The Venetian Poker Room Review

The Palazzo/Venetian Resort Casino

First, I must couch this review within my general affection for the Venetian/Palazzo complex at large.  My wife and I started our annual poker jaunts to Las Vegas three years ago. I was uncertain whether I would like Las Vegas at all. As much as I love poker, I do not necessarily groove to the full casino experience. An entire city  of that environment might prove to be too much for me.

Choosing the Palazzo as our hotel was the critical and fortunate first step to loving Vegas.  The rooms have a large, multi-level design complete with a desk, dinette set, square coffee table and huge wrap around couch. The bathroom is bigger than some hotel rooms I’ve rented in New York City! Our room at the Palazzo always feels more like a small, beautifully appointed apartment. Whenever I stay there, I never want to leave.

The Venetian Poker Room
by Prab Bhatia

Although the room is certainly the star of my Palazzo/Venetian experience, the whole complex is wonderful.  It is pleasant to walk through the faux canal area that connects the two casinos. There are great restaurants everywhere and good quick food options in the St. Mark’s square area. There seem to be nice shopping choices for those into such things. The gaming areas themselves are at the high end in terms of the look and feel among the major Las Vegas casinos. While not as expensive or elegant as the Wynn right next door, I realize the Palazzo charges higher than the median price for rooms on the strip. I promise you it is well worth it.

OK, enough of the general resort experience.  Let’s get to the poker room.

 

The Venetian Cardroom

Heather and I have played tournaments at the Venetian Poker Room during each of our three annual visits. The Venetian poker room appears to have gone through a significant renovation from 2016 to 2017.  They have lost several tables by shrinking the room space significantly.  The room also seemed a bit dimmer than I remember, but that could just be my rapidly aging eyesight. Because they were a bit washed out, discerning chip denominations from one another across the table was a challenge. However, the tables remain nicely spread out with comfortable elbow room and comfortable chairs.

In April of this year, we played in a Sunday evening DeepStacks Extravaganza tournament. Special tournaments happen so regularly at the Venetian that they might as well be daily tournaments. This was a $200 rebuy tournament (15,000 chips, 20 minute blinds, antes start at level 4.  Players were stronger overall than those we played against at Caesar’s the night before. Meanwhile, the Aria offered stiffer competition the following evening.

The Venetian's highly skilled and efficient dealers kept good control of table Click To Tweet

The Venetian’s highly skilled and efficient dealers kept good control of table, if not always consistent about announcing raises. The floors actively managed the action and no major issues developed. The tournament was professionally run (as you’d expect at a large Vegas cardroom). Service was prompt, although we did not order anything other than water. Wait times did not seem inordinately long for those around us.

Fifty-six players bought in (including rebuys) and the top prize was over $3,000 with an overall guarantee of $9,000. Heather chopped the top 5 spots for a $1,400 take. I had a top 6 equity chop in 2016 in a similar tournament format. Tipping was low stress and convenient, as you just put what you want in a box away from the table. There is a dealer hold out from your entry, so large tips are not expected.

Obviously, there are a lot of poker options in Las Vegas. The Venetian poker room, however, is one of the best in terms aesthetics, comfort, and professionalism.

Related Recommendation

As I said earlier the Venetian/Palazzo complex is filled with great dining options.  One of our favorites is Yardbird.   Close to the Venetian poker room, Yardbird offers great Southern-style food featuring a fabulous fried chicken. Most plates are meant to be shared; the fried chicken is certainly enough for two as a main course.  Side dishes of biscuits and grits with cheddar cheese are also very good.

Our 5 Favorite Cities in the US

As we ponder our Poker Pilgrimage, we need to decide where our year of travel will take us. We have three basic criteria for places to earn a spot on our journey, a location must either have a poker room (or rooms: Hello Las Vegas!) we want to visit, be a spot that we have never been but would like to go (such as Charleston, SC), or be one of our favorite cities, and thus worthy of a return trip. Today, we thought we would share our five favorite cities and start to pin some way-points on our journey.

