The Many Ways Las Vegas Is Making Poker Fresh Again

Written By Marc Meltzer on May 27, 2022 - Last Updated on May 31, 2022
new ways to play poker in Las Vegas

Playing casino poker in Las Vegas isn’t what it used to be. The poker boom in the early 2000s brought plenty of new players to the casinos to play the game.

That poker boom was an amalgamation of two things. Online poker was at its peak in popularity around the world. Recreational poker players saw their potential future when everyman, Chris Moneymaker, took home the World Series Of Poker (WSOP) Main Event championship in 2003.

More than anything else, these two things brought poker players to the casinos and that changed the layout of many gaming areas. Poker rooms replaced parts of the casino that were either vacant or were home to empty slot machines.

A funny thing happened over the next 20 years. The boom ended and many poker rooms closed. There are only about 20 poker rooms in Las Vegas casinos today.

‘Meetup games’ are low-key and more sociable

After the boom in the early 2000s, the poker rooms around Las Vegas began closing as fewer guests were looking to play.

Some of the poker rooms in the larger casinos remain popular since there are so many visitors visiting Las Vegas to gamble. Some of the smaller poker rooms that remain open had to look for new ways to attract players to the properties.

Since the boom, a new generation of poker players has been finding their way to enjoy the game they love. Some of those online relationships between media outlets and other players continue to grow stronger over the years. Many enjoy Nevada’s online gambling scene.

The thirst for poker has never entirely died, it’s just not “booming” like in the early 2000s. Like many hobbies, social media allows poker players to bond online. Poker players are still around and many of them are meeting one another online.

Poker rooms now periodically host meetup games. These are low-key and low-stakes poker games between players who either know each other online or have come together because of their common interest being poker.

New types of poker events in Las Vegas casinos

The popular poker rooms in large casinos are still bustling with tourists or locals. However, there’s less excitement among recreational poker players to play the head-to-head game so many enjoyed inside casinos nearly 20 years ago.

I’ve been playing poker outside of casinos since the second grade. That’s a story for another day.

The poker boom tempted me to play against strangers in a casino for the first time. Unfortunately, the experience wasn’t fun. I never returned to a casino poker room despite still enjoying poker with friends on occasion.

Playing casino poker face to face against strangers just wasn’t for me. Poker is a competition and I prefer beating people I know instead of those I’m not familiar with.

When I gamble in a casino, I like winning money from the big corporations. Playing poker isn’t quite the same as playing blackjack or craps.

Casinos collect a commission (rake) for every hand regardless of the outcome. Even though the casino corporations are involved with poker, my winning or losing comes from other people. Winning money from someone I don’t know or have anything in common with doesn’t do it for me.

The poker scene in Las Vegas, and around the country, has changed in the past 20 years. While there are fewer poker rooms, there are new types of poker events that are more friendly and social.

Players are still competitive in these games but they’re also more social. Meetup games and special events bring poker players together with a common interest.

If I still had the passion for playing poker, these are the kind of poker events that I would likely enjoy.

Poker personalities bringing new players to casinos

Many poker players today are bonded by watching others visit casinos and play. The world of poker vloggers (video bloggers) is helping bring players back to casinos.

Meetup games are poker events are bringing together a group of people who are fans of certain recreational and pro poker personalities. Tim “TheTrooper97” Watts, Andrew Neeme and Brad Owen are a few of the popular online poker personalities that have had meetup games in casinos.

The low-limit meetup games start at $1/$2. The vibe of this kind of game is different than traditional casino poker games.

While the games are still head to head with a casino taking its regular rake, players have a common interest in the personalities attached to the game. The common interest provides a more social and relaxed environment for the players.

Meetup games aren’t players just walking into a casino playing against 10 strangers from around the world. There’s a common interest among everyone involved and the games are a little closer to playing a home game with friends.

The meetup games aren’t large poker tournaments. These events typically have fewer than five tables at once.

Taking the meetup game to another level

The next step in the evolution of recreational poker events could be festivals hosted by media organizations. These events can offer more relaxed poker games than a meetup game hosted by an individual.

One example of this is the Cardplayer Lifestyle Mixed Game Festival at Resorts World Las Vegas. The games will take place at the newest casino on the Vegas Strip from Jun. 12-16.

Like meetup games, the Mixed Game Festival will have low-stakes cash games for a group of poker fans with a common interest. In this case, mixed game stakes are the typical $4/$8. The low and fixed limits of the games mean that players can enjoy poker with a small budget without diving into their wallets for more money.

The common interest is a bond between Cardplayer Lifestyle readers and followers. Host Robbie Strazynski tells PlayNevada:

“(t)here’s a lot of friendly ribbing going on at our tables, and the loud, raucous, rollicking atmosphere tends to contrast quite favorably with the relatively quiet, serious vibe you’ll find at No-Limit Hold’em tables.”

This event takes the meetup experience to another level with more than just a few tables of No-Limit Hold’em among a group of players that have a common interest. This isn’t a tournament like WSOP. There will only be cash games at the event.

Festivals offer more than just a game

The 30-table poker room at Resorts World will be dealing with a variety of poker games beyond the widely popular No-Limit Hold’em at low limit stakes.

Since there are no tournaments, players won’t get stuck in an event that lasts forever. This event is the perfect kind of “excuse” for a poker player to check out Resorts World and all it has to offer.

Strazynski says a “number of mini-events, like book signings by top poker pros, as well as numerous free merchandise giveaways, including the opportunity to win a PokerStars live event package.”

Ultimately poker events like the Cardplayer Lifestyle Mixed Game Festival will appeal to recreational players looking for fun, affordable, low-pressure poker games with players that share a common interest.

Big money poker events in Las Vegas this summer will bring serious higher-stakes poker players to a variety of brand-name casinos. Events like meetup games and small festivals could bring a new group of poker players to the other casino poker rooms.

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Marc Meltzer

Marc grew up on the mean streets of the South Bronx. He's the rare combination of Yankees and Jets fan which explains his often contrarian point of view. Marc is a freelance writer and social media consultant. Writing about steak, booze, gambling and Las Vegas is a tough job but somebody has to do it.

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