Harsh Truths About Las Vegas Poker Games

Dealer Showing Hands Over Dealt Poker Table Player Looking At His Cards

Poker is far from dead. Cash games and tournaments are an integral part of the gambling community around the globe.

The poker boom has indeed come and gone. Still, it’s only a matter of time before another significant boom strikes, and the game becomes more popular than ever.

For several reasons, Las Vegas is home to some of the best cash games in the world. First, many of the best poker players in history have played and continue to play the high-stakes cash games found in Las Vegas casinos.

Next, the casinos draw a massive crowd of tourists who mistakenly believe their home game skills will translate to the big show. This misstep creates a world of opportunities for decent players to cash in big.

Before you book your flight and head to the desert, consider these harsh truths about Las Vegas poker games.

Average Poker Skills Can Make You a Ton of Money

As I eluded to above, the typical Las Vegas poker player is a tourist. Many of these tourists are accustomed to playing a weekly home game.

Some may play real money poker online for “play money,” but these skills don’t translate to the Las Vegas cash games the way they hope.

The bottom line is that the lavish poker rooms of Las Vegas casinos are full of fish. That’s great news for poker players with even intermediate skills. A mildly competent player can make a profit in the Vegas poker games.

However, they’ll have to find the right game. All of the fish bring in the sharks, so be careful where you decide to spend your time and money.

Still, if you’re a decent player, you’ll find plenty of games where you can make runs for hours while tourist after tourist is forced to make yet another trip to the cashier’s box.

You need to understand that what’s considered great back home may be regarded as mediocre in Las Vegas. Honestly evaluate your skill level before committing yourself to a Las Vegas cash game.

You’re All But Guaranteed to Play a Fair Game

I can hardly think of a western movie from my childhood that didn’t feature a group of gruff cowboys sitting around a table playing poker. Almost every game portrayed on film featured some scrupulous character cheating the game.

Inevitably, the perpetrator would be shot dead where he sat. A stern warning for any others that may be inclined to try any shenanigans.

Fortunately, those days are mostly behind us. I’ve seen some sketchy stuff in underground games, but nothing leading to anyone being shot.

You won’t need to worry much about any nefarious behavior in a Las Vegas poker game. The casinos have taken every necessary measure to ensure fair play.

Las Vegas Poker Game

Casino surveillance is no joke; some of the best technology on the planet can be found in casino security. There are constantly eyes on the action at the tables, and personnel is highly trained on how to spot suspicious behavior.

You also have the added protection of the dealer. Poker dealers go through thorough training to spot cheaters and have them removed.

Overall, you’ll get a fair game in any casino poker game you can find, which is one less thing you need to worry about in the casino.

Poker Dealers Make a Decent Wage, and You Should Still Tip Them

All casino dealers are highly-trained professionals with a knack for keeping the game running efficiently while maintaining the game’s integrity. They also provide a fun atmosphere and being at least mildly sociable.

For the most part, dealers depend on tips as part of their compensation. Tipping is part of the Las Vegas culture because many people work in the service and hospitality industry.

If you’ve ever seen the excellent film Reservoir Dogs, you probably remember the iconic diner scene. Mr. White refuses to pony up for the tip, and the others quickly gang upon him.

Eventually, he relinquishes his single-dollar bill for the young waitress. I’ve seen this happen to a far less tense and ultimately less comical degree.

Regardless of your stance on tipping or how much you think the dealers make, tipping is required. (Not “required” in the sense that you’ll be escorted out of the casino, “required” as in not drawing undue attention to yourself.)

There are two primary ways players go about handling this transaction. First, players will usually toss the dealer a couple of bucks each time they pull a pot. That makes the transaction simple as you’re raking your chips, merely toss a little money the dealer’s way.

If you prefer to handle the tip in a single transaction, you can wait until the dealers change out or you get up to leave the table. Toss a couple of chips to the dealer and thank them for the effort.

Taking care of the dealer will not only put you a leg up in the dealer’s eyes, but locals will also see that you respect the game. That could lead to them sharing some vital inside information with you.

You’re Probably Outgunned

Earlier, I mentioned that typical Las Vegas poker rooms are full of tourists ripe for picking. Well, I’m assuming most of us don’t live in Las Vegas.

That makes most of us tourists. So, by some simple deduction, many of those among us may be the fish.

I’ve seen firsthand what happens when an overconfident player struts into the Las Vegas poker room. Usually, these players have had some level of success back home.

So, they assume they’ll quickly take a seat and smash the local competition or fellow out-of-towners. However, the reality of the situation soon becomes apparent.

The locals are better than what we consider to be good. You can’t make a habit of playing in the Las Vegas poker games if you don’t have fundamental poker skills.

Group of Friends Playing Poker

Even regular players at their local tribal casino are prone to some significant bumps and bruises when taking their game to Las Vegas.

These are the best players in the world, and they can see you coming from a mile away.

Now, there is hope for you. Suppose you’ve genuinely dedicated yourself to becoming an excellent poker player. In that case, you should be able to hold your own with the locals.

Once you’ve demonstrated that you’re not intimidated and have some chops, they’ll head for softer targets. That will allow you to focus on taking advantage of the constant stream of fish filing into the poker room without a clue.

You’ve Got a Legitimate Shot at Facing Off Against Your Poker Idol

The best player I’ve ever faced in a local game finished third in the 2005 WSOP Main Event. He a fantastic player, but I’d played enough golf with him that it didn’t blow me away.

That’s a blessing because you could face some of your poker idols in the Las Vegas poker games. Any player you can name will be found in the Las Vegas poker games at some point or another.

I’ve had two separate occasions where I sat in awed silence as one of my poker heroes sat down right beside me.

Once I was playing poker at ARIA Resort & Casino when Phil Ivey casually strolled up and took a seat immediately to my right. It was difficult to control my breathing, and I felt my hands begin to twitch.

I made it through my session relatively unscathed, and we exchanged a few chips. I was able to crack a couple of jokes that made Phil flash that million-dollar grin, and the nerves calmed down. It was the highlight of my poker career.

Poker Player Phil Ivey With Headphones On

Don’t be shocked if you bump into your poker idol in a Las Vegas poker game. But remember, these are the best players on earth. It may be worth the story to toss a few chips trying to steal a pot from them, but don’t get carried away.

You’ll Be Missing Out on the Lucrative Comp Game

Casino comps are one of the most critical ways for many casino gamblers to keep things close financially. Every freebie you receive for playing will help negate other costs and extend your gambling bankroll.

Unfortunately, poker players are left out of the comp game. The house has no advantage on the player and makes money by taking a small rake on each pot. (A rake is a small fee for hosting the game and providing the dealer.)

So, if you’re accustomed to slowly losing on-the-table games and utilizing comps to soften the blow, you’re out of luck in a poker game.

However, there’s something far more valuable than a complimentary buffet or even a free room for the right player. Poker games have a house edge of zero; you’re competing against the other players.

So, if you can find a good game, you can rake in the cash hand over fist. I think we can all agree that paying for your own meal is well worth the trade when you’ve got a pocket full of cash.