 

Boston, MA

Boston: One of our favorite cities
The Boston Skyline

Boston is an easy one. We live in the Boston area, and thus this is where our journey will begin. Boston has history, museums, culture, natural beauty, and sports teams galore. For the first time visitor we would recommend the aquarium, the science museum, Faneuil Hall, a walk down the Freedom Trail, a walk along the Charles River, taking in a game (Celtics, Patriots, Red Sox, or Bruins depending on the season), and a visit to any of the many historic and beautiful outlying towns. Foxwoods, Mohegan Sun, and numerous New Hampshire cardrooms are within a couple of hours if your poker jones needs to be fed.

 

Washington, DC

One of our favorite places: Washington DC
Washington Monument at Night

Washington DC is next on our list. DC is a beautiful city replete with monuments, museums, an excellent zoo, and of course our seat of government. One of my favorite things about Washington is that many of the attractions (more museums than you can count and the zoo!) are completely free. You could spend days exploring the city without paying a single entrance fee. I dare you to name another city where this is the case.  Also, if you lean toward the political, you can plan a visit to Congress or even the White House. Also not to be missed are the amazing Arlington Cemetery and the (sadly expensive) Spy Museum. If your thoughts take a turn toward poker, Maryland Live! is only 45 minutes away and the new MGM National Harbor is just a few minutes drive from the heart of DC.

 

New Orleans, LA

One of our favorite cities: New Orleans
Jackson Square, New Orleans

We love New Orleans so much that we got married there! While we probably wouldn’t pencil New Orleans in for a summer visit, the weather is lovely in the late fall or early spring. So many things make New Orleans one of our favorite cities. We love the food, the music, and the very spirit of the city. While we do our best to avoid the craziness of Bourbon Street, neighboring Chartres and Royal offer a wealth of interesting stores, galleries of local artisans, and cafes. Frenchman Street hosts numerous hardworking musical acts every night of the week. And if you are fortunate enough to be in the city for one of their many parades, the joy of the people is infectious (again, Mardi Gras is perhaps out of our comfort zone, but the St. Patrick’s parade we experienced was a delight). On our most recent visit we went to the new World War II museum and were blown away by the experience. Sadly, Harrah’s Casino in the heart of the city would not make our top five poker destinations, but it is there for those looking for some cash play. There are also riverboat casinos nearby that we have yet to investigate.

 

San Diego, CA

San Diego: One of our favorite cities
Hotel del Coronado, San Diego

Over on the Left Coast, we have two favorite cities.  First, San Diego has beautiful weather practically year round. It has the ocean, and it has all of the culture that one could wish for. From the museums and beauty of Balboa Park, to the missions and Mexican restaurants of Old Town, San Diego has something for everyone. San Diego also hosts the world famous San Diego Zoo and my favorite, San Diego Safari Park. Nearby you will find the wine-making area of Temecula, and Julian, known for mining and apple pie. It’s even a quick drive to Tijuana, if a visit to Mexico tickles your fancy. San Diego offers a number of poker rooms which we look forward to exploring on our big trip.

 

 

San Francisco

San Francisco: one of our favorite cities
Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

While we have never been to San Francisco together, we both list it among our favorite cities. As with the other destinations on our list, San Francisco has a wealth of experiences to offer. Some of our favorites are Fisherman’s Wharf, Chinatown, Golden Gate Park, the Exploratorium, and nearby Sausalito. Visitors must check out Coit Tower and ride the famous trolley cars in order to claim that they have “done” the city. Most will find a visit to Alcatraz worth their while as well. The Bay 101 is the most famous poker room on offer, but several other rooms are in close proximity, making San Francisco a worthy poker stop as well.

 

So there you have it: these five favorite cities will serve as anchors on our initial intinerary for our Poker Pilgrimage. Now we can start our map!

Map of our Favorite Cities
Our Very First Trip Map!

What are your favorite US Cities? Help us plan our trip!

