Room Review: Palms

Overview: It isn’t exactly a secret that the Palms Poker Room (specifically, the Cantor Poker Room at Palms Casino) is struggling. There are certainly other factors at play, but the two main reasons for the recent lack of success are first due to the casino’s off-strip location and also due to the poker room’s desire to try to compete head-on with the “big strip poker rooms” like Aria, Venetian and Bellagio. So whereas Aria consistently fills its room (and Venetian can point to days where they filled their room to support their delusions of consistently being at capacity) and thus can be discriminating with which games they wish to run (catering to the ones that get the highest rake for the casino), the Palms, simply put, cannot. They need games running. But sdsxd

I say this not to bash the room, but rather, to point out that the room is in a very different position than rooms like Aria and Bellagio. It is for that reason than whereas Venetian seems determined to kill low-stakes OFC, Palms wants to embrace it. The first day Venetian announced their rake, I spoke with management at the Palms, and when I mentioned that Venetian’s rake would kill the game there, the exact response was “Venetian’s loss is our gain”. They have an 8-table poker room and the management has said point blank he would not mind seeing all 8 tables filled with Open Face Chinese games. They know they cannot compete with the “big boys” for 1-3 NL, but they can easily compete, and win, at being the best place for Open Face Chinese, and the management there understands that 8 Open Face Chinese games is vastly superior to 8 empty tables.

That’s why they are making such an effort to become the epicenter of Open Face Chinese. It’s why they’ve agreed to have the $5+$5 rake for any level of stakes. They’ve promised to many players, including myself, that if they do not have a dealer on staff, they will call in a dealer into work so they can get a game going. They made sure that every dealer knows the game, to the point where the dealers at Palms take an active role in payouts and hand adjudication moreso than any room I’ve ever seen (and I feel much more willing to pay a rake if I know I’m getting a dealer who is going to make sure all the payouts are correct and no one feels uncomfortable about being potentially shorted $). They have no problem playing any variant you can think of – so any degenerate variant you have at your home game, just tell the dealers and they’ll deal it out for you.

They’ve even gone so far as to decide to host a weekly tournament for Open Face Chinese, and run the first of many promotions specific to Open Face – in this case, they’re offering to freeroll anyone who played 20 hours of OFC the previous week into that week’s OFC tournament.

Now, it still must be noted that the Palms still has one huge downside that places like Venetian and Aria do not – player traffic. Since the Palms does not have many other poker games running – at most they’ll have 2 other games running, you do not get nearly the same level of player traffic – poker players wandering around, checking out all the games, potentially seeing OFC being played and becoming intrigued. Aria, Venetian, Bellagio all have a significant amount of traffic; and Rio/WSOP’s entire reason for why they can be so horribly run is b/c of the traffic/player base created by the WSOP tournament crowd. Palms has none of that. It’s a significant hurdle, because it means they have to depend that much more on either players bringing in other players, or being able to contact interested players to tell them a game is running.

The one caveat is that the poker room’s presence next to the Sportsbook, and also being clearly visible to casino-goers passing by, does lead to a decent number of gambling-minded individuals seeing Open Face Chinese being played and becoming intrigued despite not being normally there to play poker. This does not compensate fully for the lack of poker traffic, but it is still a significant source of players for Open Face games. One thing Palms has done recently is begun running a “Open Face Chinese Class”, the same way casinos offer Blackjack or Craps class – one of the dealers or floormen sit down with a few interested players and teach them the basics and play a few hands at 50 cents or $1/pt – and just like the Craps classes work in that players then decide to go “play for real”, I’ve seen at least two “graduates” go and then play in the $5/pt game that same day.

So – essentially, what is important to know about the Palms Poker Room is that they really want Open Face Chinese games to run regularly there. They will go the “extra mile”, moreso than any other casino in Vegas. This is for the same reason that ends up being the hurdle for them as they try to build an OFC community – specifically, they don’t have a lot of poker traffic from other games – it’s both why they want to run OFC as much as they do, and why I can’t give it a perfect score for it’s OFC games (if I actually graded the rooms out).

Rake: $5+$5 forced dealer tip per 1/2 hour for any stakes from $2/pt to $25/pt – higher than $25/pt, management has said they will play each high-stakes game by ear. Also, they are very good about not charging a rake for two people if they agree to start heads-up with the intention of getting a game going.

There still remains the issue of the lack of player base/traffic; Palms never has and never will have the traffic that an Aria or Venetian has. They do have a comparable level of casino traffic, and their location in the sportsbook does help add some gambling-minded individuals to the “pool” of people who may pass by, see the game and become interested; however, it is still the one big hurdle that the Palms will face as they try to turn themselves into a huge player in Open Face Chinese in Las Vegas. The only real solution is for them to continue spreading the word about their desire to host OFC games, and continue to try their best to pull interested players in. Outside of that (admittedly significant) downside, the Palms is just simply an awesome place for OFC. It’s not hyperbole to say that it has become the best place to play non-nosebleed Open Face Chinese.

Rules: The Palms has been quite flexible with the rules, if every player agrees to a certain rule set. However, they do have a standard Royalty sheet – Trips in the middle is 2, Trips in the back is 0, Trips up top is 20. Tablestakes (and they are very aggressive in enforcing this rule, they will warn players who get short-stacked that they can only double up, and they will also warn the rest of the table that they can only lose what’s in front of them).

In conclusion – come check out the Palms, if you want non-nosebleed OFC action. Particularly if you also want to watch some baseball or another sporting event – then it’s the best of both worlds.