Not All Vegas 1/2NLHE Games are Created Equal

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LasVegasMichael looks at the many different types of 1/2NLHE that are available in Vegas, and explains why not all 1/2NLHE games here are created equal.

There is no question that the most popular poker game spread in Las Vegas is 1/2 No Limit Hold'em (some casinos spread 1/3 instead, but similar concept). What many people do not realize is that though the structure of the game with regards to the blind is the same in pretty much every property, each casino offers their own unique styling that makes the game both unique and quite different based on a true variety of factors. In today's article, I will explore how 1/2NL varies quite significantly at some different properties, including some that are literally right next door to each other.

The first major factor when determining how a 1/2 NLHE game is going to be is what type of casino you are in. The 1/2NLHE game at Santa Fe Station will be worlds different from the 1/2NLHE game found at Imperial Palace or Bally's. Surprisingly, the 1/2NLHE game found at South Point may not be that different from the one found at Mirage or even Mandalay Bay. It all depends on the particular casino's base clientele. The down home local's casinos like Santa Fe Station or Sunset Station tend to offer a game that is frequented by a small group of dedicated regulars every night. Both of these rooms offer a $300 max and have been for quite a while, but the same players tend to be in the same seats night after night. The game tends to be more social and conservative in nature than those found on the Strip or at more popular local spots. The locals casinos offer popular poker rooms that are really designed specifically for those that reside near the property and are looking for an all-inclusive getaway opportunity from their local residences.

Even when taking into consideration how the local's casinos vary from the Strip, one can even go a step further and examine how the local's casinos vary from each other. A few very different casinos come to mind: South Point, Boulder Station, Red Rock, and Santa Fe Station. All of these casinos offer 1/2NLHE. All but Red Rock offer $300 max buy ins (Red Rock is $200 max), yet the games are all quite different. Boulder Station, for the longest time, carried a $200 max and a $40 minimum buy in. The vast majority of players continue to not buy in for more than $100, and the average preflop raise is usually in the $6-$8 range (with $7 being the most popular by far). This makes the game play quite a bit smaller and the pots tend to be comparably small as well. Conversely, South Point, with its $100 min and $300 max buy in tends to offer a NL game that is very comperable to the NL games you would find at Venetian or Mirage on a Saturday night, with significantly deeper stacks and preflop raises that average $12-$15 (standard). South Point is a local's casino, but has a very strong tourist base as well due to its proximity to a popular timeshare building right next door to the property. Plus the large resort size of South Point make it rival large Strip casinos in sheer room availability and value. Red Rock is an all together different animal. Because Red Rock is the most popular resort located in the upper middle class and high class area of Summerlin, it's poker room is the busiest in the Station's chain, and offers one of the only consistent 2/5NL games outside of the Strip. To better protect its 2/5 game, the 1/2 game has kept a $200 max, yet it tends to play pretty fast compared to a more "traditional" local's casino like Santa Fe Station or Sunset.

When taking a look at various choices to play 1/2NL on the Strip, the most stark difference in games will solely depend on one major factor: is it a jackpot house or not? The majority of poker rooms in Las Vegas are jackpot houses, in that they drop a jackpot dollar out of each pot to pay out things like freerolls, high hand jackpots, and bad beat jackpots. These rooms offer games that generally appeal to tourists and recreational players the most. Rooms that do not offer jackpots, such at Venetian, Wynn, Bellagio and Aria tend to offer games that are more catered to the serious player, and thus, the games will generally be deeper and possibly more aggressive. This is especially true at the Wynn, that offers the deepest buy ins on the Strip, at the present time.

The one room that tends to stand out a bit, though is MGM Grand. Though the room does not drop a jackpot dollar, it still largely caters to a more recreational, tourist player. The number of daily regulars has increased significantly over the years, but generally the room is still largely players that are staying at the hotel or the neighbor properties.

When taking into consideration where you want to play NLHE, really take the time to explore the different types of 1/2 that are available to you. The $20 minimum 1/2NLHE game at Bill's is starkly different from the 1/2NLHE game right across the street at Bally's, yet both are Caesars Entertainment properties offering basically the same game. If you do your due diligence, you will find a game that your comfort level matches and hopefully enjoy yourself. Good luck!

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  1. I think the best place to play 1-2NL on the strip is the MGM. $300 max buy-in (150bb). Games are pretty soft overall. A lot of games to choose from. The room has the most advantages in my mind at that level. IF you avoid the NIT named Robvegas :grin: you should be ok. If I am playing 1-2NL, MGM is the most likely room for me to play at.

    Other rooms that are good picks:

    TI, which is 1-3NL with a $500 max buy-in (167bb). If the table has money on it the games are a must to sit-in. Similar type of players to what you find at MGM. Nice room. Well run. Would be my second choice at this level.

    Planet Hollywood: Similar room to TI and MGM at this level. And basically 1-2NL is the only game they pretty much spread.

    Wynn and Aria: I clump these two rooms together because you will find hotel guest who never really play the game and are happy to sit in the game and give it a try, basically dumping $300 or so. Plus they are nice rooms

    Ballys: Games are generally pretty soft. I haven't played in this room as much as some of the others but I have found the games to be good.

    IP: A lot of drunks at the table. I have to be in the right mood to play in this game. I generally don't get a chance to sit in this game all too often.

  2. I like that you always seem to bring a well thought-out perspective to your articles. I believe that the Orleans also has a $500 max buy-in.

  3. Clem2754 and LVM exactly correct.

  4. @Santa Fe Rail
    Santa Fe - do you ever play at South Point, or the Mirage?

  5. Red Rock max buy in is now $300

  6. i cant believe u think bills has a $1-2 NL, ive played there about 200 days in the past year almost, and that game never goes there.

    whats more odd is no one has corrected u on this

  7. GaminDeBuci i usually play/stay mid strip as that is the area i stay ie Mirage,Ballys,IP.TI. sunday mixed game @ IP is a must!! if MGM will give me a great room rate i have stayed there and spent many many house in their room. Orleans was my first vegas poker room experience. great room we just do not stay there any more.

  8. Yes, my post about 1/2 at Bill's was in error. I know they spread .50/1. I just neglected to include that in the article.

  9. @LasVegasMichael

    LVMichael has reach a new low.... being corrected by Tony... OUCH. :flushed:


  10. LVM,

    Excellent article as usual. On my recent trips to Vegas I've played my $1/$2 and $1/$3 NLHE exclusively at the Venetian, Wynn, or Bellagio. Primarily because I've stayed there and it's convenient but also because I personally prefer playing where the rake is reasonable and there is no jackpot drop. But that's just me.

    Of those 3 locations and based on a small sample size, I've found the Venetian game to be the toughest. Kind of a toss up between the Wynn and Bellagio. The $200 max buy-in at the Bellagio results in a wide mix of talent. I think less experienced players are more willing to get into a game with a lower max buy-in. I didn't know if I had the game to play $1/3 NLHE at the Wynn with a $500 max buy-in but every time I've played there I have been the only one at my table buying in for the max. There has always been a mix of novices and more experienced players.

    In summary, I've found that the games at the Bellagio and Wynn can be very good (or at least a very average player like me can be comfortable there). At the Venetian, I think the competition is a little tougher on average but still a great place to play. Again, small sample size and, as always, it varies by table, time of day, day of the week, and time of year. If you are someone who likes a reasonable rake, no jackpot drop, and a very nice room (I know the Venetian is now remodeling), I would certainly recommend the 3 rooms I've discussed here. I haven't tried the Aria so I'll give that a shot on my next trip.