Mastering Poker: On The Strip Guide To The Classic Las Vegas Game

When an accountant from Tennessee named Chris Moneymaker won the World Series of Poker in 2003, he inspired thousands of fellow amateurs to take up the game that has been a staple for some of Las Vegas’s best casinos. The poker boom is said to have ended three years later when the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006, UIGEA,  became law in the United States. It put an end to a booming online poker business, shutting down some of the most heavily trafficked poker sites on the web.

Sixteen years later, no-limit Texas Hold’em is back with a vengeance, more popular today than before the boom. Nowhere is that more evident than in the 21 open poker rooms on the Las Vegas Strip. A list of these poker rooms provided by PokerAtlas includes cash game lineups and tournament schedules.

An infographic about poker
Who’s the top of the flop? Poker battles on the strip

How to Play Pre-Flop

You win at poker by having the strongest hand at showdown, or convincing your opponents to fold. To initiate play, the dealer distributes two cards, called hole cards, face down to each player at the table. The players look at their hands and decide whether to call, fold, raise, re-raise any existing bets, or go all-in, putting their entire stack at risk. During the pre-flop betting round, a player has the option to fold, losing nothing more than blinds and antes. When he has a playable hand, raising pre-flop is generally the strongest line to take.

A man playing poker in low light
Can’t ready my poker face? Try it out in Las Vegas

What Is Limping In Poker?

Just calling in an unraised pot is called limping. Players may limp with a medium-strength hand or worse, hoping to see a cheap flop, but an aggressive opponent usually makes a large raise, preventing that from happening. A player may limp shove to get value while disguising the strength of a premium hand. Usually, with aces, an inexperienced player limps in, hoping to get raised. When he does, he says, “all- in,” forcing his opponent to fold or pay him off a large percentage of the time. When a player takes this line, he’s announcing to the table that he has a monster. When he goes all-in, his opponent has an easy decision to make. He will fold with all but his best hands. This may seem like a good outcome because the limper wins the hand, but he’s losing substantial value by taking down the pot pre-flop. It is calculated risks like this that make poker worth winning versus pure chance options like finding loose slot machines on the Strip.

How Do You Do 3-Betting When Playing Poker?

Re-raising another player’s bet, called 3-betting, is primarily done for value with a range as tight as QQ, KK, AA and AK or as wide as, TT, JJ, QQ, KK, AA, AQ suited, AK and wider at times. Three-betting as a bluff is not as common at $1/$2 as at higher stakes, but 3-bet bluffing is a good way to show aggression at any limit if your opponents have the ability to fold. 

A man shuffles cards
Don’t get mixed up. Focus required for Las Vegas poker

What Do You Do At The Flop In Poker?

Once the players have completed their pre-flop actions, the dealer turns over three community cards, called the flop. Players look to see if they connect with the board, and may check, bet, 3-bet or go all-in. Often the player who raised or 3-bet pre-flop will bet the flop, making what’s called a continuation bet, or C-bet. Sometimes, he sizes his bet smaller to encourage his opponents to call, and other times larger to pressure them into folding. Playing poker involves focusing on your opponent’s hand range as well as your own two cards.

Understanding The Turn When Playing Poker

Next, the dealer turns over another community card, called the turn. The players look to see if it improves their hands, and proceed to bet, fold, 3-bet or go all-in. From time to time, players on the turn make an aggressive move, called a check-raise. The player checks the turn to disguise the strength of his hand. When another player makes a bet, he 3-bets or goes all-in. A turn check-raise usually represents strength, so fold against one unless you have a strong hand or a reliable reason to believe you’re being bluffed. 

A man playing poker in the dark
Raise the stakes. poker in Las Vegas

The River: Poker’s Last Chance

The dealer turns over the final community card, called the river. This is the last chance to get more of your opponent’s money into the pot with a value hand. That usually involves betting the largest amount you think he will call, or going all-in. Against an opponent who is likely to bluff when you don’t bet, check-raising or check-shoving is often better than betting with the nuts. The river is your last opportunity to bluff when your hand’s too weak to win at showdown. Avoid bluffing in multiway pots, and don’t bluff at too high a frequency.  If you do, you might be spotted and wind up searching for the cheapest food options available in Las Vegas.

The Final Showdown At The Poker Table

Players use a combination of their hole cards and the five community cards to make their best possible five-card poker hand. Players reveal their cards and the one with the highest-ranking poker hand wins the pot. The last player to bet is the first one to show his hand. If the hand doesn’t get to showdown, the winner is the player who bets and causes his opponents to fold.

A woman dealing cards for poker
Don’t be a flop, wait for the river! In Las Vegas

Game Theory Optimal

GTO is used to describe a strategy where you attempt to play theoretically perfect poker, becoming unexploitable to your opponents. To remain unpredictable, a GTO player must balance the number of value bets he makes with the number of bluffs. On the flop, GTO says to bluff twice for every one value bet you make. On the turn, the ratio of value bets to bluffs is 1:1. The bluff frequency on the river is dependent on your bet size. While it’s primarily practiced by high stakes players, a solid foundation in GTO will improve your game whatever style or limits you play. 

