SAHARA POKER ROOM (LAS VEGAS) —
A SHORT REVIEW
Yesterday, I visited the new Sahara Poker Room, which opened the previous day. Sahara management’s bold decision to dedicate considerable space and cost to poker deserves praise. If you are a Las Vegas poker player (or a visitor), it seems to me this is the sort of thing that should be supported. At the least, the Sahara Poker Room deserves a visit.
This is the first poker room to open in Las Vegas in ten years. The Las Vegas poker market, which has been flat for quite a long time, has experienced consolidation. The biggest rooms have done fine. Meanwhile, several smaller rooms have been reduced in size or have closed.
Typically, a new poker room opening would not interest me. However, two key attributes attracted my attention.
First, this was my first visit to the new Sahara property since it was rebranded from the (previous) SLS Resort. That failed experiment turned into a half-billion-dollar disaster. Bringing back the classic Sahara name and updating the property is certain to jump-start enthusiasm for the northern area of The Strip, which has been a ghost town for anything north of the Wynn. Once some other properties in the area open up (namely Resorts World across the street), the Sahara should do quite well with both hotel stays and foot traffic.
Second, I’m a big fan of Steven Pique, who is hired as head of poker operations at the Sahara. I worked with Steven for years on the WSOP Circuit traveling around the country. He was always thoroughly professional and knowledgeable. His impact on the new room should be both immediate and long-lasting. I’m glad to support Steven, who deserves every bit of success.
So, what is it that’s special about the Sahara Poker Room. Here are a few observations:
1. Free parking and easy access from the garage. Other casinos charge for parking or require long walks. I was able to get into the parking garage easily (from both Paradise and Las Vegas Blvd.), park on the 4th Floor, and walk to the poker room within 5 minutes.
2. Comps are awarded at $2 per hour, which is a nice perk. Check with the room on exact hours, but during the day shift, the comp rate is $3 an hour.
3. I really like the giant screen television on the wall. Most poker rooms have TVs with sporting events high overhead. It’s not always easy to see the action. For those who enjoy playing poker while watching sports, the giant screen is an attraction (see photo). Whoever made that decision got it right.
4. While I was visiting, a player ordered food inside the room. Imagine that, a cart with a plate and silverware was wheeled up next to the player. So, instead of fast-food garbage brought to tableside, the Sahara offers real food with a wide range of menu items combined from several restaurants. I’m really big on food served at tableside, and this right up there with the Aria (best food service in the city) in terms of poker and dining options.
5. The room is new and will take a little while to develop a loyal fan base. However, I noted they’ve already spread Pot-Limit Omaha and are eager to expand to more games than just Hold’em. Talk to Steven or any of the managers, and I expect they’ll do everything possible to accommodate a request. Once again I stress, these are POKER people running the room, not flunkies assigned from other areas of the casino floor.
6. Tables and chairs are spacious and comfortable. I can’t stand cramped poker rooms where players are sardined into seats. This is common in Las Vegas, where players are treated like chattel. Smoking is banned, of course, and there were no signs of second-hand smoke.
7. The Sahara Poker Room initially was advertised to be a room that would close at 2 am. However, the first night one of the games lasted until 7 am the next morning. Steven noted that no poker game will ever be shut down. So, the room might close overnight during slower times midweek, but so long as a game is going, it will run as long as players want to play.
8. Not really poker-related, but I love the restaurants at Sahara. The steakhouse (Bazaar Meat by Jose Andres) is probably the best in the city. The Italian restaurant is also very good. There are also some burger places, including one inside the race and sportsbook. Again — this is another difference: Most sportsbooks don’t offer food. But Sahara has a full-scale restaurant inside the sportsbook (a carryover from SLS).
9. I love the location of the poker room. It’s right next to the casino floor, but still far enough away not to be bombarded with the noise from slot machines. It’s always a good indication as to how management feels about poker by the placement of a poker room, and it’s obvious this establishment is taking the game and its players seriously.
Let me be clear. I’m difficult to please. I’m opinioned. I don’t do fluff pieces. I blast failure. But I also praise commitment and effort. At the Sahara what I see is exactly that — commitment and effort.
I wish the new Sahara Poker Room well. They’ve spent serious money and have designed a beautiful room. If they build it, let’s hope they come. I recommend making a visit.