Friday night I went to the Palms poker room and put my name on the list for 2-5 NL. The list was pretty long, though, so as I stood around waiting, I tried to decide whether to go somewhere else. As I was waiting, Layne Flack showed up and just hung out with a few friends at the poker room. This is one of the weird things about the Palms the I could never figure out. The limits only go up to 5-10 NL, but the big names will sometimes show up and just hang around. Recently I've seen Flack and Joe Awada there, and last year I spotted Phil Gordon playing the 2-5 NL game there. Gordon was pretty sloshed at the time, and so was I (we had both been at the club earlier). He saw me standing there watching the game and asked if I wanted to play... I said there didn't seem to be any seats open, and he said something like "I hear there's a seat open over at the Bellagio," to which I responded "well, if you want to go over there I'd be glad to take your seat." We went on like that for a minute or so but I can't remember what else was said. Anyway, back to the present (by which I mean Friday). After five or ten minutes, the list at the Palms hadn't gotten any shorter. I decided to check out the Rio, which is just a couple of minutes from the Palms. I figured if the Rio was also crowded, I could head back over to the Palms, by which point I would probably be near the top of the list. Fortunately, when I got to the Rio, I was second on the list and got into a game within five minutes.
I shouldn't even be posting this because it's almost certainly unprofitable for me to tell other good players about this, but the Rio poker room is a gold mine, at least on the weekends. The players at the 2-5 NL game there play like low-limit or relatively weak 1-2 NL players, and there are usually five or six people drinking alcohol at any given ten person table. The games are just unbelievable. When I told some of the other players that I like playing at the Wynn, they thought I was crazy. "The games there are really tight... the players are just too tough," they would respond. Well, in light of my recent discovery of the Rio, I have to agree with them.
Let me describe one hand to you. There are a few guys at the Rio who are actually quite good. One of them, a skinny Asian guy of about 40, was at my table on Friday, and he was just running over the table. Of the winning players I saw at the Rio, he was by far the most loose- aggressive (actually, I was the only player who was close). By bluffing people out whenever he sensed weakness, he was winning nearly half the pots at this ten person table, and had built up a stack of over $1500. Nobody else at the table was willing to risk their whole stacks without super-strong hands, and he was capitalizing on their risk-aversion. Fortunately, I don't have the same problem, so when I had AQo under the gun, I just limped in. Normally, it is not correct to try to limp-raise with anything weaker than QQ, but AQ0 is so much better than the average hand this guy was raising with that I felt it was worth a shot. I had about $300 behind. Sure enough, he raised to $25, and when it got around to me, I re-raised it up to $90. After a few seconds, he pushed me all in.... at this point I wasn't quite so happy with my hand. There was now a decent chance he had me beat with AK or even KK, but with almost $200 in the pot and his $210 bet, I was getting almost 2-1 odds on my call, and I couldn't justify a fold. Besides, I still figured there was a very good chance I was either way ahead or only slightly behind (like for instance if he had AJ or 99, respectively). I called and won a $600 pot against his KJo.
There are several other hands worth posting about, too, but I want to give a quick review of the Palms and the Rio, like I did with the Bellagio, Wynn, and Mirage earlier.
$2-5 NL $100-$500 buy-in. Also sometimes a $5-10NL game.
Very small room, only 4 or 5 no-limit tables and maybe 8 limit tables. This sometimes results in long waits.
Parking is pretty easy - I like to park outside. The walk is reasonably short.
The bathrooms are the most accessible of any poker room I know.
Weekends often get overflow from the very popular club scene, which can be quite profitable. However, this has attracted some very good regulars who make the games very tough when the fish aren't swimming. It also means there is good scenery (ie club girls walking by).
Floorpeople and dealers are reasonably good.
I think they have shuffling machines but I'm not sure.
Fast food reasonably close.
I can't remember what the rake is.
$2-5 NL $100-500 buy-in
Small room; only a few games at a time.
Parking can be a pain. Also the walk from the garage to the poker room is ridiculously long.
Update: Actually, the parking is very convenient if you go to the right parking lot. The one off Flamingo is much further from the poker room than the one off Valley View.
Rio attracts a loud, raucous, drunken crowd, and this spill sover into the poker room. Like I said, it's the easiest money I've found so far (although 1-2NL at the Stratosphere is very weak too).
Floorpeople and dealers are friendly and helpful, but they don't always seem to have a good grasp of the rules, or don't enforce them very well.
Some tables have shuffling machines (which I like because it makes the game go faster).
The buffet is good and right across from the poker room, but I've only been once.
Rake is unusually high. All the casinos I know of take at most $4 out of each pot. The Rio takes the fourth dollar out when the pot reaches $40. For comparison, the Wynn takes out the fourth dollar at $120 I think.