It’s amazing to me that in all of City Center there’s only one casino. But at least that one casino, in the Aria hotel, is top-notch. I’ve now played poker in Aria’s poker room several times over the past few weeks. The first time, I was planning to meet people later at Planet Hollywood so I parked at the Miracle Mile and walked across the pedestrian bridge to City Center. After crossing the bridge and getting an eyeful of the steel-and-glass buildings that make up the newest addition to the Strip, I walked inside. The walkway to Aria is through Crystals, a collection of high-end shops full of shiny sparkly things. It still looks a bit unfinished, and not all of the shops have opened yet. The passageway features an architectural blend of curves and straight lines, with a mix of organic and inorganic materials. The artworks tower over the people walking past. A Henry Moore sculpture looms outside of Crystals on the way to the Aria’s hotel lobby and casino.
The way to Aria was well-marked and I had no problem getting there. I only wished that the Puck Brasserie I saw along the way had been open for business. Once at the Aria I got a player’s card. It’s the same card for any MGM/Mirage property; I just didn’t have one yet. To get to the poker room from the hotel lobby, I turned left and walked all the way to the end of the casino.
While there is a lot of valet parking at City Center, there’s also some self-parking for Aria. I parked there once over the holidays, when the self-parking garage was nearly full. Entering from City Center Place, I was lucky to find a space. There were surprisingly wide gaps between most parking spaces in the garage, luxurious but taking up a lot of room that seemingly could be used for more cars. If you’re entering from the parking garage the poker room is right in front of you after crossing the connecting bridge and going down the escalator.
Aria’s casino is decorated in muted golds and browns. The poker room itself has some clever, impressive, nearly floor-to-ceiling metallic sculptures of cards. There are 24 poker tables, 18 of them regular and the others high-stakes. I saw a variety of limit and no-limit Hold-em and some Omaha being played.
There’s a podium at the front of the poker room where you ask for a game. There are monitors that show the games available and the waiting list. I usually didn’t have to wait long to get into a game of 1-3 no-limit Hold-em. The dealers are experienced and have apparently transferred there from other MGM/Mirage properties.
Playing there on New Year’s Eve, the room was active right up to the time I left to see the fireworks. It’s a fine poker room and people are generally rating it up there with the Bellagio and Venetian poker rooms. I’m looking forward to another return visit.