Monday, February 04, 2008

How smoke-free is "smoke-free"?

Last June I submitted to (a site dedicated to contributors' experiences with Vegas poker rooms) a proposed classification of smokiness of local poker rooms (see Since then, some rooms have closed, some have relocated within the casino, I have played in some that I had not visited back then, and I have more experience with others. As I sat choking in Boulder Station today, it occurred to me that it was time to update the list. I also added the two rooms in Mesquite, Nevada. Finally, I've added links to room-specific reviews that I've written since having this-here blog.

I realize that not every reader will be interested in this information, but I think that posting it here will make it more readily found by search engines than when it's buried in the AVP forums. I can also easily make additions and modifications as needed here, which I can't easily do there.


I personally really dislike cigarette smoke, so one of the most important features for me in selecting which places to spend a lot of time is the probability that I will leave feeling the need to take a shower and change my clothes because of smelling of smoke.

I propose here a tentative classification of Las Vegas poker rooms based on the degree of isolation from smoking areas of the casino. Some of them I've only visited once, and my memory is a little vague, so I could be persuaded to shift some rooms up or down a level. Also, I realize that the borders between these categories are somewhat fuzzy and subjective--but it's the best scheme I could come up with.

The shorthand version is that smoke is generally not an issue that I think about before setting out to play in poker rooms that fall into the first three categories; those in the last three categories require me to decide whether I'm willing to put up with the smoke exposure.

Debate, disagreement, etc., are welcome in the comments section.

1. Room physically separated from smoking areas by walls, doors, and/or corridors; as close to truly smoke-free as you'll find.

Binion's (Note added November 3, 2008: This refers to the new poker room opened 10/30/08, a vast improvement over the old room, which had been in category 3. See
Caesars Palace

2. Room open on one end or side to smoking area, but little or no infiltration of smoke is noticeable. (Caveat: in some of these, certain tables may be close to the open area, and if people are smoking right in the doorway, the experience may be irritating temporarily. Overall, though, I think they're easy enough on the lungs that it's just not an issue.)


Gold Coast (This is the new poker room, opened early December, 2008, a great improvement on the previous one. See
Golden Nugget
Green Valley Ranch

Hard Rock (see
Monte Carlo (closed as I write this due to recent rooftop fire, but expected to re-open once repairs are finished; no reason to think that the poker room will be altered)
Oasis (Mesquite; see
Palace Station (Note added November 3, 2008: Palace Station used to allow smoking in the wee morning hours, but I have just learned that that practice was discontinued a few weeks ago.)
Palms (Room becomes a Category 6, with smoking allowed at the tables, after 2:00 a.m.)
Red Rock
Sam's Town
(Note added November 3, 2008: New room recently opened at Suncoast, but smoke rating remains the same. See
Treasure Island (TI)

3. Room open to smoking areas on more than one side, but actual amount of smoke entering is not bothersome, due to distance/buffer zone between smoking and non-smoking areas and/or effective ventilation. I rarely if ever notice smoke during a poker session or on my clothes after leaving.

Circus Circus
M Resort
Mandalay Bay
MGM Grand

Rio (see
Santa Fe Station
South Point

Sunset Station (see
Venetian (see

4. Room fully or almost fully open to smoking areas (usually just a roped-off section of the main casino floor, or surrounded by a useless half-wall). Smoke is frequently noticeable while playing. It's usually a minor annoyance rather than a real assault on the senses, but I can expect to smell of smoke when I leave, sometimes lightly, sometimes heavily.

Eastside Cannery (see
Eureka (Mesquite; see
Fiesta Henderson (see
(new room opened late 2007, old room was much worse; see
Orleans (see
O'Shea's (new poker room in the back; see The configuration of this room is actually like those of category 2--open on just one end--but it's so small and ineffectively isolated that the experience I had the one time I was there was much more like the others in category 4, so after some debate with myself about how to list it, I moved it here with this explanatory note.)

5. Physically similar layouts to category 4 above, but, additionally, smoking allowed within a few feet of tables and/or such poor ventilation that there is lots of infiltration from smoking areas, even if they are more than a few feet away. I am frequently or constantly bothered by the smoke while playing and will definitely reek of it when I leave. These rooms are only marginally better than those in category 6.

Bill's Gamblin' Hall and Saloon (see
El Cortez (see
Hooters (Edit, 2/4/08: I originally had this in category 4, which is how it was the only time I played there, but the comments received convinced me to make it a category 6 now. I'll try to stop in there sometime soon and see for myself.) (Edit 2/10/08: Went there tonight and confirmed those reports. See (Edit 2/4/10: On a visit last night, I learned that the policy changed many months ago, and players must now step away from the table to smoke. Hooters is therefore now listed in category 5. See
Imperial Palace (see
Jokers Wild (see
O'Shea's (two poker tables in front of casino; see
Plaza (see
Planet Hollywood (note that this is the new location of the poker room as of early October, 2008, which is much worse than the old location; see
Poker Palace (see
Railroad Pass (see
Rampart (see
(new room opened late 2007; much worse than the old room; see
Silverton (temporary poker area roped off from main casino floor while new room under construction; much worse than previous poker room; see

6. Smoking allowed right at the tables; bring your own iron lung along.

Arizona Charlie's-Decatur (see
Boulder Station
Club Fortune
Palms (after 2:00 a.m.) See
Texas Station This is a recent (July, 2009, apparently) change.

The unknowns: There are still a few poker rooms in the valley that I haven't played in yet.

Railroad Pass (listed above because I have been there and can easily tell how it would be, but there was no game going at the time)

Speedway (which apparently hasn't spread a poker game in months; see

Hacienda (I'm not completely sure they even have a poker room anymore)

Nevada Palace (ditto; see and and Edit: Nevada Palace is now officially defunct, and has been replaced by the Eastside Cannery.


gadzooks64 said...

Thanks for the info!

I can't stand cigarette smoke! IL just passed a ban on indoor smoking and I was thrilled. I love to bowl but bowling alleys are horrid with smokers. Starting Jan 1st no more smoking! Wooooot!

I love Caesar's poker room but I'll be staying at Harrah's this summer when I go. I haven't played in Harrah's yet but I'm sure I will!

The Shrink said...

I might move one or two of those rooms up or down the list (like the Orleans, which has improved but not solved the smoke issue there) but overall a comprehensive review on a topic that more poker rooms and casinos in general will need to address more and more in the future.


Unknown said...

While I don't enjoy second hand smoke, it's health effects are drastically overstated by everyone but Phillip Morris.

I typically play in the big rooms when I come to town and they are more than acceptable to me.

Anonymous said...

You might want to add Hooters to a "class 6" as the two main tables allow smoking.

Hooters has actually moved their poker room, out of the poker room.

Explanation: They've moved two tables out of the poker room, so players can smoke at these tables. These are usually the only two table going at any one time. Occasionally, on a busy weekend, you will find a game in the actual poker room, where smoking is not allowed.