Poker Vacation

The Best Way to Plan a Poker Vacation

While we patiently await our poker pilgrimage, we try to explore new poker rooms and parts of the country whenever we can. Last winter we visited South Florida and Key West. This month we will be visiting the Tampa Bay area. And hopefully later this year we will have some time to check out the Philadelphia poker scene. We have perfected a system for identifying areas we would like to visit, researching them, and planning our poker vacation. So here we present the best way to plan a poker vacation.

Planning a Poker Vacation – The Poker

Where Do You Want to Play?

For each poker vacation, we start by identifying an area with a number of poker rooms. To do this we have found that our best resource is our own Map of US Poker Rooms. We created this resource because we found no other site where we can look at a map and find all of the poker rooms (with 10 or more tables) in the US. Waypoints on the map include information about card room size and type (casino vs. poker room), a link to the card room’s website, and if we have reviewed the room, a link to our review. When we start planning a poker vacation, checking out our map is the first step.

As an aside, our map also comes in handy when we are traveling for business or other reasons and we want to know whether there happens to be a poker room nearby. Have to go to Columbus Ohio to meet with that bank? Hollywood Casino Columbus at your service. It’s got 36 tables, cash poker, and daily tournaments. Score!

Poker Vacation - Map

Where Do You Want to Explore?

Our next step is to think about what type of trip we’re interested in taking. Often in the winter, we are looking to escape snowy New England, so sun and warmth are a top priority. Last winter we visited Miami and knocked 7 new poker rooms off our list in 10 days. This year it’s Tampa Bay where we hope to explore 6 new poker rooms and see some sun and sand. Of course, we’ve also been known to visit Montreal in the dead of winter just to get a couple of tournaments in at the Playground Poker Room and Casino de Montreal. But the city itself is definitely part of the draw.

Do Your Research

After you’ve reviewed the map and targeted an area that you’d like to visit, what’s next? Time to do some research. We’ll fire up Bravo and Poker Atlas and start to investigate the rooms we’re interested in playing. First,we set up a spreadsheet listing the tournaments at each room on every day of our trip. We spend some time investigating the buy-in, rake, and structure to help us evaluate which might be the most desirable tournaments to play. Finally, we use  Bravo and Poker Atlas to track the typical number of players and payouts for each tournament. While this process is fairly involved, we think that planning for and anticipating our poker activity is part of the fun.

We also evaluate the cash action at each of our potential poker rooms. To do this, we again turn to Bravo and Poker Atlas and check out their live cash action pages. You need to gather this data on the day and time that you are planning to play. While these websites are a great resource for poker room information, they do not provide historical data. Paul and I are currently collecting data on poker rooms around the country that will allow you to research cash action in a much more user-friendly format. We currently have data for New England and Las Vegas. We will be adding the entire state of Florida shortly. By the end of 2020, we plan to have cash poker activity data on every US card room that reports to Bravo or Poker Atlas.

Poker Vacation
This is what I call a poker vacation!

Planning a Poker Vacation – Accommodations

Now you know where you want to go on your poker vacation and when and where you’re going to play. Next, you need to figure out where you want to stay. We have written an extensive article on how to find the best vacation accommodations. More and more we’re moving toward AirBnB and VRBO for our longer poker vacations. The rates are much better than hotel prices, and you can find places with kitchens, washer/dryers, and free parking. Even better – AirBnBs have no “resort fees.” We’re tired of getting hit with hidden hotel costs and prefer these alternatives which better display the full cost upfront. The one caveat to AirBnB is that cancellation rules are relatively strict. If you have any concerns that you may need to change or cancel your poker vacation, hotel reservations via an app such as may be a better bet.

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Planning a Poker Vacation – Transportation

Next, you must decide whether you will drive or fly to your poker vacation. We typically drive anywhere within 6 or 7 hours and fly outside of that range. Driving saves the cost of flights and local transportation (cabs, Uber, rental car) once at your destination. We find the extra time spent on travel well worth the cost savings. If we do fly, we make sure not to book those flights until our trip is set in stone. Flights are typically non-refundable and non-transferable, so we need to make sure we’re sure before laying down the cash.

When planning flights, start tracking prices as soon as you have good dates for your poker vacation. This will give you a sense of your overall flight cost, and enable you to recognize a good price when your destination suddenly goes on sale. Generally, you’ll get the best prices on flights about 6 to 8 weeks out. So, if possible, try to book those flights before you pass the 6-week deadline. Another strategy we’ve learned is to monitor flight possibilities using an incognito browser window. Airlines are sophisticated enough that if they see you checking a certain destination repeatedly, they may just raise the price on your ticket. An incognito browser window prevents them from tracking your IP address.

Planning a Poker Vacation – Dining and Attractions

Even a poker vacation is typically not ALL about poker. We’ll also spend some time before we travel researching interesting dining options and attractions in the area we’ll be staying in. We like to visit museums, beaches, and other points of interest to balance out our poker playing. Despite playing 7 tournaments in 10 days last winter in South Florida, we managed to fit in a couple of days in Key West and a variety of activities in Miami.

We also target a couple of restaurant meals on our poker vacations as well. Yelp, Open Table, and just plain googling (“best restaurants in Tampa Bay”) is the best way to gather information on dining options. We typically do this after we have made our poker plan. We can then see what evenings might be available to fit in a restaurant reservation or two. If we find a great restaurant that doesn’t require reservations (a taco shack near the beach!), all the better.

We have developed the best way to plan a poker vacation. Here is the step by step!Click To Tweet

We can tell you from experience that following the steps above will guarantee you the best opportunity for a fun poker vacation. Sadly, we can not promise nice weather or big profits at the poker table. If we could control those factors, we’d go on a permanent poker vacation!


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