 

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5 Great Gifts For Your Favorite Poker Player

Christmas. You know it’s coming. I know it’s coming. As much as we may want to hold it off, that desperate, happy, exhausting, gift giving time of year is absolutely, unavoidably here. So Poker Pilgrims would like to help you out by giving you suggestions for great gifts for the poker player in your life.

Disclosure: Some of the links on this page are affiliate links. However, we love all of the products and services listed here. We promise! For more information, see our Disclosure page.

 

  • A book to curl up on a long winter’s night and brush up on their game. Which book, you ask? Here are some of our favorites:

For the Beginner: We love Phil Gordon’s Little Book series, starting with The Little Green Book: Lessons and Teachings in No Limit Texas Hold Em

 

 

 

Poker Tournament FormulaFor the Tournament Player: Arnold Snyder’s Poker Tournament Formula is a must read for any player who wants to get serious about tournament poker

 

 

 

Poker Cash GamesFor the Cash Player: Harrington gives some good solid advice in Cash Games (How to Win in No-Limit Hold ‘Em Money Games) Vol. I that still holds up today.

 

 

 

Peak Poker PerformanceFor the Experienced Player who wants to enhance their play: We love Peak Poker Performance by Dr. Patricia Cardner and Jonathan Little from D&B Poker which covers the mental and physical aspects of being ready to play your best game.  If only we could do a better job of following their advice!

 

Positively Fifht StreetFor anyone looking for a great poker read and crime story: James McManus’ Positively Fifth Street: Murderers, Cheetahs, and Binions World Series of Poker

 

 

 

Great Gifts
Happy XMas! by Mrskyce
  • A set of beautiful and durable playing cards to enhance the home game: We love these Copag Cards and use them heavily at our own kitchen table
  • A subscription to a poker training site to help them brush up their skills. We are admittedly biased here, as Advanced Poker Training pays us to do work (and blog) for their site. However, we can honestly tell you that their approach to training is the best that we’ve seen. Rather than just offering a series of videos and articles about how other people play poker, APT invites you to play your preferred game (tournament, cash, sit n go, whatever’s your poison). They then analyze your play and send out a weekly plan with practice exercises and advice about how to work on your leaks.
5 Great Gifts For the Poker Player in Your Life Click To Tweet
  • A fun poker t shirt: There are a variety of t-shirts out there that can be found with a quick amazon search. However, we have created a few Ts for our own personal use, that you are welcome to gift to your loved one.

 

  • If you’ve got real money to burn, every poker player’s secret dream is a buy in to The WSOP Main Event for a mere $10,000. If that is a bit out of reach, perhaps a buy in to a smaller event at a card room near you.

 

We hope that our list of great gifts for your favorite poker player has been helpful. I know that I would love to get any of the above (hint, hint Paul). If you have ideas for other good gifts that you have either given or gotten, be sure to let us know in the comments below!

 

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Mohegan Sun Poker Room Review (Connecticut)

Winding through the Mohegan Sun Casino to find the poker room is not easy task. You have to pay pretty close attention to the signs at every bend. However, the journey will likely prove worth it.

Unlike some casino poker rooms dropped amidst the hustle and bustle of slot machines and table games, the Mohegan Sun room has it’s own space.  One enters through glass doors into a room with high ceilings and reasonably spaced tables. The decor is professional and pleasant, giving the entire room a nice look and feel. The chairs are comfortable and the tables generously sized.

Registration for cash table wait lists appears immediately as you enter, and the staff is welcoming and accommodating. on my most recent visit the1-2 NL list was fairly long, but they opened a new table soon after I arrived which cleared much of the list. In the end, I got a seat within 15 minutes.

Mohegan Sun
Mohegan Sun by joevare

I have played both cash and tournaments at Mohegan, and have consistently found the dealers to be professional and skilled. They rarely make errors or seem uncertain, and the card shufflers move the action along briskly.  On weekends there are often many cash tables running with a variety of limit and no-limit games. Mohegan Sun draws a pretty wide span of player skill: one ATM machine at the table re-bought a stack of $100 five times during my 3 hours there with no apparent limits to the hands he would play.  There were also a couple of very skilled players who extracted maximum value from their made hands and rarely showed down poorly.

