When it comes to planning a summer trip to Las Vegas to play poker, almost every player naturally plots a schedule based around tournaments at the World Series of Poker.
It makes sense. After all, the WSOP is the biggest, most prestigious tournament series in poker. Every tournament player’s dream is to wrap his or her fingers around a gold bracelet and pose behind bricks of cash with piles of tournament chips strewn in front.
However, as amazing as the WSOP is, it’s far from the only game in town. Throughout the summer, a number of casinos around Las Vegas play host to their own tournament series and daily tournaments, many of which produce sizable prize pools and are well worth playing.
In this week’s installment of our 10-part WSOP guide, we’re mostly stepping outside the big Rio All-Suite Casino and Hotel box and looking at some other tournament choices around the city. Note that while the Venetian plays host to probably the largest number of tournaments outside of the Rio, we’ll be omitting it from this piece because giving money to Sheldon Adelson is something poker players should strive to avoid doing when possible.
First mention belongs to our friends at the Hollywood Poker Open, who will be hosting the HPO $2,500 Championship Event June 23-26 at The M Resort. This will be the fourth year for this event, and it has been a successful one each time. In 2013, Ana Marquez topped a field of 631 entries to win $320,189. In 2014, Simon Deadman won $351,097 for besting a field of 692 entries. Last year's winner was Keven Stammen for $347,045 after he finished in first place of a field of 684 entries.
Click here for full details on the HPO Championship.
Before continuing to venture away from the Rio, however, we should mention the ever popular Rio Daily Deepstack Tournaments that will throughout the WSOP from late May right through July 18. Four daily tournaments will run each day, with buy-ins of $135, $185, $235, and $365.
Turning our attention to other Vegas venues, for players who have never traveled to the WSOP before, there is one massively helpful tool that you can use to canvas the city on any given day and see what tournaments are going on. Each summer, Kenny Hallaert, a Belgian player with more than $1.3 million in live tournament cashes, puts together a city-wide tournament calendar that spans May 26 through July 24. You can access it freely here.
The first non-WSOP tournament I want to highlight is one I’ve participated in each of the past two summers — the World Poker Tour's WPT500 at the ARIA Resort & Casino. The WPT500 is a $565 buy-in tournament with nine starting flights and a $1 million guarantee attached to the prize pool. This year’s event begins June 27, with Day 2 commencing July 5. It just can't be beat in my opinion when looking at tournaments outside the Rio.
|Monday, June 27||Day 1a|
|Tuesday, June 28||Day 1b|
|Wednesday, June 29||Day 1c|
|Thursday, June 30||Day 1d|
|Friday, July 1||Day 1e|
|Saturday, July 2||Day 1f|
|Sunday, July 3||Day 1g|
|Monday, July 4||Day 1h and 1i Turbo|
|Tuesday, July 5||Day 2|
|Wednesday, July 6||Final Table|
The structure for the WPT500 gives plenty of play with 15,000-chip starting stacks, although the 30-minute levels make things a little turbo-like for the first eight levels. Plus there’s a huge prize pool with a very soft field. If you're fortunate enough to bag on a Day 1, you’ll undoubtedly run into some tough and experienced opponents on Day 2 — e.g., I played with Keven Stammen, Vinny Pahuja, and Eli Elezra on the second day last year. But on the whole, the field leans very inexperienced and it’s just a fantastic tournament in a great venue.
Another great set of events takes place at Rio's sister property, Planet Hollywood. For one thing, the Phamous Poker Series GOLIATH might be the only place outside of the Rio where you can play a Dealer’s Choice tournament. And if it’s big prize pools for a reasonable price you’re looking for, there’s a $600 entry, $1 million guaranteed event that neatly coincides with the Colossus in early June, meaning that players who bust out of the everyman’s “main event” have a second option that’s plenty juicy.
The WPT500 might be my favorite single tournament outside of the Rio, but when it comes to tournament series, my top choice is the Wynn Summer Classic, spanning June 2-July 17 this year. Their $400 tournaments with $50,000 guaranteed prize pools run many days throughout the summer, and they finish in one day but still have a good structure and solid prize pool. They really can’t be beat for a one-day event. These are my go-to if I’m looking to play a tournament on my days off but can’t commit for multiple days.
Click here to view the schedule for the 2016 Wynn Summer Classic.
A tournament that often goes overlooked — possibly due to its location on Fremont Street, away from the strip — is the Golden Nugget's $500,000 guaranteed, $570 buy-in event, taking place starting on June 29 this year with the first of three starting flights. I’ve never personally played this one, but I have been told by friends who have that it has an excellent structure, features a soft field, and offers the possibility of an overlay. It's part of the The Grand Poker Series at the Golden Nugget, and you can view the entire series' schedule by clicking here.
Perhaps none of these tournaments appeals to you, because hold’em isn’t your game. If that’s the case, you have options as well.
One spot you might want to try out that a number of my colleagues in the media have frequented in the past is the Orleans. I’ve never played there (and it’s not on Hallaert’s list), but over past summers the staff there has taken a bit of an off-beat approach to their tournament schedule. Rather than try to compete with the swell of no-limit hold’em events more conveniently located on the strip, the Orleans plays host to tournaments in a variety of other games like Omaha hi-low and H.O.R.S.E. events.
Although a representative of the room informed PokerNews that there will be no Orleans Poker Open this year, which generally preceded the WSOP, the room runs 14 weekly tournaments, with two each day taking place at 12:05 and 7:05 p.m. PT. Of those 14, six are non-hold'em events. You can view the current weekly tournament schedule at the Orleans by clicking here.
Binion's likewise features a number of non-NLHE offerings during its low buy-in summer tournament series, Binion's 10th Annual Poker Classic, running from early June to early July. You can find the full schedule by clicking here, and it includes a $565 Championship Event with a $50,000 guarantee.
Whether you bust out of an event at the WSOP and are thirsty for more tournament action or simply are looking for tournaments on a smaller buy-in scale, there are a number of great options peppered throughout the summer calendar at locations besides the Rio. You might be dreaming of walking away from your summer trip to Vegas with a bracelet and a life-changing pile of money, but that isn’t the only way to have an exciting and successful summer on the felt.
- To read Part 1 of this series, How To Attack the WSOP, Part 1: Planning What To Play, click here.
- To read Part 2 of this series, How to Attack the WSOP, Part 2: Taking Advantage of Satellites, Live and Online, click here.
- To read Part 3 of this series, How to Attack the WSOP, Part 3: Coming Prepared, click here.
- To read Part 4 of this series, How to Attack the WSOP, Part 4: Know Your Limits — Limit Versus No-Limit Strategy, click here.
- To read Part 5 of this series, How to Attack the WSOP, Part 5: Tips From the Pros, click here.
- To read Part 6 of this series, How to Attack the WSOP, Part 6: Make the Colossus Your Main Event, click here.
*Photo courtesy of the WPT.