Poker is a game that is always changing. Online poker had its booming years but is going through adjustments in many parts of the world now. Live poker also has its challenges, especially in a city like Las Vegas that has to consistently change to keep up with the latest trends and make the most of its massive casino properties.
Just last month, the poker rooms at the Hard Rock and Monte Carlo casinos in Las Vegas closed, prompting many to speculate that live poker is on a downswing. While that is partly true, live poker is actually thriving in the form of tournaments, whether in Las Vegas, Macau, or other places around the world. More live tournament series are drawing players to new locations and reviving old ones, all with numerous event options, poker variations, and tournament guarantees.
According to the latest analysis by US Poker, Nevada has suffered quite a significant downswing in live cash games. The number of tables is down from approximately 100 poker rooms during the boom years to 67 now, and down from more than 900 tables to only 600 today. That one-third drop is indicative of the profitability of the game from 2006 to 2011, as well as the harm that befell the industry after Black Friday.
However, there are a number of poker rooms that have seen increased business in the past several years, mostly due to notoriety from live tournament series and other promotions.
1. Seminole Hard Rock in Hollywood, Florida
More poker players than ever are relocating to Florida to be near the booming live poker scene. The cash games are good enough to host many professional players, and the tournament circuit brings throngs of players to the tables several times per year.
The Seminole Hard Rock made a risky move in order to garner attention in 2013. It hosted the Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open, unaffiliated with any major company like the World Poker Tour, and offered a whopping $10 million guarantee for its main event. That risk paid off, as players flocked to the tournament and others held going forward. The casino ultimately did partner with the WPT and others, offering players multiple annual opportunities to play there. It also sponsors some of its regular players, and the publicity has paid off. It is now one of the most popular poker rooms in the United States.
2. Bellagio, Venetian, and ARIA in Las Vegas, Nevada
Las Vegas is still home to a thriving live poker scene, but three casinos continue to draw the most players. The Bellagio is no longer home to “The Big Game” as often as it once was, but it still draws many high rollers and regulars, as well as tourists who hope to bump into Doyle Brunson or chat it up with regulars who are also well-known in the game.
The ARIA is another big draw for a number of players, as there always seems to be a waiting list to take a seat in one of the cash games or line up to play in a daily tournament. Phil Hellmuth and Jean-Robert Bellande are regulars, and the room is notorious for treating its customers well.
Despite the Venetian being owned by Sheldon Adelson, the casino mogul spending millions to outlaw online gambling in the US, its poker room remains popular. Its frequent tournaments draw attention, as does its swanky room, convenient amenities, and willingness to spread a variety of games. It also has a very large room dedicated to poker with the most tables in Las Vegas – tied with Bellagio – of 37 of them.
3. PokerStars LIVE at City of Dreams in Macau
There are several poker rooms in Macau where the largest cash games in the world are spread when the high rollers want to play. But for the most cash game action and frequent tournament series, the PokerStars-sponsored poker room at the City of Dreams is it. Players like Celina Lin and Randy Lew are regulars there, and it has become a significant draw for poker players when they visit Macau. Low limit games are easy to find, and players from around the world are welcomed.
Congrats to Alan Lau who won the largest freezeout in Asian history at PokerStars LIVE Macau, taking home HK$3,265,000 and a Red Dragon! 👹🦎 pic.twitter.com/k8MtwX8USs— PokerStars (@PokerStars) February 18, 2017
4. King’s Casino in Rozvadov, Czech Republic
Prague is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, but many poker players are willing to make a two-hour drive from there to Rozvadov in the Czech Republic. King’s Casino there has made a name for itself with extensive promotion in the past several years, as well as by linking up with 888poker for its 888poker Live series and with the World Series of Poker for its Circuit events. King’s is also on the border of Germany, giving it the opportunity to host the German Poker Tour as well. With all of its partnerships, a new hotel, and good reputation, King’s is quickly becoming a hot spot on the live poker scene.
5. Commerce Casino in Los Angeles, California
Long advertised as the largest poker room in the world, Commerce Casino has a massive spread of hundreds of poker tables to accommodate all levels of players and many variations of the game. It has also been associated with tournament series like the WPT, the California State Poker Championship, and its signature LA Poker Classic for many years, all of which bring players in on a regular basis. There are also many locals in Southern California who grind out a living there, and visiting players want to catch a glimpse of the sea of players at Commerce. Its close proximity to Las Vegas, variety of tableside food options, and occasional hosting to television and film stars who play poker all contribute to its ability to consistently attract players.