Many Subtle Differences Between LA and Vegas Poker Rooms

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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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--LasVegasMichael

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Comments

  1. At Commerce they offer two different 5-10 NL games. The lower buy-in game is called their $400 game meaning you buy-in for $400. Stacks will grow fairly quick, so you are coming in low. They use to have it that you can buy-in up to $600 once you fall below $400 I believe or the first time you were felted. Not sure if they just changed the buy-in to $600. They also have a more normal 5-10 game where the buy-in is up to $1,500 that is comparable to the 5-10 at Bellagio.
    The Bike is even stranger in my mind. They offered a $300, a $400, a $500 and I believe the blinds where fairly similar 3-5 or 5-5.

    Anyway the action is better over at Commerce. Just my two cents.

    You have more traditional buy-ins at some of the Indian Casinos such as Pechanga (Halfway between LA and San Diego off I-15) which is more like Vegas casinos. Even Oceans 11 in Oceanside (Nice cardroom halfway between the OC and San Diego off I-5) has some better buy-ins- $300 for the 2-3, and I believe $1000 for the 5-5NL and $500 for the PLO game.

    The other big difference is limit is quite popular in California. You can find good 8-16 Limit games at Pechanga, Commerce, Hawain Gardens, and Ocean's Eleven. Most places offer bigger limit games as well. 40-80 is regular for Ocean's Eleven.

    Everyone has Omaha 8 as well.

  2. You say "subtle differences", I saw completely different game. About the only thing that's the same between Vegas poker and LA Poker is you get two down cards (or four for Omaha) and they deal 3-1-1 up cards with betting after each round.

    Perhaps the game has changed or my recollection is faulty, but I recall $1/2, $40 MAX buy-in and $1/2, $100 max buy-in being the low stakes NL games. It's a short stack game. Not nearly as much room to play poker. Even at 2/5, the max was such that you couldn't buy very deep... and of course people buy in for less.

    The lack of free drinks, as you noted, really changes the atmosphere. I don't need a table of drunks, but a few social drinkers loosens up the game considerably.

    The other difference is geography. In Vegas, you can have a cab drop you down at any poker room on the strip and then walk to the next room when you want a change. IIRC, the Bike and Commerce are close -- ~5 minute drive -- but otherwise rooms are spread all over and you need a car to get around. Much more similar to the way it is "back home" for a lot of people.

  3. I don't care for the California rooms as much as the Vegas ones, but they do come in handy when I have depositions in L.A. (Which somehow happens a lot). Good article, LVM.

  4. The action is way more aggressive and the players are better in LA imo.

  5. @meekamouse

    Definitely more aggressive. And definitely looser. But I'm curious as to why you think LA players are better. IMO, California games are generally softer and more beatable than most Vegas games, all things being equal.

  6. @HaysCode

    Definitely more aggressive. And definitely looser. But I'm curious as to why you think LA players are better. IMO, California games are generally softer and more beatable than most Vegas games, all things being equal.[/quote]

    Vegas gets alot of tourist traffic, where as the players you find in LA are all there because they are poker degens.

  7. @meekamouse

    Definitely more aggressive. And definitely looser. But I'm curious as to why you think LA players are better. IMO, California games are generally softer and more beatable than most Vegas games, all things being equal.[/quote]

    Vegas gets alot of tourist traffic, where as the players you find in LA are all there because they are poker degens.[/quote]
    I think it depends what casino you play in Vegas and la. some Calif games can be real soft.

  8. ^
    A Vegas game full of inexperienced tourists is great, but a game full of Vegas locals is typically not so great. It definitely depends on when and where you play; a game on the Stip on a weekend is going to be very different from a weekday game off the Strip. If we're comparing Vegas regulars to LA regulars, nine times out of ten the LA regs are going to be looser and will potentially spew more, IMO.

  9. For those of you who have played in California - how does player safety differ between LV and LA? In LV, I feel pretty safe around the clock.

  10. @GaminDeBuci

    Funny you should say that because I have never felt unsafe in Vegas and the last time I left Hollywood Park I was pretty scared. Commerce too. Never at The Bike though.

  11. @GaminDeBuci

    Every time you win $500 or more at Hawaiian Gardens, there is a 43% chance you will be followed home and beaten and robbed.

  12. @vinnyboombots

    Funny you should say that because I have never felt unsafe in Vegas and the last time I left Hollywood Park I was pretty scared. Commerce too. Never at The Bike though.[/quote]

    I never had any issues at the Bike or Commerce. Both places were fine, and I had some decent size cashes playing at Commerce. Now Hustler's was another story. I was not comfortable at that place. I made almost a $2,000 profit in a 2-3 NL game one night after having a good day playing 5-10 NL at the Commerce and I was QUITE NERVOUS leaving the Hustler. I actually never went back. When I cashed out the girl in the cage at the Hustler asked me if I wanted to go to a bigger game and my response was something like no I want to get the heck out of here. Hawaiian Gardens can be rough as well.

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