A Poker Insider’s Guide to Las Vegas

They come for the World Series, and stay for the food

If there’s one sport that feels like a nearly impenetrable club, it’s poker. Before skeptics raise the inevitable question (“Is poker really a sport?”), let me reassure you that if ESPN dedicates as many hours as they do to it, it is indeed a sport. Also, they have a World Series (going on now).

Now that that’s taken care of, poker not only boasts a whole range of colorful characters, but the game also harbors a mecca to which they all pay allegiance — Las Vegas. There’s old Las Vegas, new Las Vegas, and a Las Vegas that only exists during the WSOP. And when the poker faces fall, cards aren’t lucky, and hunger strikes… there’s delicious Las Vegas. (Photo courtesy of iStock/P_Wei)

Poker players know the ins and outs of eating in Las Vegas better than any set of fraternity brothers. So while you’re sitting at the wrong breakfast buffet trying to catch a glimpse of your favorite player, we got the real scoop about where they sustain themselves.  

Click here for the Poker Insider's Guide to Las Vegas Slideshow.

Poker players know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. We’re not saying that the legendary Doyle Brunson always orders the French toast, but we do know that non-touristy, off-the-Strip favorite Jamms Restaurant serves the breakfast of poker champions. But when poker players like Johnny Chan do decide to break the fast on the Strip, it’s undoubtedly at the Society Café at the Encore. Apparently they serve delicious coffee, too, but who needs coffee when there are Bloody Marys? 

Ben Lamb may have made it to this year’s final table, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be brushing up on his non-WSOP game while he’s in the city of sin. Like most other serious poker players, he plays amongst commoners at the Bellagio’s poker room — the exclusive hub of poker outside of the WSOP games at the RIO. And when hunger strikes, there is no better solution than the no-name snack bar right next door to the poker room.

Phil Hellmuth is a noted fan of the City Center, having dined (and tweeted about it!) at Social House on Japanese cuisine and enjoyed cocktails in the bar at the Aria. Then, players like Katie Dozier have been sampling José Andrés’ fare at Jaleo, likely tucking into Spanish fare like Jamon Iberico, garlicky shrimp, and chorizo with potato purée. (Photo courtesy of Flickr/Muy Yum)

Click here for the Poker Insider's Guide to Las Vegas Slideshow.

 

 

Old school poker players (like Doyle Brunson, pictured) remember the Vegas era of Frank, Sammy, Dean, and the glory days of The Horseshoe. Spotting poker veterans, then, is easy. Binion’s on the first floor of The Horseshoe is a 24-hour steakhouse serving classic, thick cuts that have no business being called fancy. (Photo courtesy of Flickr/larrykang)

Where do players rest their head after going on a hot streak at the tables? Jason Mercier, Phil Ivey, and John Juanda are likely to be found in the lobbies of the Encore, Palms Place, the newer Aria at the City Center, or even the non-gaming Platinum Hotel, an insider’s off-the-Strip choice. While the RIO (pictured) might not be a top grade casino hotel, it’s worth it to book a room during the time it hosts the World Series since you’ll be guaranteed to spot real poker players at its collection of over-the-top restaurants.

Want more travel tips from poker insiders? Go to the Player’s Club at a hotel of your choice and ask for a free player’s card. Even if you don’t gamble in their casino (shh), they’ll still send you discount offers for rooms and more for your next visit. (Photo courtesy of Flickr/Old Shoe Woman)

Just like TKTS in New York, you can get tickets for Vegas shows on the cheap from Tix4Tonight’s booths around the Strip.  

Some poker jargon to throw around and impress your favorite players with: gripe about a “misdeal,” or when the dealer makes an error in dealing mid-game; brag about a “flush,” or a hand of cards in a common suit; or whine about being “busted,” or completely out of poker chips. Also, don’t forget to study up on how to hide your bluffs!

Want more Vegas insider tips? Check out Connie Shin’s picks (she’s the GM at FIN) and Tracy Godfrey’s top spots (he’s thes award-winning chef behind the Grubbin’ with Godfrey blog).

Click here for the Poker Insider's Guide to Las Vegas Slideshow.

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