The Fascinating Poker Background of Downtown Las Vegas

Poker at Golden Nugget CasinoExperience the thrill of playing poker at the renowned Golden Nugget Casino.

About 15 years ago, the bustling downtown area of Las Vegas boasted a total of six poker rooms that were open for business. Fast forward to the present day, and you'll find that Golden Nugget stands as the solitary survivor among them. What sets Golden Nugget apart from its erstwhile competitors, you may wonder? Well, the secret lies in its exceptional management and the substantial backing of a grand hotel. As time progressed, the other poker rooms gradually dwindled away, their demise attributed to a dearth of activity and player engagement.

In the illustrious Golden Nugget poker room, one can partake in the exhilarating games of 1/2 no limit hold'em and 3/6 fixed limit hold'em. It is noteworthy that the no limit variant has no cap, allowing players to immerse themselves in the uncharted depths of high-stakes gambling. Although daily tournaments are absent from the Golden Nugget schedule, fear not, for the establishment compensates with the highly anticipated Grand Poker Series during the summer months. This majestic event attracts passionate poker enthusiasts from far and wide, who gather to showcase their skills and bask in the glory of intense competition.

Let me take you on a journey down the memory lane of downtown Las Vegas poker rooms, specifically the ones that were operational 15 years ago. It's fascinating to look back and reminisce about these establishments, especially since the last one closed its doors in March 2020. Allow me to describe each of these five poker rooms, shedding light on their unique features and quirks.

Binion’s poker room

I have fond memories of Binion's, the iconic poker room in downtown Las Vegas. It held on until March 2020, making it the last of its kind in the area. Unfortunately, the pandemic dealt a final blow to the room as Nevada casinos were forced to close their doors. However, even before that, Binion's had been struggling for years. Once the birthplace of the renowned World Series of Poker, the room had seen better days. They used to host vibrant summer poker series, but those came to an end a few years prior to the room's closure. Towards the end, Binion's couldn't even stay open 24 hours a day and struggled to gather enough players for cash games. It was a far cry from its former glory.

The poker room at El Cortez

During the day, the El Cortez poker room boasted three tables where poker enthusiasts could indulge in their favorite card game. The air was filled with anticipation as players gathered around the 2-6 spread limit hold'em table, strategizing their moves and hoping for a stroke of luck. The stakes were raised when night fell, and the room transformed into a lively arena for a thrilling 1/2 no limit game, where players could go all-in and let their skills shine. Saturday mornings were reserved for a different kind of challenge, as a 1-5 spread limit seven card stud game took center stage, inviting players to showcase their expertise in this classic variation of poker.

The poker room at El Cortez remained operational to accommodate Jackie Gaughan, its previous proprietor, who would engage in daytime play. In this lively setting, he regaled fellow players with captivating tales, keeping them entertained throughout the game. Numerous visitors flocked to the establishment solely for the opportunity to partake in a poker match with a renowned Las Vegas figure. Sadly, when Gaughan's deteriorating health impeded his ability to participate in poker games, the room had no choice but to shutter its doors.

This masterpiece occupies a space above the former poker room, situated directly opposite the players club where the U1 machines are now located.


Over the past 15 years, the Plaza Casino has had poker games available in four distinct areas. The current location of the Plaza Rewards desk was once home to the main poker room. This particular room was where players could find Panguingue, a popular card game often referred to as Pan.

Back in the day, the spot where Sand Dollar Lounge currently stands used to house the Omaha Bar and the keno lounge. Interestingly, the last two spaces were dedicated to the Pokertek electronic tables. However, things took a different turn when the company responsible for those machines was bought out by a new group that had no interest in obtaining a Nevada gaming license. Consequently, the room had no choice but to shut down since there were no other viable options available at that time.


The D, formerly known as Fitzgeralds, holds a special place in my heart. Back in the day, this iconic establishment boasted a modest poker room, located on the second level where the current Circa Sportsbook stands. Sadly, the poker room faced numerous challenges in attracting players on a regular basis. Even their daily tournament at 7pm, which held great promise, often failed to garner enough participants. Ultimately, when the casino underwent its rebranding as The D, the poker room bid its farewell and closed its doors.

Las Vegas Club

Between the main bar and the casino cage, there were several instances where poker rooms popped up and disappeared at the Las Vegas Club, which is now the Circa. These poker rooms were either situated at the back, near Frisky's Bar, or in the immediate vicinity of the main bar and casino cage.

Around 2009, the Las Vegas Club poker room, with its limited number of tables, decided to call it quits. It struck me as unusual that the same company, which also owned Plaza at that time and had a thriving poker room there, kept persisting in their efforts to establish yet another poker room. Nevertheless, the Las Vegas Club ultimately made the decision to abandon their poker venture for good.