounges for the high rollers and whales. Foxwoods also owns a nearby golf course and a state-of the-art Native American museum.
As I said initially, I am biased. But even an objective eye would have to conclude that this is one of the finest spots in the United States to play poker.
6131 East Telegraph Rd.
Commerce, CA 90040
General Information: 323-721-2100
If biggest is best, then without a doubt the Commerce Casino is the number one poker room in the United States. It is the largest room by far, boasting over 200 poker tables in this enormous room. They spread every conceivable poker game at all limits, including stud, lowball, high low split, Omaha, and of course hold'em of the limit and no limit variety.
But size is not the only attribute of this poker palace. The games themselves tend to be excellent, with the low limit ones tending toward the "no fold'em hold'em" variety, and the higher limit ones having a nice mixture of serious pros, good amateurs and semi-pros, and fun seeking gamblers who don't mind losing money in pursuit of a good time.
The general amenities afforded poker players are unparalleled. Poker players virtually eat free - from a wonderfully varied and well-prepared menu of standard sandwich fare, salads, soups, and some of the best Asian meals I've ever eaten. Table-side eating is allowed - perhaps even encouraged to keep the live ones well fed and happy while they play.
The room has excellent tournament action, including the LA Poker Classic - a multi-day tournament that draws the best players in the world. There are also regular weekly tournaments of every buy-in and description.
If the non-stop, 24/7 cash game and tournament action of the Commerce isn't quite enough for you, there are also another eight poker rooms within a forty-minute drive. Southern California is rivaled only by Las Vegas as the ultimate poker destination.
Staying in Los Angeles to play poker at the Commerce used to be the only major drawback. But that all changed in 2001 with the construction of the convenient Crowne Suite Hotel. It is immediately adjacent to the casino. It is a full service hotel, with in-room bars, a health spa and exercise room, and six restaurants on the premises. For the high roller there is are also exclusive Priority Club floors with their own lounges serving late night appetizers and a continental breakfast.
With the addition of the Crowne Suite Hotel, the Commerce Casino became a full service poker room. As such it is number one on my list of great poker rooms in the United States.
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