Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Looking at the summer tournaments in Vegas

More (I hope) useful info for you regarding the other tournament options in town during the WSOP.

Comparing the summer Vegas tournaments

By Tuscaloosa Johnny Kampis

What is great for us poker players is there has been a sort of arms race in Vegas the last few summers as competing casinos have begun starting their own events, and then as that competition grows they each try to outdo each other with better structures and higher starting stacks. Each summer you get more play for your money. The triple starting stacks at the World Series of Poker this year is a direct result of all of this competition. Just a few years ago you only got 1,500 chips in $1,500 events – now it’s 4,500.

If you are planning your first Vegas trip, or even if you are not, you should keep in mind that there are plenty of other tournament options in Vegas this summer. Let’s discuss the pros and cons of each of these events as you consider making the trek away from the Rio through the desert to other poker nirvanas. (I am omitting the annual Orleans Open because it was held early this year and will be completed by the time the WSOP rolls around.)

Bellagio Cup

Pros – Great structures are the norms at all Bellagio events and this one is no different. The Cup is held in the Fontana Lounge with a great view of the famous fountains. Most events are held as the WSOP winds down (this year from July 1-July 16) so players who bust out of the main event can used this as a de facto second chance tournament.

Cons – This isn’t for the weak of bankroll as events start at $1,500 and go up to the $15,000 buy-in main event. The fields here are usually among the toughest in town as the Bellagio is a normal World Poker Tour stop.

Binion’s Poker Open

Pros – This event pretty much runs concurrently with the WSOP and for the most part mirrors the WSOP with 10 percent of the buy-in. For example, what is a $1,500 NLHE event at the WSOP might be $150 buy-in here. The premise when this event was started in 2007 was that players could win money in events here and then take it the next day and play the same type WSOP event. So, in essence, the events are affordable, and could be considered as a sort of satellite. Playing here conjures up ghosts of past World Series of Poker events as you will be playing in the same room in which the WSOP was held for more than two decades. The BPO has a nice mix of events like the WSOP and is even holding a Crazy Pineapple tournament this year.

Cons – It’s downtown, making it out of the way for most poker players in town, especially those staying at the Rio. The structures here aren’t as good as in most of the other events in town.

Caesars Mega Stack Series

Pros – This event is making its return in 2009 after an inaugural foray into the tournament mix last summer. It has some of the best structures in town and is held in the Caesars poker room’s separate tournament area, which is quite spacious. Buy-ins are in the affordable $330, $540 and $1,060 range. The casino is conveniently located at the corner of The Strip and Flamingo Boulevard, making it an easy place in which to access.

Cons – $10,000 is taken out of each prize pool to give the winner a WSOP main event seat, which is going to make final table chops tricky. This could also make it difficult for players who weren’t planning on being in town for the main event who win an event here. The events are nothing but NLHE (granted, this could be a pro in the eyes of some).

Deep Stack Extravaganza

Pros – Like Binion’s event, this one runs concurrent with the WSOP (May 28-July 16 to be exact). The structures here are probably the best in town as it’s not called the Deep Stack for nothing. The Venetian poker room is among the most spacious and comfortable of its kind in Vegas. Events are mostly budget conscious with buy-ins of $330 and $550, but also consider the more affluent players with $1,070 and $2,100 buy-ins and a $5,000 main event to cap the series. Lots of satellites are available to win the ever cool octagonal lammers. The Venetian is located mid-Strip, also making it easy to access.

Cons – Like the Caesars series there is little variety here. The DSE will hold one event each of HORSE, O8 and PLO. Otherwise, it’s all NLHE all the time.

The Grand Poker Series

Pros – The variety here is the strongest of all the summer series with a HORSE here and an O8 there. The Golden Nugget is definitely the place to go for variety. Buy-ins are all in the $225 to $330 range except for the $1,080 main event. The Grand convention room is among the most spacious tournament venues and is quite comfortable. The Nugget will also run several daily NLHE tournaments called “bankroll builders.” Howard and Suzie Lederer are hosting an open charity event on July 1 that will feature a number of pros and celebrities.

Cons – The GN is also downtown, making it a more difficult trip than the Strip properties (although a cab is never far away).

World Series of Poker

Pros – Obviously, this is the big one. This is the horse that drives the poker machine in Vegas in the summer. With a great variety of events and buy-ins and no shortage of satellites, the WSOP provides numerous options for players. Cash games are abundant and full of little fishies. If you are a novice or pro wannabe this is the place you are going to be star struck watching your poker heroes in action.

Cons – The Rio is a labyrinth. If you get lost we will send out a search party. Most of the food is overpriced and WSOP comps in cash games are non-existent. The fields here are huge, so winning an event is very, very difficult, but if you do…

(end of article)

Personally, I'll be playing lots of these non-WSOP events this year. My bankroll has been a bit on the weak side this spring as I have not fared particularly well at the tables the first four months of 2009 (although things have been looking up some this month). I've put together a tentative schedule for my Vegas stay with multiple options on some days.

Date Event
June 23 Venetian $330 NLHE or Binion's $150 NLHE
June 24 Binion's $200 HORSE
June 25 Bloggerpalooza
June 26 Golden Nugget $230 HORSE or WSOP $1,500 LHE Shootout
June 27 Golden Nugget $230 Omaha Hi-Lo or WSOP $1,500 NLHE
June 28 Binion's $150 NLHE
June 29 Showing my parents around town
June 30 Binion's $150 Omaha Hi-Lo
July 1 Venetian $300 NLHE
July 2 Golden Nugget $225 NLHE or time with folks

I'm skipping Caesars entirely because of the $10,000 main event seat provision. This year I plan to leave around the time it starts so it does me no good. Several years ago I took a cross country road trip with my parents, brother and uncle and we spent about half a day in Vegas. My mom always wanted to go back so I convinced them this was the summer to do it with rates as cheap as they are. They will be here June 29-July 3 so I'll have to spend some time showing them around. I've been doing a lot of research to find out where they can get free slot play and the like for player's club sign-ups so they can get the most bang for their buck.

Anyway, that is my tentative schedule, crafted so I can get the most bang for my (few) bucks. I always like variety and you can see that in the events I plan to enter. Considering what I'm playing this summer I'm not likely to strike it rich, but if I can bring home a good month's wage I will be happy enough with the results.

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