There’s a lot to love
While regulated live poker is available all across the United States (just ask this guy), Las Vegas is, without doubt, the highest concentration of poker rooms in the nation. Even in a poker-rich region such as the Los Angeles basin or the San Francisco Bay area, you might have to drive nearly an hour to get from poker room A to poker room B. In that same time, you could get dealt into games in four different Vegas rooms.
The competition for poker customers is fierce, and the quality bar is high, so it’s saying something that a room is in the running for “Best in Vegas.” There have been many times in my poker career where that title was just a given. In the mid-90’s, well, you can’t argue with Mike McDermott, who was thinking about nothing but the ******* Mirage. Then it was the Bellagio. There was a time where you could assert it was the Venetian, were it not for the unfortunate ownership.
These days, Allahu Akbar, the Strip is full of vibrant poker rooms, and there are a handful that a reasonable card player could call “the best.” The Wynn will appear in every one of those discussions.
The first impression of the room is “bright and airy.” In future reviews of other rooms, I’ll contrast that, but suffice to say that it’s not the default ambience in Vegas poker rooms.
The room is actually in the Wynn’s sister Encore property, at the nexus of a couple of major hallways. So there is certainly big casino ambience. However, my non-scientific sense is that they’ve turned down the volume on the nearby slot machines – there isn’t a constant shriek of bells and whistles.
The room is uncluttered, lots of space between the tables. Pastel colors and plenty of light. It’s… well, it’s the antithesis of what most people think about poker rooms, and hurray, I say. It’s like playing poker in a conservatory, and that’s hard to beat.
While we’re on the subject of comfort, the chairs are outstanding. Given that you may be sitting in one of them for six or eight hours, it matters. They swivel, raise and lower. I consider this minimal acceptable standard for a high-quality poker room, but sadly, too many rooms don’t have that. The Wynn chairs go above and beyond that standard.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re going to an auto repair shop, a sushi restaurant, or a poker room, one key component is the staff. Here, the Wynn sparkles. [By way of transparency, I don’t tell anybody in the poker room that I’m writing a review, and I’ve been out of the poker industry long enough that I’m “never” recognized – the treatment I get is the same treatment you’ll get.] Everybody from chip runners to the people running the room is courteous and efficient.
I don’t think you can find a poker room that has 100% great dealers, but a less-than-stellar dealer is the exception at the Wynn. I need to mention that I have a pet peeve about poker dealers: I don’t think they should be a significant part of the table talk. If they want to say, “The Steelers are terrible” in the middle of the football conversation, I don’t mind that. But they have an important job to do, and (again, my opinion) being a significant part of the table chatter is not coherent with that job. The Wynn dealers are unfailingly polite and welcoming, but keep their talk to game-related matters. Full marks.
How is this not the perfect poker room?
After all the great stuff I said about the room, I imagine some of you are making hotel reservations and dusting off your Wynn loyalty card. There’s just one catch: the other players.
Quoting Jaman Burton, “The players at the Wynn are just a bit too try-hardy.” He means that the Wynn players are trying hard to beat the game – all the best poker players in town like to play there. Furthermore, the Wynn has the highest buy-in caps of any room on the Strip. The $1/3 NLHE game has a $500 cap, and the $2/5 game has a $1500 cap. To contrast that, the Bellagio $1/3 has a $300 cap and their $2/5 game caps at $500. Better players like to play deeper because deeper stacks mean that their opponents’ mistakes are more profitable for them. In fact, my friend and Vegas poker pro Ben Adler says, “Sometimes the $5/10 players at the Bellagio will go over and play $2/5 at the Wynn. Same buy-in cap [$1500] but since it’s $2/5 instead of $5/10, they’re playing 300, not 150, big blinds deep.” That’s just not the formula for a great low-stakes poker game.
So you get the nicest room and top-notch staff, but with the toughest opposition in town. There’s no free lunch. However, with that said, there really aren’t a lot of great $1/3 NLHE players running around the Wynn (or anywhere, truth be told). If you’re a decent, studied no-limit hold’em player, you can hold your own, and play profitably, in the Wynn $1/3 game. And your butt will be happy in their chairs, the whole time. Furthermore, you’ll never want for action. On a Monday afternoon at 4pm, Bravo shows seven $1/3 NLHE games, eight $2/5 games, and four $1/2 PLO games (yes, there is a dark side, even in the brightly lit Wynn poker room). There is also a $5/10 NLHE game, a $5/5+rock PLO game, and a $10/25 NLHE game with a big-blind ante. I’m sure those latter three games are all as soft as a baby’s bottom.
Finally, you’ll note that there’s no hotel review here. When I do my poker room reviews, I review the hotel only if it’s the only (or one of few) reasonable choices to rest your head. You can find a zillion reviews of the Wynn/Encore hotels online, and I actually have some ideas about where you can stay off-property. So I’ll leave the Wynn hotel review to others.
On second thought, there is one aspect of the Wynn hotel I’d like to mention…
Wynn/Encore poker by the numbers
Poker room: 9/10
- One point debited because the players are just too damn good.
- Non-smoking (but smoking detectable because of proximity to casino floor)
- Casino soundtrack: Millennial heaven. Taylor Swift and Billie Eilish
- Casino chaos coefficient: mostly low, except when the Encore Beach Club releases it’s 20-somethings on the surroundings.
- Minimum age: 21
- Restrooms: most convenient at the business – directly at the back of the poker room
- Table management: Bravo. You can’t get on wait lists via Bravo, but you can see what games are available. The floor is routinely reminding the dealers to update their Bravo information.
- Mask usage: 5% of patrons, 10% of staff. But no notice or shaming of masked patrons.
- No-limit hold’em buy-in caps: $1/3 – $100-$500; $2/5 – $200-$1500; $5/10 – $1000-∞.
- Rake: 10% capped at $5. No jackpot or high-hand drop (hooray).
- Straddle: UTG or button. Action starts UTG+1 for a UTG straddle, or UTG with a button straddle. Action jumps button straddle unless there is a raise in front.
- Bomb pots: Rarely. Always NLHE single board
- Tables have USB chargers.
- Excellent WiFi.
- Hero-spotting coefficient: When I was there, “Off the charts,” because the WPT Championship was happening down the hall in the ballrooms. On a regular day, it doesn’t have the marquee names as much as, e.g., the Bellagio or the Aria.
- Cocktail service