A variety of tournaments are held. They start with limit raise hold 'em (entry fee $1,500) on 25 April, running through seven card stud, omaha, high-low and lowball, and culminate in the world championship, no-limit hold'em (entry fee $10,000, first prize $1m), which runs from 15-18 May. For the first time this year Chinese poker, based on Pai Gow, is being introduced. As many people will know, staying in Las Vegas costs next to nothing. The only thing that is expensive is the play itself. But for those who prefer it, there is plenty of low-price action, right down to $3-$6 limit raise games, where $100 can last all day.
One British player who has just taken on the gunslingers of the Wild West with spectacular success is Londoner Jenny Jacob. She defeated 366 opponents in the $300 limit hold 'em tournament at the mighty Commerce Casino in Gardena, Los Angeles, to take first prize of $37,913. She is the first woman to win such a major event out there.
When head-to-head play began, Jenny had a 6-1 lead over Larry "Machine Gun" Schultz (the guys really do sport names like that). After flopping trip fours, which doubled his stack, Shultz seemed to be back in it. On the very next hand he was dealt 4K 4Q which is a huge hand heads-up. He raised before the flop and Jenny holding 2J 27 called. Given she was still so far ahead in chips, she judged the play was correct. The flop came up 49 47 !7 . This was do or die time, so Schultz bet the rest of his chips on his flush draw. Happily, Jenny's trip 7s stood up.
The card clubs of California are vast sheds of frenetic activity filled with noise and excitement, proffering some 200 tables divided between American poker and Chinese games. They are good fun in their own way. But for true believers, Binion's in May is better than April in Paris.