Casinos in Nevada once gave priority to the number of poker tables they could accommodate on the floor as the game of poker was booming in early 2000. One of the reasons for the sudden craze over poker was due to Chris Moneymaker winning the 2003 World Series of Poker (WSOP) main event. Moneymaker was an amateur poker player and unheard of at that time but his win which fetched him $2.5 million was shown on TV and it inspired thousands of online poker players to believe that they could become millionaires overnight.
Casinos all over the world benefitted from the spike in poker games and it was no different in Nevada. Fast forward to today and that has all changed as Nevada casinos have reported a significant decline in poker revenues and as a result a number of casinos have taken the decision to either shrink the size of their poker room and reduce the number of poker tables or permanently close down their poker room. Some of the casinos in Nevada that have closed down their poker rooms for good include the Tropicana, Palms, Ellis Island and the Hard Rock Casino Hotel.
MGM Resorts International recently announced that it will also close down its poker room at the Monte Carlo casino as the property will go through a complete makeover. There is no confirmation if the casino will reopen the poker room or if it will shrink the number of tables. To compare how poker has declined in the last 10 years, one needs to look at relevant numbers.
When you go as far back as 2002, before Chris Moneymaker could win his WSOP main event, there was a total of 144 combined poker tables in Las Vegas and the revenue generated was around $30 million. After Moneymaker’s incredible WSOP win, the demand for poker increased significantly and in 2007, casinos on the Strip had a combined 405 poker tables generating $97 million. In 2016, the total number of poker tables on the strip stood at just 320 and brought in around $78 million.
Nevada’s casinos brought in $168 million in combined poker revenue from a total of 907 poker tables in 2007 and in 2016 they brought in just $188 million from 661 tables. Gaming analysts believe that poker reached its peak in 2007 and since then has been on a decline which has caused casinos all over Nevada to reconsider their options as they are always looking to make the most of their gaming space and generate as much revenue as possible from each square foot.
Casinos in general tend to make the highest amount of revenue from games such as blackjack and slots as this is where the player bets against the house. When it comes to poker, players tend to bet against each other and compete against each other’s poker skills. This means that the casinos don’t really win a percentage of the guaranteed prize pool but rather make a fee for hosting poker games. Another reason for the decline in the popularity of poker games is because games like Baccarat are gaining popularity in Vegas.
Baccarat is one of the most popular table games in Asia and a favorite amongst high-rollers who spend large amounts of money playing mini-baccarat and Baccarat. Vegas casinos have focused on attracting these Asian VIP gamblers and have introduced more baccarat tables at their casinos in order to cater to their VIP clientele.
Nevada is also one of the three states in America to have legalized online poker and this means that a number of poker players prefer to play online from the comfort of their home instead of making the trip to a brick & mortar casino. The company that owns the WSOP also owns Caesars Palace and decided in 2015 to shrink its poker room by more than sixty percent. The decision has worked well because now the poker room at Caesars generates a lot more income per square foot than before.
Seth Palansky who runs the poker room at Caesars Palace stated the poker market has changed considerably over the last few years and casinos need to rethink their strategy constantly as it is now possible to generate a lot more money per square foot with a day or nightclub than with a poker table.

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