Small-stakes game officially born
On Wednesday, July 22, I walked into the poker room at The Venetian with a plan. I asked to speak to the shift manager, Tracy Mendiola. I gave Tracy a copy of my new book, Advanced Pot-Limit Omaha: Small Ball and Short-Handed Play, and told her that I had a specific structure in mind for a small-stakes pot-limit Omaha (PLO) game, and if The Venetian would accommodate that structure, we would play the game there on Thursdays at 8 p.m.

Tracy agreed, and at a little after 8 o’clock the following night, small-stakes PLO in Las Vegas was officially born.

Structure: $1-$2 blinds with a $5 bring-in ($200-minimum, $500-maximum buy-in)

The structure is $1-$2 blinds with a $5 bring-in and a $200-minimum, $500-maximum buy-in. This game is aimed primarily at $2-$5 no-limit hold’em (NLHE) players, and to a lesser extent, $1-$2 NLHE players.

With the exception of the blinds, it is played as a red-chip game (all betting is done in $5 units) both before and after the flop. As such, the minimum bring-in before the flop is $5, not $2. Preflop, the blinds count as $5 total (rather than $5 each) for betting purposes (that is, the first player into the pot can raise to $15 max rather than $20), and the odd chips (from the blinds) are rounded up after the flop for betting purposes.

In order to help control the size of the game, it is played without a straddle. By removing the straddle and instituting a max buy-in of $500 (100 times the bring-in), the game is designed to keep bigger players from overly dominating and effectively changing the stakes of the game, while allowing for reasonably deep-stacked play. Meanwhile, the minimum buy-in of $200 (40 times the bring-in) is high enough to prevent short-stacking, but low enough to allow entry-level players to at least take a shot at the game.

Structure Summary
$1-$2 blinds with a $5 bring-in ($200-minimum, $500-maximum buy-in)
10-handed game
No straddle
The blinds count as $5 total preflop (the first player into the pot can raise to $15 max)
Red-chip game (round odd chips up after the flop)
Players may run it twice

Why The Venetian?
The Venetian was my choice for this game for the simple reason that the room already has the players that we need to grow the game ($2-$5 NLHE players, and $1-$2 NLHE players, to an extent). There is little question in my mind that The Venetian poker room dominates the small-stakes NLHE action in Las Vegas, and the one thing I’ve learned about starting new PLO games is that you don’t make the players come to you; instead, you go to where the players already are.

Moreover, I was comfortable with The Venetian. The dealers there are competent, and have plenty of experience dealing PLO. In addition, I got the impression from the PLO action during the World Series of Poker that The Venetian was receptive to the idea of promoting the game.

My goal is to grow the game from the bottom up, and from the center of the poker universe out. So, in order to give this game — and small-stakes PLO in Las Vegas in general — the best chance to succeed, I believed it had to start at The Venetian.

The Game of the Future is Here
The game started six-handed at 8 o’clock that Thursday night. It filled up by 8:30 p.m., and was still full when I left it at 2 a.m. The game went so well, in fact, that we decided to try to play again on Friday at 8 p.m. After that game ran through the night, we decided that we would run the game every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 8 p.m. until the game ran every day on its own.

As I write this, we have just completed our ninth consecutive week of Thursday-Friday-Saturday action, with the game being spread occasionally on other days, as well. Thus far, several hundred different players have come by and checked out the game. It has not been uncommon to get two games running, and the demand has grown so much that the game no longer needs the 8 p.m. starting time.

The game of the future is here. The next time that you are in Las Vegas, stop by The Venetian to check out the game and join the “PLO Revolution.”

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