Maybe tourists don’t play poker in Las Vegas

I am not a journalist. Never have been, never will; something about all the pesky facts (and worse, the required fact checking) getting in the way of a good story. You can take a factual topic that is too complex to completely research and document, throw an “I believe that…” or two in there and suddenly you have an opinion piece. That’s my kind of writing!

In addition, I am generally a right and good man. I raised a good familyI love my wife and kidsvolunteered through church, even helped to organize a fund-raiser for a friend who died of cancer. I’ve never done drugs, have no DWIs, and haven’t even kicked our dog more than four feet or so at any one time.

I also try to make good decisions. I study and research things I want to buy or do, and I try not to offer opinions unless I believe that I am correct. So it absolutely pains me to say…

I may have been… *gulp* wrong.

My very first post on Vegas Bright was a pre-trip piece that I did entitled “Tourists Still Come to Las Vegas to Play Poker”. The headline specifically was discussing my group’s impending trip to play cards, but also implied that other tourists do as well. Among our group, we theorized that since there are more tourists on the weekends – and that they primarily play on the Strip – that the “best” and “easiest” games are weekend games on the Strip.

In hindsight, not only was the thinking among our group incorrect, that headline turned out to be quite misleading.

If you read my past five poker-related trip reports (the one from 2013 is here, and a link in the text will take you to the previous four) we often discuss trying to avoid off-strip poker tournaments as there are a significant number of locals that play for hours and hours a week just trying to feed off the tourists. Also as a group, we’ve made more money on the Strip over the course of our adventures. So for our recently completed trip, when we had a choice between a number of tournaments, we often used games on the Strip as our tie-breaker.

Our group played the following tournaments (followed by an approximate entry count because I’ve since misplaced my notes)…

Saturday, September 12 @ 10:00 AM at the Rio (20 entries)

Saturday @ 2:00 PM at South Point (low-20 entries)

Saturday @ 8:00 PM at Binion’s (16 entries)

Sunday @ 10:00 AM at the Flamingo (6 entries, though only one of us, played while the rest were at Rum Runner.)

Sunday @ 2:00 PM at Monte Carlo (20 entries)

Sunday @ 6:00 PM at Planet Hollywood (24 entries)

Monday @ 11:00 AM at Treasure Island (11 entries)

Monday @ 3:00 PM at Harrah’s (about 25 entries)

Monday @ 7:00 PM at South Point (low-20 entries)

Tuesday @ 12:00 PM at Orleans (24 entries)

Put another way, of the ten games in which our group of four plunked down money, only one started with three tables. Where did the poker playing tourists go?

Although one logical answer would be “Dude! Not everybody likes tournaments. Maybe they’re playing cash games.” and though that is a good thought, the two busiest poker rooms that we saw were South Point and Orleans. Both of which cater to “locals”.

Another scenario that my poker buddies and I have been batting around is that the death of on-line poker in 2011 has had a bigger effect on live poker than had been projected. Apparently sitting by one’s self in a bedroom with eight on-line poker games going at once led to people traveling to Vegas to try live poker. When on-line poker was snuffed, possibly players felt that they were no longer practiced enough to play with real people? Or maybe on-line players moved on to other games, like Daily Fantasy Sports.

It is, unfortunate. Texas Hold ‘Em is a great psychological study. Expert play can go on for hours without anyone ever showing his or her cards, and expert players can make a living playing the player, not the cards. Our group is nowhere near that good, but as the poker boom fades, it appears that poker tournaments catering to players of our competency are fading away with it.

I guess I’ll have to switch to MMA. I hear that’s kinda popular.

This is the last in my series of pieces related to my mid-September poker trip to Las Vegas.


About the Author

Michael James
Michael James is a true Vegas Nerd. First falling in love after hearing details of an aunt's visit in the '70s, and nurtured when the gambling bug hit as casinos started opening on every street corner across the country in the '90s. When not reading Vegas blogs and message boards, he's a metals buyer by day and a competitive bowler by night in Milwaukee.

4 Comments on "Maybe tourists don’t play poker in Las Vegas"

  1. Poker room closures are the new norm. There have been 13 in the last 4 years. It’s part supply side issue, part demand. Not only are people playing less, but they’re expensive to operate and are not revenue drivers for casinos.

  2. I try to make it a point to pry myself from the craps table and play at least a few hours of either tournaments or cash games on every Vegas trip. Last trip, I decided to play at Binion’s because of its name and history. I was the only non-local playing at my table, and I’m guessing in the whole room (maybe 3 tables were going at this late hour). Before that, I played at the Mirage, and granted this was when The Colossus was going on, but the poker room was packed with non-locals. A much more fun vibe and a lot more action at the tables.

  3. I only play poker on the east coast where I’m from, and can have the time to do it. When I visit vegas i’m with friends and family that like to see the sights and play craps and blackjack. Poker takes up too much time out of my day and I don’t want to leave my group of friends hanging, while sitting with some people I don’t know. If I do play poker in vegas its usually early morning before people in my group wake up.

  4. To think of all the poker rooms that we’ve played in that are now closed (in rough order… Sahara, Joker’s Wild, Fitzgeralds, Silverton, Tropicana, M Resort). Then add to it Caesers properties moving all of their poker rooms from rooms into hallways (Rio is bad enough, but what they did to Planet Hollywood is a disgrace).

    I guess I would have thought that the market correction was complete. It’s clearly not. If this keeps up, we may get to a time when the only tournaments you can depend on are $150 or more.

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