Many Subtle Differences Between CA and Vegas Poker
With the month of August officially meeting the midpoint, the final weekend before back to school frenziness and casual summer weekenders is quickly approaching. It seems fitting to discuss the quirky differences between playing poker at your local Los Angeles card room and one of the many venues that Las Vegas offers. Today's article will discuss some of the finer differences for those visiting Sin City for the first time, and can serve as a primer for those that perhaps didn't even think about the verbiage and other subtle things that we Vegas regulars often take for granted.
Perhaps the single biggest difference between a typical LA card room and a Vegas poker room is that the Los Angeles venues are largely poker based casinos. Poker is what pays the bills in Los Angeles casinos, and due to this, the sheer size and dedicated to poker is significantly higher in California versus Las Vegas. In Las Vegas, whereupon nearly 50 poker rooms comingle and offer games with some rooms offering two tables with the largest room offering 59, in Los Angeles, a fifty table card room would be considered pretty average. The Commerce Casino, which is easily the largest poker driven venue in the world, includes over 300 poker tables, all offering live games of varying limits and sizes. Walking into Commerce is quite an overwhelming experience for someone who is accustomed to the intimate nature of the Las Vegas poker rooms. Other comparable casinos such as The Bicycle, Hollywood Park, and Hustler all are poker dedicated mainly, and the games go around the clock. In Las Vegas, poker is more of a convenience for players and certainly does not pay the bills at most casinos. Though the game is profitable, the typical house drop for a poker room versus a slot area or table games pit is very small, thus making poker a significantly lesser priority at most casinos versus Los Angeles.
One thing that really sets Vegas apart from its neighbor state though is that regarding liquor. Not only are alcoholic beverages served 24 hours a day in Las Vegas, but they are complimentary to players. This is a far cry from the California casinos that must abide by the liquor laws of the State which prohibit alcoholic beverages served after 2AM. Also, during normal serving hours, the alcoholic beverages come at a price. Comped alcohol is not permitted in the Los Angeles casinos, and tends to generally be a Vegas exclusive.
Joining a game at a Los Angeles casino versus Las Vegas is another area that tends to see differences. Though the large rooms in Vegas offer chip runners that will deliver chips to players that join a game, the vast majority of poker rooms in Vegas ask players to purchase their chips from the poker desk or cashier and then take their chips to the table. Also, it is quite rare that a dealer will sell initial chips to a player from their rack, unless it is a rebuy situation in Vegas. Whereas at most LA Casinos, dealers will commonly sell chips to players from their rack.
Perhaps the largest difference between Los Angeles poker rooms and Las Vegas aside from the sheer size is that the dealers in Las Vegas do not "own" their well (dealer tray). The chips in the well stay where they are and there is a specific dollar amount of those chips that is always present (whether it be cash or chips). Dealers in Las Vegas do not intermingle their tips with the rack nor do they personally own the rack itself. In Los Angeles, dealers own their racks and drop their tips into the rack itself. This means that each dealer's rack will have different dollar amounts since their tips vary and their rack is their own. Dealers bring their chip trays with them as they join a game, and take it with them when they leave. This is a stark difference between how the two different jurisdictions handle poker.
Perhaps one of the most mind boggling things that a typical Vegas player will find frustrating when visiting a Los Angeles casino is how the blinds and blind chopping are handled. This all concerns the rake structure, and how the Vegas casinos calculate rake versus how California casinos calculate their house rake. In Vegas, the rake is calculated most commonly by pot size (10% of the pot up to a $4 or $5 max plus $1 jackpot taken at $10 is the most common, with a no flop no drop policy). In Los Angeles, however, the rake is determined not by pot size, but by the number of players at the table, and a rake is taken every hand. This means that in a typical 2/3 NL game, that the small blind is immediately taken and placed in the drop before a single card is dealt. If it folds around to the blinds and the players decide to chop, the small blind is still dropped and only the remaining money is returned.
Some other subtle differences include the fact that food service is quite efficient and very affordable at most LA casinos, and the porter service is often lightening fast for those placing orders. Also, comped meals are given to players based on the limit they are playing, with the limits offering free food often being quite low (even the 2/3NL level at some casinos). Another is how the games are called. In Vegas, the NL games are referred to by their blind structures (i.e. 1/2NL or 2/5NL), whereas in Los Angeles, the games are called by their max buy ins most often (i.e. $200 NL or $400 NL). When you approach a brush in LA and ask for 1/2NL, don't be surprised if you get a funny look.
The max buy ins in the NL games in LA is a whole different discussion that is beyond the scope of this article, but suffice to say that if you are used to 5/10 with No Cap, be ready for a bit of culture shock if you visit Commerce. In general, the differences between LA and Vegas are pretty minor in the big picture of poker. The game is the same as are the basic rules. Just the subtle differences in how things are done plus the glaring difference in sizes of the typical LA poker meccas and the intimate Vegas poker rooms allow for players to enjoy the differences and hopefully win a little money along the way. Good luck everyone!
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