Is Las Vegas or California Better for Young Poker Players? Part II – Pros and Cons of California

Man at Poker Table With Las Vegas and California Backgrounds

A little while back, this blog broached a touchy subject for young poker players aspiring to go pro in 2019 and beyond—where to set up shop.

Las Vegas is obviously a prime destination for the professional poker community, but increasingly, California provides plenty of viable alternatives. In the first entry in this two-part series, I explored the pros and cons of living in Las Vegas home as a poker pro.

You should definitely start there if you haven’t read the piece already. You’ll learn about elements of the Las Vegas poker scene, such as the diverse collection casino poker rooms, the variants and stakes offered, and the intense level of competition in both the cash game and tournament format.

As you might expect, Las Vegas has long had plenty to offer up-and-coming poker pros, but California holds its own among the modern card player community. Competition is coming from all avenues in the Golden State, with cities like Los Angeles and San Jose emerging as regional poker hotbeds.

Below, you’ll find a full rundown of the pros and cons associated with calling California home when playing poker professionally is your goal.

Pros of Playing in California

This may sound counterintuitive at first, but the best part about playing poker in California is that you’re not in Las Vegas.

Most of us love a good weekend excursion to Sin City, where the cocktails flow freely and every night (and day) is a new party. Visiting the fabulous Las Vegas Strip is a time-honored tradition among gambling enthusiasts, but the key word in there is “visiting.”

As anybody who has ever experienced an extended stay in Las Vegas can attest, actually living there full time wouldn’t be nearly as much fun as a short-term stay.

Between the oppressive heat of the summer months, a dilapidated infrastructure system outside of the tourism hotspots, and premium pricing on everything from parking spots to a slice of pizza, living in Las Vegas isn’t for everyone.

California, by comparison, is nothing short of paradise… Temperate weather, beaches galore, and affordable living outside of the major cities makes the perfect place for aspiring poker pros to launch their career.

Commerce Casino Exterior

To do so, you’ll likely establish your base camp at either the Commerce Casino or Live at the Bike. This pair of iconic venues is head and shoulders above the local California competition in every respect and compared to many Las Vegas card rooms as well.

Consider this, the largest poker rooms in Sin City are the Bellagio and the Venetian, each sporting 37 tables to choose from.

But at the Commerce, poker fans have an astounding 210 tables on hand, creating the largest poker room on the planet. And with that staggering capacity, Commerce is able to offer one of the most diverse collection of cash game stakes and variants you’ll ever see.

Don’t take my word for it though, just check out the immense Commerce poker room board:

Cash Games Offered at the Commerce Casino Poker Room

$1/$2 No limit holdem

  • Buy-in: $40 to $40
  • Runs: Always

$2/$3 No limit holdem

  • Buy-in: $100 to $100
  • Runs: Always

$5/$5 No limit holdem

  • Buy-in: $300 to $500
  • Runs: Always

$3/$5 No limit holdem

  • Buy-in: $200 to $200
  • Runs: Always

$5/$10 No limit holdem

  • Buy-in: $500 to $1,500
  • Runs: Always

$10/$20 No limit holdem

  • Buy-in: $600 to No Max
  • Runs: Always

$20/$40 No limit holdem

  • Buy-in: $2,000 to No Max
  • Runs: Usually one table

$1/$2 Pot Limit Omaha Hi

  • Buy-in: $100 to $400
  • Runs: Usually one table

$5/$5 Pot Limit Omaha Hi

  • Buy-in: $500 to $1,500
  • Runs: Always

$10/$20 Pot Limit Omaha Hi

  • Buy-in: $1,000 to No Max
  • Runs: Usually one table

$25/$50 Pot Limit Omaha Hi

  • Buy-in: $4,000 to No Max
  • Runs: Occasionally

$2/$4 Limit holdem

  • Buy-in: $20 to No Max
  • Runs: Always
$3/$6 Limit holdem

  • Buy-in: $30 to No Max
  • Runs: Always

$4/$8 Stud

  • Buy-in: $40 to No Max
  • Runs: Always

$4/$8 Limit holdem

  • Buy-in: $40 to No Max
  • Runs: Always

$4/$8 Limit Big O – 5 Card Omaha

  • Buy-in: $40 to No Max
  • Runs: One or two tables

$8/$16 Limit holdem

  • Buy-in: $80 to No Max
  • Runs: Always

$20/$40 Stud

  • Buy-in: $200 to No Max
  • Runs: Usually one table

$20/$40 Limit holdem

  • Buy-in: $200 to No Max
  • Runs: Always

$40/$80 Limit holdem

  • Buy-in: $400 to No Max
  • Runs: One or two tables

$60/$120 Limit holdem

  • Buy-in: $600 to No Max
  • Runs: Usually one table

$100/$200 Limit holdem

  • Buy-in: $1,000 to No Max
  • Runs: Occasionally

$200/$400 Mixed

  • Buy-in: $2,000 to No Max
  • Runs: Occasionally

$400/$800 Mixed

  • Buy-in: $4,000 to No Max
  • Runs: Occasionally



With literally hundreds of tables on hand, Commerce players never lack for real money poker options or suffer long waits for an open seat.

