Which Daily Tournament gives you the most BANG for your BUCK?

Question by Cypress Hunter Posted

I’m two weeks out from what has become a yearly trip to Vegas and for the first time I have the Hold’em bug. Last year we stayed at the Mirage and I played in the daily $60.00 NLH tournament twice. In the first I was first out and won the second. A little about my poker history; I learned poker playing 7 card stud at the deer lease in Texas at the age of 12. No one was going to get rich or go broke at these games it was a way of passing time in the afternoons before the hunt and after dinner. Years later I started an office game of hold’em about once a month; $100.00, once again a way to blow off steam and have a few drinks with the guys. But that game ended about 10 years ago. This is the foundation of my experience. I wouldn’t classify myself a pro or as an easy mark. I think I have a good foundation and can read players well.
After last year’s trip to Vegas a new office mate overheard me talking about the tournament and told me he plays with a group the first and third Wednesday of each month. Basically it’s a 5 month tournament leading into a final table. The tournament pays the top 4 spots 80% of the buy-in. 20% is taken out for the final table tournament at the end of the 5 months. You earn your way into this game by accruing points; 1 pt for playing each time, a point for knocking out a money winner from the previous tournament and points for making the final table (1 pt for 10th, 2 for 9th, 3 for 8th…). There are between 25-30 players that regularly play and the core groups have been playing together about 20 years. There are a few really good players. I started playing with them three months ago; 6 times now, making the final table 5 times and making the payout once. I’m currently sitting 3rd in total points.
I’ve gone through this a story to explain my level of play. In Vegas this year I want to play in a few daily tournaments and try my hand at a few low level cash games ($1/$2 or $1/$3 NLH). What tournaments will give me the best bang for my buck? Tournament I’m thinking $100-150 buy-ins, decent competition but if I play sound poker playing for 5-6 + hours.
If I still have anyone’s attention at this point in my question I’d also like some advice on the cash games as well. Where do you like to play?
We are staying at the MGM but will have a car so can go anywhere. I land at 8:30 Friday October 23 and head back home Monday afternoon. Any advice is appreciated.


  1. Most people think that as far as structure and actual ability to play poker without the tourney becoming a shove fest, the Aria daily tournaments are the best bet. That's probably true, but it also means that if you play well, it will be a lot more than 5-6 hours to finish and could be double that.

    Since you will be in town, another option would be the $160 Saturday tournament down at Binions. It starts at 2PM, but again if you make a deep run, it will be more like 9-10 hours to complete the tournament.

    For $1/2 cash games, I like Ceasar's, Venetian, and MGM -- those often have a number of games and gives me some ability to switch tables, if I don't like the vibe at one. I haven't played Aria or Bellagio in a while, and my last impression was that there were a higher share of grinders in those rooms compared to the others. But, again both will have a lot of games so you ought to be able to switch tables -- both are also $1/3, not $1/2 if that makes any difference to you. For a more fun low stakes game, the $1/1 at Linq has been pretty good, especially on weekend nights.


  2. @Dap Poker Thanks for the input Dave. I’ve noticed on other threads the suggestion of moving tables if you don’t feel comfortable. How would I go about that? Ask the dealer to be moved? At that point if there’s a wait am I put back on a list? Staying at the MGM I’ll be checking out that poker room. I’ve never been to Caesar’s, Venetian or Linq. I’ll try and make a stop at all three. Thanks again for your input.

  3. @Cypress Hunter - if you don't feel comfortable at a game, then go up to the desk and talk to the floor. What will happen is that when a seat opens up at another table, they will ask you if you want to move. You take that seat and the first on the list takes your seat. So, essentially you move to the top of the list for any table except the one you are currently playing at.

    And when I say "don't feel comfortable" I mean thinking something like "there is no money to be made at this table". It could be because
    A) the players are good
    B) the bad players have already lost most of their money to the good players
    C) everyone is playing really tight and there is never any money in the pot.
    But no matter why there is no money to made, there are other tables where you can make money. So, go and find one of them.

    One other idea, if there happen to be 1 or 2 good players at your table but it is otherwise good, then you can ask the dealer for a seat change button and move to those players left, so you have position on them. Or if a seat opens up on their left, then ask to move into it.

    In either case, people move seats and tables for all kinds of reasons, so no one will really think twice about it.


    P.S. I've found that table and seat selection is a very important part of winning. Actually played last night and had a horrible first table -- plus I played bad, and ran into 2 full houses. So, less than a half hour in, I was down well over a buyin. I sat back, looked around, and I couldn't see who I was going to win the money back from. There were several regular grinders; a couple people playing really tight; and one or 2 tourists who seemed relatively solid, were playing tight, or were card dead. In any case, there wasn't much money going in pots, so it was time to move. I talked to the floor, got an open seat at another table and that one had a couple players who were putting in a lot of money on weaker hands. At the new table, I made a few hands and finished the night down just $40. Still, a loss. But a lot better than the few hundred I was down early.

  4. @Goodshoe Thanks for the feedback Scott. I realize now how broad my question was and you did a great job of covering it. I never thought about looking at the return rate until you pointed it out. It makes the picture clearer on what I’ll look for in rakes vs. prize pool.
    Last year I sat in on my only two daily tournaments; both at the Mirage, both in the same day. I don’t recall how long it took on the one I won. Locally the tournaments I’ve been playing (just a group of guys twice a month, between 20-30 players) are fast; 15 minute rounds. Start at 6 and we’re finished and cleaning up around 9. I feel like 5-6 hours wouldn’t be a problem to sit for a tournament and I’d like to think 10+ hours would be great. Or as I opened this question “the best bang for my buck”. With this being a small group for friends and family (all men) there are no shows scheduled and for the most part we all have our preferred games. I’ll be landing at 8:30 Friday morning the 23rd and here are my thoughts for the daily tournaments I’d like to play –
    1. Aria $125.00 buy-in (Daily 1PM and 7PM)
    2. Mirage $100.00 buy-in [$25.00 Bounty (Friday 7PM)]
    3. Binion’s $160.00 buy-in (Saturday 2PM)
    4. Golden Nugget $125.00 buy-in (Sunday 11AM)
    I feel confident I can hit 1 and 2 on the list. Has anyone sat in on 3 or 4? If so please let me know your thoughts on those two tournaments. Looking at the website I like that for the most part levels are 30 minutes and blinds start off low $25/$50.
    Scott have fun this weekend and happy hunting. Let me know if you hit any tournaments and how you faired.

  5. You are definitely on right track in terms of 30 minute levels and starting blinds. It's a higher buy-in, but 20-minute levels mean you really need to get luck quickly.

    You should check to see how many chips you actually start with to determine how many big blinds you start with. (I played Mirage "The Stack" on a Saturday recently. Yes, you got 25,000 chips, but I think blinds started at 200/400.....only 62.5 big blinds!! Never again.) That is why I like Aria $125 tournament. (Hope to play there Saturday). Plus dealers and staff do a great job. And they have shuffle machines....more hands per level. You should definitely call casino and check ahead that they are having a tournament at the time you want to play and what that tournament is (they change from what is listed, even on their own website). Have not played at Binions in a long time. Nugget room is small, so not sure how many tables they do.

    But again.....call and ask what the tournament schedule is and ask for starting chips and starting blinds. (For example....some times Aria will cancel 7 PM tournament if too busy and 1 PM tournament still going strong).

    Good Luck!