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The Top Five Cities To Launch Your Poker Career: Part Two

A Ranking Of The Top Five


Note: This is part 2 of 2. For part 1, click here.

After looking over your records (you are keeping records, right?) you notice that you turned a nice profit at the tables the last year or so. Maybe it was much more than a small profit. Perhaps you won a couple of tournaments, dominated your home game, or are considered one of your local poker room’s top players.

Perhaps you are asking yourself if you have what it takes to play full-time, as a poker professional. If so, where do you go, geographically, to take a shot?

Due to a lack of games and stakes in the majority of the United States, if you are truly serious about taking your game to the next level, you might consider a move to a part of the country with better options.

Thankfully, these days poker players have more options than ever. In decades past, poker players were restricted to just a few cities nationwide. Today, there are hundreds of card rooms from coast to coast that spread low, mid, and high-stakes games around the clock.

Card Player has scoured North America and has come up with a look at the top five cities where a player can access the types of games that make launching a poker career possible.

No. 5 — Baltimore, Maryland

Thanks to a 2012 measure allowing casinos in Maryland to add table games, poker has exploded in popularity. Now, the region is an ideal location for any poker player looking to put down roots.

The state’s largest casino, Maryland Live! in Hanover, is located just 20 minutes away from the state’s largest city, Baltimore, and houses a whopping 52 tables, making it one of the largest rooms in the mid-Atlantic region and among the top 15 in the nation. The room, which has been packed since opening in August 2013, boasts limits as high as $50-$100 limit hold’em, $10-$25 no-limit hold’em, and $10-$10 pot-limit Omaha (PLO). On the weekends, you can expect almost half the room to be occupied with $1-$2 and $2-$5 no-limit hold’em and as many as half a dozen small-stakes PLO games. Throughout the week, Maryland Live! hosts tournaments ranging from $80 to $230. On Sundays, the $330 deepstack tournament features a $20,000 guarantee.

In the immediate area, you have the future site of the Horseshoe Casino Baltimore, which is currently under construction and scheduled to open in mid-2014. Caesars Entertainment, which will run the property, hasn’t committed to specific size for their poker room, but has said that the casino will house upwards of 110 total table games, including a World Series of Poker branded card room.

For variety, Baltimore players can also head to Hollywood Casino Perryville (36 miles), Delaware Park Casino (58 miles), Hollywood Charles Town (66 miles), and even venture further out to Parx Casino (105 miles) in Bensalem, Pennsylvania, which has 61 tables and annually hosts a World Poker Tour event. Overall, there are over 200 poker tables within a 90-minute drive with more coming soon.

One downside to starting your poker career in Baltimore is the taxes. While Maryland residents enjoy a relatively modest sales tax (6 percent) and state income tax rate (up to 5.75 percent), the property tax rate is among the highest in the nation, making it a somewhat expensive place to live.

No. 4 — Atlantic City, New Jersey

You may be surprised to see Atlantic City so far down on this list. The one-time poker hotbed and home to a young Phil Ivey is currently fighting off a seven-year slump brought on by a struggling economy and an increase in casino competition in bordering states. However, the city still offers a fertile ground for up-and-coming poker players looking for a variety of games and limits.

Of the 12 casinos licensed to operate in the city, eight still operate poker rooms. The largest is the Borgata, which runs a spacious 85-table card room and spreads a variety of games nearly unmatched in the country. Stud specialists will have trouble finding games outside of Atlantic City, where mixed games as high as $200-$400 run with regularity. Limit hold’em players also have options ranging from $2-$4, $10-$20, $20-$40, and even $40-$80 games. If the games aren’t to your liking, other casinos such as Ballys, the Showboat, the Trump Taj Mahal, and Harrah’s all regularly spread some small-stakes games.

On an average weekend, you can expect more than 50 games of $1-$2 and $2-$5 no-limit hold’em to be running in Atlantic City. At the Borgata, players can jump up to $5-$10 no-limit and above with the occasional PLO game running as well.

Those who consider themselves to be better tournament players will appreciate the more than 100 daily tournaments run each week in the city. The World Poker Tour makes two appearances at the Borgata annually and was just granted the upcoming $25,000 WPT Championship event for April. Both Harrah’s and Caesars Palace host World Series of Poker Circuit stops each year as well. New Jersey is also one of just three states in the country to license and regulate online poker.