GTO Poker Solvers

GTO poker solvers, such as PioSOLVER, tell players the optimal way to play each spot, sometimes offering split strategies. For example, it may tell a player to raise a certain hand 70% of the time and call 30%. While solvers can’t be used at the poker table, many players spend thousands of hours with the software reviewing hands. They’re not trying to memorize everything the solver says, but to understand GTO and become familiar with an endless number of possible poker scenarios. 

A pair of aces stood up againts some chips
Can you be the poker ace? Las Vegas Poker

Exploitative Strategy

Most poker players do not play GTO, favoring an exploitative strategy that targets their weaker opponents. Players have a tendency to act in predictable ways in many situations. For example, if an opponent is C-betting every flop, you might consider check-raising him or calling him down light. If he’s folding too often when facing C-bets, the counter strategy is to C-bet him until he stops backing down. Be aware of players who never fold to C-bets and don’t try to bluff them because it won’t work often enough to be profitable. Against them, C-bet for value with a wider range. 

Poker Rooms That Attract the Most Tourists

It’s not a hard and fast rule, but tourists who like to splash their money around, tend to play at budget and mid-level Las Vegas poker rooms. You won’t find a soft table every time, but the Bally’s Poker Room gets some great games going with big pots and lots of all-ins. So does the MGM Grand Poker Room. Permanently closed, the Flamingo poker room and the Excalibur Poker Room had some of the softest $1/$2 no-limit Hold’em games on the Strip. You’ll find the toughest competition at high-end Las Vegas casinos frequented by pros.

Bally's Las Vegas (from USD $30 )

With shopping and sights aplenty, Bally's is the perfect hotel to access all of the best spots on the Strip to indulge in the fun.

World Series of Poker

The 53rd annual World Series of Poker is being held on the Las Vegas Strip for the first time. The multi-million dollar tournament series moved from the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino to Bally’s and Paris. Combined, the properties have 600 poker tables with 150,000 square feet of tournament space. The buy-ins to this year’s events start as low as the $400 Colossus all the way up to the $250,000 High Roller. The Main Event has a $10,000 buy-in, and last year’s winner bested a field of 6,650 to take home $8 million.

The WSOP runs from Tuesday, May 31 to Wednesday, July 20, 2022. The Main Event starts July 3, and the TV final table will be played on July 15 and 16. Award-winning actor and star of “Wedding Crashers” and “The Break-Up,” Vince Vaughn is the 2022 WSOP Master of Ceremonies. During the 2021 Main Event, Vaughn busted out early when as a 67.55% favorite, his AJ was colored by QJ suited. 


WSOP coverage is produced exclusively by Poker Central. Eighteen different bracelet events will be streamed on its subscription service, PokerGO. Popular live poker events such as Super High Roller Bowl, U.S. Poker Open and Poker After Dark stream from PokerGO Studios at Aria Resort & Casino. Poker GO covers the most high-profile poker tournaments with buy-ins of $10,000 or greater. The studio is equipped with millions of dollars of video equipment, a bar, a lounge and multiple sound stages. The more than 10,000 square-foot space has a state-of-the-art production studio with room for nine poker tables and up to 300 people. Many events at PokerGO Studio are open to the public.

ARIA Resort & Casino Las Vegas (from USD $100 )

Let the cool blue windows and modern architecture of ARIA transport you into a stay within the cutting edge of elegance.

Famous High Stakes Poker Rooms

Both Aria and Bellagio have world-class poker rooms with exclusive areas reserved for high-stakes cash games. Formerly known as Bobby’s Room, Bellagaio’s ultra high stakes poker room was named after 1978 World Series of Poker Main Event champion, Bobby Baldwin. In 2020, Baldwin took a job with a competing hotel and after 18 years, Bellagaio’s famous poker room was renamed. The Legends Room has a $5,000 minimum buy-in, but that’s not practical when your opponents are sitting on $50,000 to $100,000 chip stacks. The Ivey Room, at the Aria Poker Room, was a favorite of nosebleed stakes regulars and a good place to spot poker celebrities. In 2019, nearing the end of a long legal battle over gambling winnings, Phil Ivey’s name was removed from the door at the celebrated Ivey Room, and replaced by a plaque reading, “Table 1.”  

Bellagio Las Vegas (from USD $149 )

Let the magic of Bellagio, with its conservatory, fountains and splendor, make your Las Vegas Strip an unforgettable experience.

Las Vegas Casinos’ Poker Room Rates

Many hotels in the Las Vegas area offer special room rates to poker players. A poker player who plays five hours a day at Aria or Bellagio is entitled to a $139 weekday rate, $189 on weekends. It represents a savings of around $50 per night. The only way to get the reduced rate is to ask the poker room manager.

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