The Bike is no slouch either, what with 185 tables on the premises spreading the following cash game lineup.

Cash Games Offered at the Bicycle Casino Poker Room

$1/$2 No limit holdem

  • Buy-in: $40 to $60
  • Runs: Always

$2/$3 No limit holdem

  • Buy-in: $100 to $300
  • Runs: Always

$1/$3 No limit holdem

  • Buy-in: $80 to $120
  • Runs: Always

$5/$5 No limit holdem

  • Buy-in: $300 to $1,000
  • Runs: One or two tables

$5/$10 No limit holdem

  • Buy-in: $1,000 to No Max
  • Runs: One or two tables

$5/$5 Pot Limit Omaha Hi

  • Buy-in: $500 to No Max
  • Runs: 2 times per week

$1/$2 Stud 8/b

  • Buy-in: $10 to No Max
  • Runs: Every morning

$2/$4 Limit holdem

  • Buy-in: $20 to No Max
  • Runs: Always

$2/$4 Stud

  • Buy-in: $20 to No Max
  • Runs: Occasionally
$4/$8 Limit holdem

  • Buy-in: $40 to No Max
  • Runs: Always

$4/$8 Limit Omaha 8/b

  • Buy-in: $40 to No Max
  • Runs: One or two tables

$6/$12 Limit holdem

  • Buy-in: $60 to No Max
  • Runs: Always

$8/$16 Limit holdem

  • Buy-in: $80 to No Max
  • Runs: Always

$12/$24 Limit holdem/Omaha

  • Buy-in: $120 to No Max
  • Runs: Always

$20/$40 Limit holdem

  • Buy-in: $200 to No Max
  • Runs: Always

$20/$40 Mixed

  • Buy-in: $200 to No Max
  • Runs: Occasionally

$40/$80 Limit holdem

  • Buy-in: $400 to No Max
  • Runs: One or two tables



As you can see, cash game players aren’t limited in any way by making the move from Las Vegas to CA. In fact, with such an abundance of non-Texas holdem tables, players who prefer variants like Seven Card Stud, Pot Limit Omaha, or the Hi-Lo Eight or Better versions are much better served by camping out in California card rooms.

On another note, this section focused primarily on the LA poker scene, but California is home to hundreds of casinos and card rooms from San Diego to Sacramento. These include both commercial and tribal venues, so no matter where you decide to settle in America’s largest state, you’ll always be a stone’s throw away from a casino.

Cons of Playing in California

If you’re not a fan of traffic jams and smog, living in LA might not be up your alley, so let’s just get that out of the way right here and now.

Tinsel Town is a rare breed of urban sprawl, one which puts the hustle and bustle of the Strip to shame. Thus, many players who hail from small towns find that they prefer the suburbs of Las Vegas to the LA cityscape.

On a more poker-centric note, playing as a pro in California means you’ll be paying state income taxes, while Nevada has no state income tax whatsoever. Even worse, a local lawmaker is looking to eliminate tax deductions on gambling losses in the Golden State, which would only add to the financial burden faced by poker pros there.

Los Angeles Downtown Skyline

Another drawback to playing poker in California is the heightened competition bred by the condensed nature of the local industry. With the biggest and best games held at just two casinos in LA, the brightest poker minds in the state all call the same tables home.

In Las Vegas, meanwhile, a young pro building his bankroll can head to off-Strip casinos to grind against tourists. Similarly, the best local pros in Las Vegas are more spread out, thanks to so many top-notch poker rooms like the Venetian, the Bellagio, the Aria, Caesars Palace, the Orleans, and many more.

Conclusion

Deciding to embark on the adventure of a lifetime by committing to professional poker is already a tough enough decision, and choosing between Las Vegas and California only makes it tougher.

Hopefully, this two-part guide to making that choice helps you consider both regions from an objective vantage point. But whether you choose Sin City or the sunny climes of California, give this gamble your very best effort, and I hope to see you succeed in your new career as a poker pro!