Las Vegas Poker Tournaments

Texas Holdem Royal Flush Hand With a Las Vegas Background

After having a weekly poker night with buddies and watching WSOP on ESPN, you discovered there’s Poker Central: a 24-hour poker network. Where can I get in on some of that action? I know my skills are being wasted, even if Rex and Donnie (or Rachel and Denise, ladies) are fun to hang with on Friday nights.

Well, maybe it’s time to book a trip to Vegas and bring your bankroll in the hopes of being dubbed the covetous role of high-roller. Sir or madam, you’ve found the place to set your itinerary and find the right tournament for a player like yourself. Sin City has tournaments all over town for every kind of player

 Set Your Sights on These Sites

It’s such a beautiful thing living in the age of the internet. You can trade stocks, order food, make all your purchases, and anything else you can dream of in your PJ’s and nobody cares if you’ve brushed your teeth or taken a shower.

First, let’s get the tedium out of the way. You need to find a way to get there and then decide on a Las Vegas Hotel to stay at.

Now that you’ve gotten the boring part of your plan out of the way, let’s figure out what kind of tournament you want to go to.

Before you run to a tournament, it’s best to get to know each individual one. When should you register? What’s the buy in? How about the playing format? What’s the betting format?

The Basics

Now that you’ve checked in to your room, get to know each real money poker tournament and plan your day. You may want to hit multiple tournaments to get a feel for each level of play and the crowds you’ll encounter. They’ll be different depending on the day, time, casino, guaranteed prize pool (if any), starting chips you’ll get, etc.

After you’ve gotten a feel for each tournament, the next step is to register. Registration typically opens about two hours before the tournament starts and a lot of them allow late registration until 90 minutes after the tournament starts.

The higher your buy in, the more you stand to win. The buy-ins for most of the tournaments you’re likely to want to gamble with range from as low as $40 up to $10,000, but most fall in the $100 range. Obviously, the higher the buy in, the more you can expect to take home if you are the crowned champ.

Playing Formats

The most common format is known as a freezeout. This means that all players still playing in a tournament constitute a dynamic pool. When a player loses all of his chips and gets eliminated, that table shrinks. As more tables shrink, they begin to combine & eventually only one table remains, known as the ‘final table.

Another format is known as ‘rebuy tournaments.’ This format allows players to rebuy into games if they lose all their chips and avoid elimination, but only for a specific amount of time (usually 1-2 hours). After the re-buy period, play resumes as it would in a freezeout format and at this point, eliminated players don’t have the option of returning to the game.

Busy Las Vegas Poker Room

Rebuy tournaments often also allow players to rebuy chips even if they haven’t lost all of their chips (but there is a maximum amount of chips you can have-usually you can only have a maximum of the starting stack or half of it and still be able to rebuy).

Yet another format is known as a shootout tournament. This divides play into rounds. In a standard shootout, 2-10 players sit on each table and the table roster remains the same until everyone except one player is eliminated. The table winners progress to the final table where the winner is determined.

A recent format development is the ‘mix-max’ or ‘mixed max’ tournament, in which table sizes vary during the course of the event. For an example of this type of format, take a look at the 2012 World Series of Poker, which was effectively a hybrid freezeout-shootout tournament.

Let’s Look at Low-Roller Lounges

The Excalibur Hotel has daily 9AM tournaments for a measly $40 buy in. There are a lot of low-roller tournaments offered in the poker room here. The 1PM, 5PM, & 8PM games are still great for the frugal gambler at $45. There are usually 35-45 people that turn out for each tournament.

Some quick math will tell you that you can play at all four tournaments for a mere $175 in buy ins. While that will be loads of fun and experience, you will need to sustain yourself (and not just with the free booze you’re sure to get). You can go to Camelot Steakhouse, sample authentic Italian fare at Bucca Di Beppo, plus check out the fast and casual options including a food court.

If you’re not just there for the tournament, there is also the option of heading to The Lounge for live bands and drinks. You can also check out the Tournament of Kings’ dinner and a show experience.

Mix with the Mid-Rollers

Caesar’s Palace has one of the oldest and nicest casinos. It’s a step back into ancient Rome with a gorgeous hotel to boot-and don’t forget the booming poker scene.

Caesars Palace’s opulent poker room is 4,500 square feet with 16 tables, featuring multiple levels of stakes in cash games, and, of course, the main attraction here: the tournament.

Your buy in will be between $100-$150 for the typical tournaments and depending on your buy in, your prize pool will differ ($100 buy in-$1,000 guaranteed tournament at midnight, $125 buy in-$1,500 guaranteed tournament at 10AM and 6PM, and $150 buy in-$2,000 guaranteed tournament at 2PM & 9PM). The turnout for these is usually between 55-60 players.

While you’re at Caesar’s, there is no shortage of great food. The recently added Gordon Ramsay Hell’s Kitchen is an option, as well as Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill. If you’ve got a taste for some Chinese cuisine, check out Beijing Noodle No 9.

And, what proper Vegas casino would be complete without some live shows? Head to the Colosseum for great live music and entertainment. The 4,300 seats are actually quite intimate, with the farthest being a minute 145 feet from the stage.

Hit the High-Rollers Hotshot

Are you ready to hit the high-rollers tables? Come to The Venetian, where they sometimes have buy ins of $1,600 with $400,000 guaranteed prize pools.

When we discussed the $600 buy in at the beginning, this tournament is for a guaranteed prize pool of $200,000. This is a two day tournament and the number of players is unknown, but with 1/5 of a million dollars in the guaranteed prize pot, you can bet it’ll be packed. Not too shabby of a buy in for such big pay outs.

Venetian Las Vegas Outdoor Gondolas

If you’re going this route, I somehow doubt you really care about live entertainment, but everybody’s gotta eat. If you want your dining bill to match your gambling bankroll, check out Mott 32, an Asian fine dining establishment offering the indulgent beauty of unlikely pairings. If you’re saving your dough for the tables, Chica offers Latin flavors at a bit of a lower cost, but still fine dining.

Goodness, Gracious, This Guy’s Gambling with Gusto

If you’re richer than this author, and want to redistribute or take a shot at winning really big, there are tournaments you can seek out that have $10,000, $25,000, or even $500,000 buy ins. The half million dollar buy in was first featured in July 2015 at the Aria Resort & Casino in Vegas, and appropriately called the Super High Roller Bowl. Brian Rast won that tournament, and walked away $7,525,000 richer.

This year, the buy in for the Super High Roller Bowl is $300,000 with a first prize of $5,000,000 (as well as a championship ring) and a total prize pool of $14,400,000 with 48 players competing.


There you have it folks: a beginner’s guide to just a few of the tournaments that Sin City has to offer. Don’t forget to check out some of the online play available right now at your fingertips.

Poker is definitely an engrossing game, and I, for one, would love to compete in the Super High Rollers Bowl, but I don’t think my bank is likely to give me a loan to enter the tournament, and even if they did, I’d probably use the $300K to buy a nice house with a pool and Dodge Charger.

While that $5M payout would be sweet, I have a surefire tell that would instantly give me away: I cry when parting with $300 at a casino, forget about $3K, or God forbid $300K. My blood is way too cheap for such a game as that. Good luck, future high rollers.