Ask Frequent Poker Players (FPP) in Las Vegas about their favorite rooms and you will often hear low to medium limit players mention the Monte Carlo. Located between New York-New York and Bellagio, the Monte Carlo may be the best "overlooked" room on the Las Vegas Strip. This will probably change when the massive CityCenter opens in 2009 with a 60-story, 4,000-room hotel and casino along with two additional 400-room 'boutique hotels' and 500,000 square feet of premier retail shops, entertainment and dining. The completed complex will literally connect the Monte Carlo to Bellagio and allow gamblers, shoppers and strollers to experience these three casinos with all of their amenities as one massive CityCenter.
At least until then, I would guess that the Monte Carlo poker room will remain one of the 'best known but best kept' secrets in Las Vegas. The card room at Monte Carlo is tucked away back in the rear of the casino but that is actually a good thing. Very near the parking garage entrance and, of course, next to the sports book; the nine table room is well designed in beautiful dark wood paneling, unique and humorous poker paintings and the ever present flat screen televisions. The out of the way location means the room is quiet and amazingly smoke free despite the smokers hanging out at the entrance. You do have to fight through the cloud of haze to get to the podium or to the restrooms but the facilities are very close; you can make it in one hand or less.
As with most low-limit rooms the Monte Carlo is usually 'all hold'em all the time.' Until very recently the room hosted one of the few remaining 7 card stud games still spread on the strip, I must announce, however, that this is no longer the case, during my last visit I heard a returning player ask to start a stud interest list and he was told: "There hasn't been a stud game here in six months." However, to counter the all hold'em saturation of the games, the Monte Carlo has a special HORSE night. Every Thursday a regular $4/$8 HORSE game is advertised and most Thursday there is more than one table dealing the mixed game. I played a couple of times and will report that the game is quite fun, moderately loose but is often HOSE and not HORSE as the regulars are not RAZZ fans. Still, it's a nice variation and the always competent Monte Carlo dealers run a very fine mixed game.
The room has high hand bonuses for all hands four-of-a-kind and above with prizes generally between $100 and $2000 dollars paid fairly regularly. I would also point out that of all the rooms I have visited in Las Vegas, the Monte Carlo has the best cocktail service in town. The service is incredibly fast, the servers come around at least every ten minutes and they remember your beverage of choice.
Tournaments at Monte Carlo are held twice a day. There is a $40+$10 NLHE everyday at 9 AM and a $50+$10 at 6 PM. Generally the morning offerings get two or three tables and the evenings are three or four tables, slightly larger on the weekend. The buy-ins needs some explaining and some complaining. $40+$10 means $40 buy-in plus and optional $10 add-on. The add-on comes at the beginning of the tournament and there are no re-buys, so unless you want to have half as many chips (1,000) as everyone else (2,000) in the tournament, this is in effect a $50 event. After all of the fine print ($32 to prize pool, $8 house fee, $4 prize pool, and $6 staff fee) your $50 goes $36 to the prize pool and $14 to various parts of the house. This amounts to a 28% house cut, which is only slightly lower (26.6%) for the 6 PM ($60) tournament. That's a lot of juice and a higher than most of the low buy-ins I have reviewed recently.
One last tip for playing at the Monte Carlo, the CityCenter construction has the parking lots for the casino mostly covered with cranes and bulldozers. The current Monte Carlo lot is to your left as you drive down the cluttered roadway just south of the casino.
Ed Note: Feel like you are in Monte Carlo when you play at Poker Stars. Tuxedo optional.