Most of Mohegan Sun’s daily no-limit tournaments have reasonable buy-ins (most ranging from $75 to $150) with decent structures (such as $150 Saturday tournaments with 20K starting stack and 25 minute blinds).  Mohegan also hosts larger buy-in events during special series, like the $1,100 buy-in with 100K guarantee during their Fall Showdown.  Again, the tournaments I have played there tend to have a fairly wide range of player skill and an equally wide range of player attitudes, with some welcoming and gregarious, and some visibly irritated by what they consider the poor play of others.

Mohegan Sun provides a quality poker experience amidst a large casino setting Click To Tweet

Serving staff is attentive in seeking drink orders, circulating frequently and delivering promptly. The one downside to the room, experienced during my most recent visit is the open dance club that lies right outside. On a Saturday night it was in full swing, and the music and intense bass beat was very loud in the poker room. Even with my headphones turned up, the noise was a bit distracting.

The Mohegan Sun casino is a large full-service casino with a variety of gaming, entertainment, and dining options. The Connecticut WNBA team plays its home games there in the summer and top comedy and music acts visit on a weekly basis. The casino is set in the Eastern Connecticut woods, fairly close to a major north-south highway (route 395).  As a bonus, it is a mere 15 minutes from Connecticut’s other major casino, Foxwoods.

Mohegan Sun provides a quality poker experience amidst a large casino setting in an area that is convenient to Hartford, Providence, RI, and the Connecticut and Rhode Island shores. If you are a poker player visiting New England, Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods should be priority destinations.

 

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Building a Budget for a Dream

Although our Poker Pilgrimage is still five years away, we spend a lot of time thinking about its viability and about building a budget for our dream. We are fortunate to work as consultants and thus know that we will be able to take our jobs on the road.  However, a year of travel (and poker!) will certainly lead to reduced hours, and a wide variety of costs (gas, food, lodging for a start) that are different than those we face today.

Building a Budget
Building a Budget
Image by GotCredit.com

On the other hand, we plan to give up our apartment and one of our cars, as well as taking other actions that will reduce or eliminate costs that we bear today. Our Pilgrimage budget will both help us get an idea of the costs we can expect during our year of travel, as well as tell us how much we need to start saving today for a successful trip.

Building a Budget for a Dream Click To Tweet

While we will offer a rough budget today, we intend to update this budget regularly as we take deeper dives into each aspect of our proposed travel experience. We will categorize these posts in our “Building the Stakes” thread if you would like to follow along as our budget develops. We will also keep our most current budget posted on our Trip Status page.

For our first budget, we share our original baseline estimates for our yearlong trip.

Monthly Budget CategoryAmountNotes
Lodging1800Assumes $60/night at VRBP or AirBNB
FIOS0No cable
Utilities0No Utilities
Phone / Internet Access150Need to Explore Options
Health Insurance (couple)1200Need to Explore Options
Car Insurance (1 car)60
Groceries300Need to estimate
Accounting230
Gas400Need to calculate
Car Property Tax50
Medical100
Dining600Need to estimate
Entertainment200Need to estimate
Gifts200
Household0No household!
Poker1000Need to estimate
Charity50
Emergency Fund100
Total6440

As you can see, we are starting with a very rough estimate. Over time (and a number of future posts!) we will fully explore each of the items above to refine our budget. We will share each of these explorations in a post so that you will learn the financial ins and outs of poker travel along with us.

In future posts we will also talk about how we have started side-hustling to make a little extra cash to start putting away for our trip. And how we work to shave our current budget to get more into savings for our dream.

If you have any questions about the initial budget we are building or why any of our numbers are as they are, feel free to ask in the comments.