Unfortunately for poker players, the state of New Jersey isn’t very kind when it comes to sales tax (7 percent) and personal income tax (6.37 percent for those earning between $75,000 and $500,000). Additionally, New Jersey has the highest median property tax in the nation.

On exciting addition to New Jersey was the October 2013 launch of online poker which saw nearly 200,000 total registered accounts as of the end of January 2014. A total of six casino operators offer online gambling in the state, with the Borgata, powered by PartyPoker, leading the way with the WSOP and Ultimate Poker among others.

No. 3 — Las Vegas, Nevada

Although Las Vegas remains the gaming capital of the United States, poker often plays second fiddle to other forms of gambling on the Strip. Slot machines, pit games, and sports betting accounts for just under 99 percent of the state’s total gaming revenue. However, the poker boom significantly grew the poker footprint in America’s most iconic gambling destination, and it still offers excellent daily tournament and cash-game action.

Although only one Las Vegas poker room ranks in the top ten for most tables in the nation, the city has just shy of 50 card rooms, giving local players an incredible amount of options, especially at the lower and mid-stakes. In total, the city is equipped with over 800 poker tables.

The biggest room belongs to the Venetian, which after recent renovation, now has 59 tables. The Bellagio (39), Orleans (35), Caesars Palace (30), Wynn (26), and Aria (24) round out the top five. The most common games spread in almost every card room is $1-$3 or $2-$5 no-limit hold’em, making Las Vegas one of the best locations for players looking to grind up a small starting bankroll. Those who rise to the top of the poker world can routinely find high-stakes mixed games at the Venetian, Aria, and in the famed Bobby’s Room at Bellagio.

If tournaments are your bread and butter, you’ll be overwhelmed with more than 500 tournaments that run weekly in the city with buy-ins ranging from just $20 to $500. Of course, the summer is filled with many marquee tournament series’ including the World Series of Poker, but Las Vegas is also home to the WPT, WSOP Circuit, Heartland Poker Tour, and our own Card Player Poker Tour.

Perhaps the best reason to make the move to Las Vegas to start your poker career is the lack of state income tax. The sales tax is high at 8.1 percent, but the state’s low tax burden and modest cost of living more than makes up for it.

In April of 2013, Ultimate Poker launched its online poker product in the state and was soon joined by the WSOP. Though Nevada’s small population (2.75 million) makes it a small market for online poker, operators are hoping to soon link up with other states to increase the player pool.

No. 2 — Fort Lauderdale, Florida

With fewer poker rooms than Las Vegas, you may wonder why Fort Lauderdale, Florida is listed at second in our rankings. The answer lies in quality rather than quantity. Florida has the fourth highest population in the country, the state experienced a late poker boom, and it’s well known that people in the state love to gamble and, as an added bonus, many are still learning the game.

Poker has officially been a part of Florida gaming since 1989 when penny-ante games were legalized. However, due to a $10 cap on pot size, most gamblers continued to place their bets at the horse tracks, dog tracks, and jai-alai frontons. In 2003, the law was changed to allow $2 betting limits and, in 2007, no-limit hold’em made its debut with a $100 cap on buy-ins. Finally, in the summer of 2010, the state scrapped its buy-in restrictions, officially opening the poker floodgates. The end result was a regional poker boom that rivaled that of Las Vegas in 2003.

Though the biggest card room (72 tables) in the state is six hours north at bestbet Jacksonville, those who reside in Fort Lauderdale, a seaside South Florida city about 20 minutes north of Miami, have the most poker options available to them. The second biggest poker room in the state, the Palm Beach Kennel Club (60 tables), is just minutes away, as are rooms such as the Seminole Hard Rock Hollywood (41), the Isle at Pompano Park (38), the Miccosukee Casino Resort (32), and Mardi Gras Racetrack (30). In total, the state of Florida has 32 poker rooms, five of which are among the largest 15 in the nation.

Tournament poker is also taking off in the region. Last year, the Seminole Hard Rock Hollywood hosted a $10 million guarantee tournament and plans to bring it back in 2014, albeit with a smaller buy in and $5 million guarantee. The state has a total of three WPT stops, a WSOP Circuit stop, an HPT stop, and two CPPT stops.

