The Los Angeles poker scene is one of the most dynamic in the world. Playing host to the largest poker room in the world, Commerce Casino, it has no shortage of options. At any given time in LA, there are hundreds and hundreds of games to choose from at the multitude of casino card rooms that operate in the area.
Each of these poker rooms has their own individual characteristics that help to set them apart from one another. Some casinos only run low limit games while others offer many high stakes games. Select rooms have 100+ poker tables and others run closer to 20. Your game and limit of choice will be the presiding factors in determining which LA casino is best for you.
Beyond this, there is another big consideration-traffic. For the most part, poker players in LA are restricted to their most accessible poker room. Even though you may only be 10 miles from a poker room, it could easily take you an hour or more to reach your destination via car. Planning ahead is a must when playing poker in Los Angeles.
The biggest detractor to Los Angeles poker is the intensified rake. While many east coast rooms charge up to $4 rake in games below $5/$10 NLHE, Los Angeles rooms usually charge $5 plus $1 for promotions, and another $1 if players see a turn card. This equates to a full 75% increase in LA when compared to what you will pay in AC or Las Vegas poker rooms, for example ($7 vs $4).
The way that rake charges are determined in LA is also different. Instead of being based on a % of pot size, the rake is collected according to number of players dealt in. For example, in a $5/$10 game, you will usually find a rake structure as follows…
7-9 Players: $5
5-6 Players: $4
3-4 Players: $3
1-2 Players: $2
In addition to this base rake, some rooms charge $1 more in the event that a turn card is seen. Once you are dealt a hand, you will also be forced to pay the $1 for promotions, usually comprised of miscellaneous bad beat jackpots.
Another noteworthy part of the rake collection in LA poker is how rake is charged when players chop the blinds pre-flop. In the majority of the United States, poker rooms do not charge or collect rake if the hand does not see a flop. In Los Angeles, however, you will be required to pay $1 or $2 (depending on the room, The Gardens charges only $1), even when chopping the blinds. If you see a flop, however, you will be required to pay the full rake amount, so chopping still makes sense.
This large amount of rake is the reason why you will occasionally see players limp into a hand, and then chop with the blinds (3 way chop). The rake is too high to justify seeing a flop, especially if only $20-$30 is in the middle and $7 is going to be taken as soon as a flop is dealt. Chopping is arguably more prevalent in LA than anywhere else due to the way that rake is charged.
Comps for playing poker in Los Angeles vary wildly from room to room. Most do offer comps, but the actual amount that is paid, as well as the way they are counted, are not always the same. The general range for comps per hour is anywhere from 50 cents to $3/hour. Usually LA poker rooms cap their comps at $3 per hour, which applies to $5/$10 and higher.
Some of the LA poker rooms, like The Gardens and Hollywood Park require you to keep your players card out. An employee of the room will come by each hour and manually scan your card to track your volume of play. It is certainly an archaic system. Others, like Commerce, swipe your card in like most casinos in the world do.
While the comp rate tends to stay about the same, some rooms do run promotions where certain months will pay out comps at a higher rate, so be sure to check out the most up to date details.
Bad beat jackpots are a very big promotion in the LA county card rooms. Every room has them, with requirements for winning usually being losing with aces full of 10s. This is in contrast to what you will find for BBJ requirements at East Coast casinos, where a minimum of quads usually has to be beaten in order to qualify. The difference to the prize pool is substantial, as LA poker rooms don’t usually see bad beat jackpot pools exceed $50,000, except for during promotions where the prize pool may be doubled.
Promotions for poker in Los Angeles tend to be centric to hours played. You will not find high hand promotions as are prevalent in other poker regions. For many players, this is a positive, since a good portion of the player pool as a whole plays quite often. If you are a casual player or a tourist, however, the promotions outside of the BBJ are unlikely to impact you.
LA is known for its high stakes action, but this is only a partial truth. Many of the poker rooms do not have much in the way of high limit games, with some struggling to even have $5/$10 going on a regular basis.
For the greatest selection and the biggest games, Commerce will be your best bet. In fact, there isn’t really another solid option. Occasionally big games will run at places like The Gardens, but they are far less frequent and consistent than what Commerce has to offer.
Los Angeles both is and isn’t a poker tournament town. There is much more general availability for cash games of all stakes, sizes, and types than there are tournaments. You will be able to find daily, small buy in tourneys at just about every casino, but this is something that you can find anywhere. LA’s best tournament scene will be found when touring events roll through. There are World Poker Tour (WPT) events that take place at both Commerce and The Bike at different times of the year. In addition, Commerce also hosts the California State Poker Championships.
World Series of Poker events are also now hosted at The Bike, a new selection of tournaments that had previously not been available in LA. Since virtually all WSOP events are held at a Caesars (CET) owned property, LA was left out of the action. With this new partnership, many players can get in on the WSOP branded events as well, all without having to travel to Las Vegas.
It is impossible to dispute that Los Angeles is an absolute poker hot spot, and it would be fair to say that it is one of (if not the) poker capitals of the world. You may have to travel a bit, but there are few regions in the whole world that offer as much poker as what you will find in LA. It isn’t given the credit it deserves, but Los Angeles area poker makes Las Vegas seem small time.