 

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The Poker Room at Hampton Falls

Hampton Falls is simply the best poker experience in New Hampshire for the player looking for a well-run room, quality dealers, and reasonably competitive play. If you want to match wits with tournament players who can actually fold correctly, well, your chances here are far better than many of the other local rooms. The cash games can get fairly wild with loose aggressive play being a seeming badge of honor.

 

Hampton Falls Poker
Upstairs at Hampton Falls

Hampton Falls has some of the best value tournaments in New England. the Friday and Saturday 1pm tournaments are our favorites: $90 entry fee with 30,000 chips, 30 minute blinds starting at 25-50, antes starting at level 4, and levels that increase gradually enough that the tournament does not become a shove-fest after hour 3.  In fact, if you plan to money in this one, set aside 10-11 hours of your day. This tournament typically draws 70 to 130 players.  Skill levels vary, but not many “bingo” players are chasing gut shots to the river.  However, there are plenty of solid, unspectacular players who can be exploited. Hampton Falls also features special monthly tournaments with higher buy-ins (e.g., $250) that tend to draw big crowds.

Hampton Falls has a nice two floor design, with reasonable space between tables and comfortable chairs for a non-casino poker room. The lighting is decent and for those who want to beat the summer heat, the room is kept very cool.

Aside from tournament structure, the major differentiator between Hampton Falls and its local competitors is the quality of the dealers and floors.  Most dealers are fast, friendly, and knowledgeable.  There are a few weak spots, but they do such a good job rotating dealers that you are rarely saddled with a mediocre dealer for very long.  There are few issues, but when there are the floors maintain control and have the respect of the players. They know the rules and are able to articulate the logic behind their decisions clearly. Hampton Falls features the most professional staff we have encountered outside of a major casino or very large cardroom.

Our Review of The Poker Room at Hampton Falls Click To Tweet

One down side is that the food is fairly mediocre.  We have tried a few things on their menu, with the fried appetizers certainly solid, but nothing stands out.  We ordered a grilled chicken sandwich once and it was basically a protein delivery system at best: unseasoned breast slapped in a humble bun with wilted lettuce and a tomato slice keeping it company.  Generally the food and drink crew are well staffed; they circle frequently and are attentive, but we have seen some complaints of food taking a long time when things are bustling.

On the other hand, you’re not here for the food, you’re here to play some poker. Hampton Falls delivers the best poker experience in Northern New England.

 

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Welcome to Our Pilgrimage

Welcome to Poker Pilgrims!

I am Heather and I have built this site with my husband Paul in order to share our thoughts, experiences, and research as we work toward (and hopefully experience!) a grand adventure in poker travel.

Paul and I are both avid poker players and travelers. It has long been our dream to travel the country for a year, playing poker along the way. As our youngest children approach college, we can see this dream within reach and are now getting serious about planning for our journey. Our target date is September 2022. It feels so close, yet so very far into the future.

 

Poker Pilgrims
Poker Pilgrims

 

Along the way we hope to share with you what we learn in all areas related to our journey:

Poker

  • We have created a map of poker rooms across the US in order to help us plan our journey
  • We will share reviews of the poker rooms that we visit and allow you to offer your ratings as well
  • We will review poker books that we have found helpful as we work on our game
  • We will also share various thoughts and insights that we have from our years of (mostly tournament) play
Join us on our Poker Pilgrimage! Click To Tweet

Travel

  • We plan to share the tips and traps of spending a year on the road
  • We will let you know of any resources we find for travelling on a budget
  • We will of course blog about our journey once we embark

Finance

  • We invite you to come along on our journey to Financial Independence as well, as we hope to fully support our trip from the road
  • We will share our budgets, spreadsheets, plans, and financial updates as we move toward the Pilgrimage

Philosophy

  • We will also share with your our developing thoughts on life, optimism, and the pursuit of everything

We hope that many of you, whether poker players, travelers, seekers of financial independence, or all of the above will find something here to help you on your own journey in life, wherever that may lead.

 

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