If you're headed to Peru any time soon, we've got good news for you. There's legal poker in Peru. Yep! You can still get your poker fix when in Peru. Phew! It is spread in three poker rooms in Lima, the nation's capital. All three rooms are conveniently located within an easy walk of one another, in the upscale neighborhood of Miraflores. Two are less than a block apart, making it possible to sample them all during even a brief stay in the city.
Peru uses the sol for currency. Currently the conversion rate is a little over 3 soles to $1 USD. Even so, some of the poker that's spread is spread in dollars. Following Peruvian usage, I will use "S/." to indicate soles (and "$" for dollars).
Changing dollars into soles and back again is very easy, and with little to no risk of getting a bad rate. The casinos all offer the official bank rate when you buy your soles (provided you are planning on using the currency in the casino). They also give you the bank rate when you buy back your dollars, even without a receipt for the original transaction. That's exactly what I did. In other words, unlike in other casinos around the world, no money was lost as a result of changing money from one currency into the other.
The three rooms in Lima are the Fiesta, the Majestic, and the Atlantic City. I visited them all during a recent three-day stay in the city, and here's my report on each of them.
The Fiesta Hotel & Casino
509 Benavides Avenue
+51 (511) 610-4150
The Fiesta is the least appealing of the rooms, though not for reasons of ambience. It's a nicely appointed, small segregated room up on the second floor to the right as you enter the casino. The problem at the Fiesta is that they may not have a game going.
Though the announced official opening hour of the poker room was listed as 6 p.m., and though the poker room manager said that poker would be definitely be underway by 8 p.m. on Saturday night, I waited until 9:30 p.m. and they had nothing, just a dealer and a room manager.
They did offer me a free beverage and even a meal, but alas, not a game. When they do have a game, it's S/.5/5 no limit with a S/.200 minimum and no maximum, with a 4% rake up to S/.70 maximum per hand. They do not offer tournaments at this time.
615 Malecon De la Reserva
+51 (511) 217-7000
The Majestic, nicely located right by the water, offers an active poker room. They start their action at 7:30 p.m. or so, with the last game tending to end around 2-3 a.m. although officially the room is open for play from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. They have five tables altogether, two of which were in action on the Saturday night I visited.
They spread S/.5/5 no limit with a S/.300 minimum and no maximum. About half the players had at or near the minimum in our game, while a few players had many thousands of soles. I'd guess that the average stack was between S./500 and S./600 (or about $150-$180 USD). Their rake is a seemingly modest 4%, but they rake the pot up to a maximum of S./70.
Straddles of any amount are allowed from any position, including a Mississippi straddle from the button. Typically, players straddle for S/.10 on the button, though I saw a S/.20 and S/.50 straddle while I watched.
There are twice-weekly tournaments, modestly priced at S/.50 but just "for the ladies." The room offers active players a free full plate of food and unlimited complimentary beverages, served at the table.
Atlantic City Casino
430 Benavides Avenue
+51 (511) 705-4400
The Atlantic City is, without question, the most active poker room of the three in Lima. This is where PokerStars' Latin American Poker Tour has made frequent visits in the past.
Their games always go off as scheduled at 6 p.m. They always have cash games, put on daily tournaments, and feature a large base of players. The night I visited, at six o'clock they had three satellites going for their 8 p.m. tournament, and a S/.5/5 cash game going.
Later in the evening they had two S/.5/5 games running, and I was told they sometimes have three or four such games going later in the evening, once the tournament is over. I was also told they occasionally spread a $25/$50 cash game, with a $5,000 minimum buy-in, but that wasn't going on the Sunday I played.
The 8 p.m. tourney ended up with four full tables. That didn't put a dent in the cash game which had a few players on a waiting list even as the tournament got started. The Atlantic City claims to have "the lowest rake in all of South America." I can't verify that, not having checked on all the rooms on the continent, but it surely is the lowest rake in Lima, at 3% with a S/.52 maximum.
I played in both the $110 tournament ($100 into the prize pool; $10 to the house) and in the cash game — three hours in the former and four hours in the latter.
I found the play to be roughly the same in both games. Both tournament and the cash game had one or two strong, tight-aggressive, hard-to-read players at the table who regularly bombarded the pot with raises. Meanwhile the rest of the players were moderately tight, timid, easy to read, and easy to manipulate. If it wasn't the easiest casino game I've seen in the last ten years, it was surely at the very top of the list. It reminded me of no-limit cash games when they first started to be spread online — that is, before so many people learned what no-limit hold'em was all about.
Even with the large total amount of rake coming out of large pots, I think a solid player would have a very good chance of winning money in this room — surely in the cash game, and maybe even in the tournaments. They also had a very nice perk. They spread a modest buffet of chicken fried rice, vegetables, and flan for dessert that was free to any players in the room.
All three of the casinos, including their poker rooms, are non-smoking as a matter of Peruvian law. Though the casinos operate on a 24/7 basis, the poker rooms and other table games are only allowed to be open from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Though I wouldn't put Lima on my list of places to visit strictly for poker, it's nice to know there is some really good poker in the city if you happen to be there for other purposes.