The Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino is surely the center of the poker universe during the World Series of Poker. There are the coveted bracelet events, four Daily Deepstacks tournaments, a myriad of satellites and dozens of cash games of every variety and at every stake imaginable running 24 hours a day.
With a dozen or so restaurants, bars, great entertainment and so much poker, one might easily decide never to leave the premises. Even so, during this great annual poker extravaganza, many other casinos further liven things up with their own poker tournament action. Should you get restless or just enjoy exploring other venues, there is a vast poker world awaiting anyone who wants to venture forth into Las Vegas or its surrounding and nearby towns.
Let me give you a sense of what might tempt you to play poker somewhere other than at the Rio during this summer's WSOP.
Some Las Vegas poker rooms seek to capitalise on the large influx of serious tournament players during the WSOP by scheduling their own tournament series.
The ARIA Resort Las Vegas has two tournament series that will overlap with the WSOP. From May 24-July 15 is their Summer High Roller Series that includes daily tournaments of $25,000, $50,000 and even one $100,000 event. With the exception of one two-day $50,000 event, these are all single-day events.
The ARIA is also running the ARIA Classic June 2-July 9, a series that more closely resembles the WSOP with a wide variety of games including pot-limit Omaha, H.O.R.S.E., Mixed Triple Draw and (of course) many different no-limit hold'em events.
Meanwhile the Bellagio is also running two High Roller events, one on June 30, the next on July 1. Both are $25,000 buy-in tournaments.
Planet Hollywood is bringing back its popular GOLIATH Series, running from May 25 through July 13. The series has more than 100 events and boasts more than $7.5 million in guaranteed prize pools, highlighted by a $1,650 Main Event that has $2 million guaranteed.
The Venetian Las Vegas is running its DeepStack Extravaganza from May 15-July 23. That series features tons of NL hold'em (including a $10,000 event), plus a few Omaha events scattered throughout.
If you're a medium-to-low roller who wants to play tournaments other than no-limit hold'em and at a price point of three figures or less, there are plenty of tournaments to be found at both The Orleans just off the strip and at the ]Golden Nugget Las Vegas located downtown.
The Orleans will be running many inexpensive Omaha Hi-Low, PLO, OE (Omaha Hi-Low/Stud Hi-Low) and H.O.R.S.E. tournaments this summer. The Golden Nugget's Grand Poker Series running May 30-July 3 parallels the WSOP and features similar events including Omaha Hi-Low, Stud Hi-Low, Mixed Triple Draw, Triple Stud, H.O.R.S.E., Big O, 2-7 Triple Draw and lots of NL hold'em tournaments — all with buy-ins from $110 to $550.
With very few exceptions, these events last just one day, making them ideal if you're looking to play a wide range of tournaments for less money and which take less time than WSOP events. Check the rooms' websites for full schedules, starting times, structures, buy-ins and the like.
But that's not all.
The Greater Las Vegas Metropolitan area — encompassing The Strip, Downtown, North Las Vegas and Henderson — is home to 35 poker rooms with 466 tables (not counting the hundreds of tournament tables that are set up temporarily for the WSOP and other area tournaments).
If you include Laughlin, Mesquite, Jackpot and Pahrump — Nevada towns that are a little more than an hour away — that brings you to 43 poker rooms with nearly 500 tables for cash games, and with a selection of nearly 130 tournaments to choose from over a week's stay.
With tournament buy-ins ranging from as low as $20 at Poker Palace and Sam's Town to several $200-plus events and higher at the ARIA, Wynn, Venetian and Bellagio, you have daily tournaments for every budget.
Similarly, there are cash games of varying stakes. All of the poker rooms in the Las Vegas area spread either low fixed-limit hold'em or a $1/$2 no-limit game (or both), but only a few regularly spread larger games as well. Bellagio's "Bobby's Room" is famous for the "nosebleed" game of $3,000/$6,000 limits, and also spreads many mid- and high-limit games. The Venetian, ARIA, Mirage, Caesars and Wynn all also consistently offer $2/$5 and higher no-limit.
Here's one other consideration for your World Series of Poker trip.
The events at the Rio attract the best players in the world, as well as some of the largest fields. The possibility of winning one of the tournaments is minuscule. On the other hand, if you play in one of the smaller tournaments in some other casino, you might well be one of the best poker players in the field, with a good shot of taking home first place.
The experience of playing in a WSOP event is certainly special for many poker players. But if you want to return home and boast about having won a tournament in Las Vegas during your trip out to the World Series of Poker, playing in a room other than the Rio might be your best option!
Ashley Adams has been playing poker for 50 years and writing about it since 2000. He is the author of hundreds of articles and two books, Winning 7-Card Stud (Kensington 2003) and Winning No-Limit Hold'em (Lighthouse 2012). He is also the host of poker radio show House of Cards. See www.houseofcardsradio.com for broadcast times, stations, and podcasts.
Photo courtesy of the WPT.