Let's talk a little about Laughlin before we get to our comments on the seven poker rooms in operation there. Laughlin is located 90 miles south of Las Vegas; 30 miles west of Kingman, Arizona; just off Interstate 40, within easy reach of all of northwest Arizona, southern Nevada and the desert southeast of California. In the winter when the snowbirds are down for the season, the poker rooms in Laughlin can be very busy for both the cash games and the tournaments.
There is also a fair amount of casino property turnover going on in Laughlin right now and that means upgrades to the hotels, casinos and the poker rooms. At least one completely new room is in the works and new tables and decor is evident in many of the existing rooms. Ownership changes when there is a profit to be made and for the astute poker player there is profit in the southern desert of Nevada.
With seven poker rooms the tournament action is almost non-stop in Laughlin. All of the rooms hold tournaments and many are expanding their schedules. The cash games are heavily a local favorite $2/$6 spread limit Hold'em, which is played with one $2 blinds and a $6 max. Bet anytime.
You want to check the rake in the room before you sit down to a cash game. Basically, Laughlin is a 10% rake with a $4 max. kind of town. But there is a $1 bonus on top of that, so it's $5 total. The important piece of information is how and when the bonus comes out of the pot. In at least two rooms the $5 cap is divided $3 to the house rake and $2 to the bonus offerings. Now that is clearly a better deal for the players, however, at least one house take the entire $2 for the bonus pool out of a $20 pot, which means a $20 pot is minus $2 for the rake and $2 for the bonus and that is a 20% rake of the pot!
You don't have to post to take your seat in a cash game in Laughlin but you should read the tournament rules before taking your seat; there are some 'interesting' local variations from the standard Tournament Director's Association rules used in Las Vegas.
Ramada Express/Tropicana Express (7 tables+)
The current Ramada Express Hotel and Casino is in the process of being acquired by the Aztar Corporation, the owners of the Tropicana properties in Las Vegas and Atlantic City. The expected name change from Ramada Express to Tropicana Express will make it the first but apparently not the last casino property to eventually bear the new 'Tropicana Express' branding.
The room has recently grown from 6 to 7 tables and for the big Saturday afternoon tournament they add 3 more tables with promises of even more room in the near future. The Saturday tournament is the only event currently on the Ramada tournament schedule but expect that to change soon, particularly since this is already the biggest (100+) event in town. It's a $75 NLHE tournament with all the add-ons and dealer bonuses and there is a bounty on every player from $10 to $110.
I do need to add to the staff at the Ramada Express and to floor staff in all poker rooms at all times: When a customer asks you a question in a respectful manner, it is inappropriate and unprofessional to respond by saying: "Anytime you would like to run the tournament…"
River Palms (8 tables)
The River Palms is the other Aztar property in Laughlin. Aztar has been in control of this property for some time and the tournament schedule reflects this. At least two $35 tournaments everyday with an added $40+$40+$5 five nights a week. On Friday night "the game" in town is the River Palms $120 (8000 chip) tournament. Winners of daily "sessions" also win seats in this Friday night event; a session is a three-hour time period during which each $30 pot is awarded a session chip. Win the most chips and get a freeroll into the Friday night tournament. They run four "sessions" a day Monday through Friday, so the Friday night event is front-loaded with 20 freerollers funded from the bonus pool.
Stay tuned next week for part two of the series.