By Steve Beauregard
For a beginner player, stepping into a Las Vegas poker room for the first time can be intimidating: the busy front desk, tables with thousands of dollars on them (sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars), and crowds of too-cool-for-school players with their sunglasses, hoodies and earbuds shuffling chips in a manner that leads you to believe they’re talented pros. For those of you used to friendly home games with family or with buddies, it can all seem so intimidating.
But it absolutely should not be.
Low stakes poker in Las Vegas is an absolute blast. It’s almost always laid-back, breezy, and full of fun-loving tourists exactly like you, just looking to play some Texas Hold’em. And it’s the only game in the entire casino where you’re not playing against the house – just other players.
So often times it’s profitable. And those times that it’s not? Well, as long as you don’t get drunk and play really loose, your money is likely to last a lot longer than if you were seated in front of a slot machine, or a blackjack table.
So what low stakes poker game are we talking about? $3/$6 Limit Hold’em, or sometimes just called “3/6 limit.”
I recommend that a beginner wanting to play poker in Las Vegas for the first time start out in a low-limit game, such as $3/$6. (As an aside, it appears that $2/$4 limit is a thing of the past on the Strip). Unfortunately, with the closer of poker rooms like the Flamingo, Excalibur, the Mirage and Luxor, low-limit poker games are getting harder to find. Especially on this Strip.
That’s why, to me, the best poker room in Las Vegas for a beginner wanting to start off with small stakes is at Bally’s Hotel & Casino.
I say that for several reasons:
1) Low Buy-In
First off, the buy-in for low limit poker is incredibly low, probably much lower than you think. As poker fans, we’ve all seen the $10,000 buy-in WSOP Main Event on ESPN, where over $8 million can be won, and we’ve watched high-stakes cash games, where pros battle it out for pots exceeding $100,000, but all of that is far outside the norm, and it sometimes skews our thinking, leading us to believe that Las Vegas poker is the domain of those with bulging pockets.
Not so. At Bally’s poker room tonight, you can get a seat at a 3/6 limit game and play for just $100. That is a little lower than the recommended buy-in minimum, but you can start with a c-note to play.
In a limit game, you should typically buy in for 20 to 30 times the size of the big bet, which in this case, is $6. Having this amount of chips in front of you will often be enough to ride out the swings common in the game so as to prevent you from pulling out the purse or wallet to reload after a loss.
So plan on playing with at least 20x the big bet, or $120.
(Go here to read: How to make money playing Texas hold’em poker in Las Vegas).
2) Low Limit Game
You’ll notice I’m recommending a beginner player start off in a LIMIT game, rather than the No-Limit Texas Hold’em games always shown on TV as part of high buy-in tournaments.
Playing limit, in my view, significantly reduces the nervousness factor, which in turn makes the game more fun.
Without getting into the rules in detail, in limit hold’em, there’ll be fewer tough decisions to make. Often you’ll just have to decide whether or not to toss $6 more dollars into to pot to see if your pair of jacks is good.
No-Limit is a whole other kettle of fish. First off, the lowest No-Limit game offered in Las Vegas casinos is $1/$2 No-Limit, a game in which an initial buy-in of $200 is pretty standard.
Then you sit down at the table with your $200. On your very first hand, you could face an all-in bet for your entire stack. Then what?
Say you’re have an Ace/King with an Ace on the board, and someone pushes all in? Do you call and push in your $200 worth of chips? Yes you have a good hand, but what if sunglasses guy on the other side of the table has flopped a set? (Three of a kind is a “set”). Then what? Do you go back to the room and moan your luck? Reload? Hit the ATM machine?
You can see why only having to make decisions worth $3 dollars or $6 bucks eases the tension a bit. Don’t get me wrong: playing sloppy in limit can make you lose your $100 buy-in quickly. But knowing you’ll never be put to the test for your entire chip stack on any one hand is one of the more appealing advantages of limit hold’em. And why it makes it seemingly more fun for everyone at the table.
3) No-Pressure Competition
Speaking of which: trust me when I say no one at your table will be a professional. The stakes we’re talking here are so low that a potential hourly rate is just not worthwhile enough for someone trying to make a living on the felt. There are zero $3/$6 limit hold’em pros in Las Vegas. There are, however, some young guns trying to grind out a living playing $1/$2 no-limit. And guess who they’re looking for to help pay their rent? That’s right. You.
Your fellow players at your limit game, meanwhile, will be just like you: tourists looking to have a good time. There may be some older regulars who use the poker room to kill time (especially in the morning hours), but you know how to play against old rocks don’t you? As the saying goes, the older guy always has it. (Meaning if an older player bets, you know he has you beat).
I’ve played lots of limit at places like Bally’s and the Flamingo poker room (which unfortunately has closed), and have never sat at a table full of players who all seemed real good.
4) Drinks and Comps.
Just like when you play slots or table games, you’ll be treated with free water, pop, and cocktails while playing in Las Vegas poker rooms – including Bally’s.
On top of that, you may receive comps. When first sitting down, be sure to hand the dealer your Caesars Rewards card. I’m not sure what the most updated comp policy is for poker players at Bally’s, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.
5)High Hand Promotions
The poker room at Bally’s Las Vegas has fun high hand promotions. Per their description on Bravo Poker app:
“Every 20 minutes from 2pm-12am the highest hand will receive $75. If there was no qualifying high hand the $75 will roll over to the next 20 minutes. Minimum of a full house using one card to qualify.”
This is a fun little distraction that could put a little extra money in your pocket, without any extra outgo.
Bally’s Poker Room
If you’ve never played poker in Las Vegas and want to give it a shot – go for it, as there’s no reason to be intimidated, and if you’re wanting to start off slow, you’ll want to try the poker room at Bally’s.
One other note: Caesars Entertainment has announced that Bally’s will be remodeled and re-branded into it’s new name, the “Horseshoe.”
Along with the name change will come an expansion/remodel of the poker room. Also, Caesars Entertainment has announced that future World Series of Poker tournaments will be moved from the Rio to the Horseshoe.
Best Place for Beginning Poker Players Off the Strip.
The list of casinos offering $3/$6 limit is a short one. A recent search however, found $3/$6 available at both The Orleans Hotel & Casino, and South Point, just south of the Strip.
However if you find yourself anywhere near the middle of the Strip, I recommend the low pressure, friendly low stakes game at Bally’s Poker Room for poker beginners.
(Photos courtesy of