Not only is poker very much alive and well at the Golden Nugget downtown, it’s thriving at sister property in Laughlin and soon Atlantic City.
"I’m happy to say we just took over the Trump Marina property in Atlantic City and plan to build a poker room there over the summer months," said John Colville, director of poker and keno operations at the Nugget in Las Vegas. "We are coming into the height of our season now."
The Nugget has been a favorite spot for the pros for a number of years and gained national TV exposure for its "High Stakes Poker" and "Poker After Dark" series. Now the Nugget has coordinated its Grand Poker Series around the start of the World Series of Poker, which begins its satellite rounds Tuesday.
"It’s the fourth year for our Grand Series," Colville said. "We hold it in the Grand Ballroom, which can hold 60 to 70 tables. There are two featured tournaments most days and we conclude the Series with the Suzie and Howard Lederer Charity Event for the Boys and Girls Clubs on July 4."
The Grand Poker Series expanded a year ago and should be boosted even more with the reduced number of poker sites available on the Internet.
"As far as poker on line, there are pros and cons like anything else," Colville said. "You have the convenience on line of playing at 3 a.m. and not having to get dressed. Even though we’ve taken a step back, I feel it’s heading toward online poker being legalized."
In the meantime, the Nugget’s 13-table room is plush and very busy.
"We’re even seeing a spike in the non-peak hours with more games going into the graveyard (shift), which is nice," he said. "We’re open 24 hours and I feel people are going to play in our Series more with the opportunity for bigger cashes elsewhere, including the WSOP."
Poker wasn’t always this positive at the Nugget. Binion’s across the street took much of the action.
"Then in 2004, the last year for the WSOP across the street at Binion’s," Colville said, "things changed. There was a void of good poker sites downtown and we were able to capitalize. The Grand Poker Series began in 2008 and things really have been going well since. Pros like Phil Hellmuth, Gavin Smith, Todd Brunson and Phil Laak have been frequent guests and players here."
And now there is the expansion beyond Vegas.
"We just opened up a poker room in Laughlin, where there had been monthly tourneys for a long time," Colville said. "We never had a poker room, but now there is a glass-enclosed indoor room that sits above the Colorado River."
And, there’s the poker room scheduled for the Golden Nugget Atlantic City, which used to be Donald Trump’s Marina venue.
"We’re excited about what is happening at all the Nugget properties," Colville said. "I’ll go to Atlantic City if they ask me, but I’m very happy to be in Las Vegas and hope I am here for a long time."