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Best of Vin Narayanan
Vin's top-10 poker rooms21 March 2011
10. Aviation Club de France
This room has three things I love -- location, history and elegance. The club, which opened in 1907, is on the Champs Elysees right by the Arc de Triomphe. It was originally a private club for pilots, but in 1925 it opened up to "elegant" gamblers, with baccarat as the game of choice. The club opened a poker room in 1995 and has hosted top tier poker tournaments including the Grand Prix de Paris and a WPT event. They just redesigned and renovated the place to give it a modern touch. There are 20 tables in the room and it's open 24 hours. Unfortunately, this is the hardest poker room for me to visit, so it falls to ten on this list.
This is a pure nostalgia play for me. Binion's Gambling Hall & Hotel used to host the World Series of Poker before it moved to the Rio. There's a Wall of Fame just outside of the poker room that has pictures of each Main Event champion up to 2004 (the WSOP moved to the Rio in 2005). And it's the first place I played in a poker tournament. The recently remodeled room has 10 tables in a good-sized room. But its downtown Las Vegas location keeps it from being any higher on this list.
8. Bally's Atlantic City
The hat tip on this one goes to Casino City's Aaron Todd, who discovered the $1/$/1 No Limit Hold'em game at Bally's Atlantic City - Wild Wild West Casino last year. As he notes, there's something in this game for everyone. If you have a small bankroll, these stakes are great for you. And if you're an experienced player, you're sure to find some fish.
7. Seminole Casino in Hollywood
This year's WSOP Main Event showed Florida produces some really good poker players. Three players from the 2010 Main Event final table -- Michael Mizrachi, John Dolan and John Racener -- were from Florida. And two of them -- Mizrachi and Dolan -- have spent some time playing at the Seminole Casino Hollywood. Mizrachi even used to be a dealer there. Combine that with its great south Florida weather you a get a poker room worth playing in.
6. The Bike
The poker room at the Bicycle Casino near Los Angeles is smoke free, which is a huge plus for me. It also has 175 tables and plenty of HD televisions to keep you occupied when play slows down at your table. And if you can deal with the L.A. traffic, the weather will be great.
Commerce Casino gets the nod over the Bike as best L.A. poker room for one reason -- they're willing to host home games. That's awesome. If you live in the L.A. area (or even if you don't), Commerce is willing to host and deal your home game. You pay the normal rake that you would if you were playing at a "regular" Commerce table. They'll even take pictures of you and your friends playing and send them to you. I love it.
Foxwoods Resort Casino is one of two premier poker destinations on the East Coast. The WPT World Poker Room is massive, with 104 tables. It's open 24 hours a day. It's usually pretty full. You can always find a game that suits your wallet, and it's close enough to the food courts in Foxwoods that it's easy slip away for a quick bite to eat. Foxwoods also hosts a full slate of daily tournaments that usually have pretty good structures.
The Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa in Atlantic City is the other premier poker destination on the East Coast. And when you're at the Borgata, you feel like you're in Las Vegas. The poker room has 85 tables and it let's you know on its Web site how many tables are currently in use and what games are being spread. It attracts a wide variety of players -- read fish -- and it's in Atlantic City, so there are other casinos close by to visit.
Luxury is the best word to describe the poker room at the Bellagio. The poker room encompasses 7,000 square feet, including 40 tables and two high-limit areas. The high-limit room that everyone knows about is Bobby's Room, where poker luminaries like Doyle Brunson and Phil Ivy play in the biggest cash games in town. In fact, part of the fun of playing in the Bellagio poker room is keeping an eye on Bobby's Room for notables. The bigger draw though is playing poker in the lap of luxury. The furniture is plush. The service is excellent. And it's smoke free.
The Venetian Resort-Hotel-Casino combines the Bellagio's luxury with a great spread of games. And that easily makes it the best poker room in Vegas. The chairs and tables are comfortable, and you can always find Hold'em, Stud and Omaha games to play in. Their deep stack tournaments are the best in the country. And if you play six hours of cash games a day, you qualify for the poker room rate, which is $129 a night (Sunday-Thursday) and $179 (Friday-Saturday). If you planned on playing that much poker to begin with on your Vegas journey, you might as well take advantage of the Venetian's offer. Room rates for a Venetian Bella Suite this week (Wednesday and Thursday night) were $309 per night, so the poker rate is indeed a significant saving.
Best of Vin Narayanan