Mandalay Bay Poker Room
Dec 13, 2005  
2005 Jason Kirk  

Mandalay Bay is known for its famous shark reef, its restaurants and nightclubs, and its shopping. One thing you won't often hear associated with it, however, is poker. Back by the sports book in the casino is Mandalay's poker room, a small, nicely appointed operation that doesn't always get first mention. If you're looking for an out-of-the-way room with good service you might want to check it out.

The Mandalay Bay poker room is farily small in comparison to other nearby rooms like the Excalibur and MGM Grand. There are only 10 tables, so there won't be a wide variety of games to choose from, but the room is very nice. The tables are all new, with automatic shufflers and a wooden rail. The chairs are also new, and very comfortable as well. The chips are less worn than at some other nearby casinos, too, which can make a nice difference in the game. Even though the room is small, you won't have to wait too long to get into a game most of the time - the lists move fairly quickly.

The range of games spread at Mandalay is fairly limited, mostly due to the small size of the room. Limit Texas hold'em games are available at $4-8, $6-12, and $10-20 limits, all with a 1/2 kill. A $2-4 limit hold'em game with no kill is also now being spread. There is also a $200 buy-in no-limit hold'em games with blinds of $2 and $4. A $1-5 spread limit seven-card stud game runs whenever there are enough players to fill a table, and on occasion low-limit Omaha games will open up as well. In addition to the cash games, Mandalay Bay also runs two daily tournaments during the week. The $30 tournament, held Monday through Thursday at 10 AM, is limit for the first hour and becomes no-limit after that. The $60 tournament, held Monday through Friday, is no-limit. There are no rebuys in either tourney.

The Mandalay Bay room isn't the most generous on the Strip with comps, but it's also fairly reasonable. Five hours of play per day is good enough to get you the poker room rate for your stay at Mandalay Bay Hotel, which is $115 during the week and $175 on the weekend. You can also get a food comp after 4 hours of play. Put those two together and you'll probably get enough extra value to keep yourself happy.

The dealers at Mandalay Bay are decent on the whole - better than the group at the Excalibur, for instance, but not as good as those at the MGM Grand or Bellagio. For the most part they're a friendly bunch who don't mind a little patter with the players while still keeping the game running smoothly, though some of them are fairly stern by-the-book dealers who don't seem to enjoy their jobs very much. The service in general is quick and, while not the friendliest in town, relatively amicable.

The competition at the Mandalay Bay poker room is soft and profitable. The relatively small blinds in their limit hold'em games (e.g. $1 & $2 at the $4-8 game) seem to encourage more action than you might find in similar games elsewhere, and it's rarely from players who are very solid. It's not at all out of character to find people calling you down with bottom pair, or even ace high. The games are also relatively chatty and friendly. Patient but aggressive players should find themselves rewarded for playing in this room.

It's not the biggest or best room on the south Strip, but Mandalay Bay's poker room is comfortable, attractive, well-run and profitable. If you're staying anywhere near it and feel like playing poker at all you might do well to give it a try.

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