You live in No Poker City, USA. It’s a fine place to live except there is nowhere to play live poker cash games or tournaments except those sad little poker nights at your brother-in-law’s house. His intentions are good, but you need serious poker.
When you simply must travel for poker, there are many factors to consider when deciding where to go, such as poker options, accommodations, and airfare costs. Let’s get to that list.
Tournaments, Cash Games, or Both?
When traveling for poker, it is essential that a poker destination has a mix of both cash games and tournaments. Even if just going for the tournaments, a sizeable poker room full of cash game players brings more fish into the tournament. And vice versa, if going for the cash games, the presence of tournaments ensures that many of the busted players will sit down on tilt in your cash game.
So, look at the tournament schedule as well as the casino website (or call the poker room) for the layout of cash games available during the series.
Of course, when the action is in a place like Las Vegas or Los Angeles, there are many flight options and ways to book the airfare cheaply.
However, say you’re interested in going to the Downstream Casino in late October or early November for the WPTDeepStacks event. It’s located in Quapaw, Oklahoma. The closest domestic airport is located 30 miles away in Joplin, Missouri, but flights to a small airport might be more expensive than flying into Kansas City, Missouri, renting a car, and making the three-hour drive down to Quapaw. Part of that decision depends on the next consideration.
Most of the time, poker players receive special rates at the tournament’s host casino. However, if those prices are still too high, it doesn’t hurt to look at nearby hotels that might be cheap enough to make the distance worth it. And if you have a rental car from the above flight option, it might be the most reasonable to look at hotels in the vicinity. In the Downstream Casino example, there is a villa less than two miles away and another hotel about four miles from the casino.
Think of the timing of tournaments and how much time you want to spend at the tables. It might be +EV to stay at the casino for easy access to the poker room at all times of the day and night, but if there is a set schedule in your plans, the casino hotel room might not be necessary.
Whether you have a finicky palette, medical diet restrictions, or just want to make sure you have fast options during your poker trip, check out the casino and places nearby before the trip. It helps to know how much cash to set aside for sustenance, as well as whether or not you want to have that vehicle available to leave the casino for some meals, or even to hit up the grocery store.
Don’t forget to check out the casino or card room’s website before the trip to see what kind of VIP program is available, as well as comps given by the poker room. This might make a difference in your decisions about food, accommodations, or other perks you can fit into the trip if the casino is willing to reward you for giving them your business.
Find a Friend
Some people like to travel alone for poker. Others like to go with a friend to share the experiences and/or the costs. If going with a friend and willing to share a room, it cuts costs considerably, either allowing the trip to be more affordable or opening up more funds for tournaments or cash games.
Long-Term Poker Goals
If the trip is merely for fun or to get in some cash games, the goal of the trip is fairly self-explanatory. However, if the goal is to pursue a poker future that depends on tournaments or following the poker circuit more closely, be sure to incorporate some of that into the planning.
For example, if you want to play more tournaments in the future, plan to attend a series that rewards loyal players, such as the WSOP Circuit (Caesars property comps), Heartland Poker Tour (seasonal points), or the Mid-States Poker Series. Being at those events can also open new opportunities with regard to staking and finding hotel-sharing friends. Being a regular or even a semi-regular at the tour stops can launch friendships that may not only come in handy in the world of poker but can also make the game more enjoyable in general.