Like Nevada, Florida has no state income tax and Fort Lauderdale collects a low sales tax rate of just 6 percent. There has also been numerous pushes from legislators and developers to bring a destination casino resort to South Florida, as well as online poker. Though efforts thus far have stalled, there is increasing focus on making both a reality in the near future.

No. 1 — Los Angeles, California

The undisputed king of poker is the greater Los Angeles area, with more poker tables, tournaments, and game options than any other region in the country. The three largest poker rooms in the world are all in L.A. and the city of angels boasts four of the top 10 rooms overall.

Consider this fact: the Commerce Casino, Bicycle Casino, Hawaiian Gardens Casino, and Hollywood Park Casino have a total of 492 poker tables currently in use, which is slightly more than the top 25 cardrooms in all of Nevada have combined.

While limit hold’em may be dying in other parts of the country, the game thrives in L.A. with games spread from $2-$4 to $100-$200 with incredible regularity. No-limit players will never have to wait long to find anything from $1-$2 ($100 buy in no-limit) to $10-$20 ($500-$1,500 buy in no-limit), because there are always tons of games going in the city on any given night. Even high-stakes mixed game players have no problem getting $400-$800 games started and the stakes can get even higher when a big tournament series rolls through town.

Speaking of tournaments, there are more than 60 daily tournaments that run each week in the city. Los Angeles is also home to the WPT L.A. Poker Classic, a $10,000 buy-in tournament that has launched the careers of poker greats such as Antonio Esfandiari, Michael Mizrachi, and Gus Hansen. Even small buy-in tournaments routinely get incredible turnouts. In January, a $150 buy-in event at the Commerce drew 8,133 entrants. Earlier that month, a $100 buy-in tournament at the Bicycle Casino had 25 different starting days, 5,316 entries and 4,732 add-ons, creating a prize pool of nearly $1.6 million.

Gamblers in California endure a wide range of state income tax brackets, ranging from just 1 percent to 12.3 percent for those earning more than $500,000 each year. Most players fall into a 9.3 percent rate which is taxed on earnings of $50,000 to $250,000. Unfortunately, Los Angeles residents will struggle to find affordable housing and have to deal with a high 9 percent sales tax.

With over 38 million residents, California is the number one most sought after online poker market in the United States. Although past efforts have stalled due to Native American casino interests, many believe 2014 may be the year that online poker comes to the Golden State with two separate bills introduced in February.

Let us know if you agree with our rankings in the comments section below.



8 years ago

I actually agree with this... I live in Las Vegas and travel to LA to play at the Commcerce and Bike. Really juicy games there


8 years ago

One issues that might lower Hard Rock Hollywood Casino is the brutal rake that makes lower limit games almost unbeatable. I think they were pulling out $5 of the first $20 and $8 out of pots $30 or bigger. $2 of that is a very bad high hand ($300 per hour but that is not paid out some hours and not rolled over, they are taking 80% of that money for sure). I might come back for tournaments but I will never play cash there again. The games are juicy and with the higher limits I am sure it does not matter.


8 years ago

I grew up in Vegas, went to UNLV and played full-time thinking I was in poker heaven until I started playing in L.A. Even during the day there are plenty of good games to chose from. Hustler, Hollywood Park, The Bike, Commerce and Hawaiian Gardens are all within a short drive of each other. It's also worth the 45 minute drive from L.A. to Ventura to check out the Players Club. The place is packed every weekday before noon and they have some really big no-limit and plo games to chose from. Southern California is definitely the poker capital of the world.


8 years ago

New Orleans is not a bad place to start. Harrahs has great action with loads of tourist and conventions every weekend. They don't have the huge games but is a great place to start grinding it out.


5 years ago

If folks love the L.A. poker scene I assume they have their reasons (and, more importantly, their experiences), but I could never take any game seriously in which you can't get even 100X the big blind. I'm gonna sit down with people putting $40 on the table to play the $1/$2 game?! Not in this lifetime. Give me Vegas or AC every day of the week...apart from the weather.


over 4 years ago

New Orleans is not a bad place to start, Anyways when will you post again this kind of list? I just discover MGM Grand Hotel & Casino Las Vegas, have you play there before?