The world-famous Bicycle Casino—lovingly nicknamed “the Bike”—is a Los Angeles staple. At first glance, the 100,000-square-foot Bicycle Casino poker room is, indeed, the gold standard when it comes to poker rooms. However, when you read some reviews, people either love the Bike or truly despise it.
Located in Bell Gardens, this world-renowned and popular casino offers a wide variety of poker and card games. From Texas Hold‘Em to Omaha to Seven Card Stud to Mexican Poker to Three Card Poker to Pai Gow Poker to Blackjack to Baccarat, there is something for everyone.
Because of its size and popularity, the Bike has hosted a number of high-caliber tournaments over the years. From the World Series of Poker (WSOP) to the World Poker Tour (WPT)—and virtually everything in between, the Bike has also been home to the popular Legends of Poker tournament since 1995.
In the fall of 2015, the Bike added a seven-story, nearly 118,000 square foot, 99-room hotel expansion that also included a fitness center, cocktail lounge, restaurants, live entertainment area, brewery, and sun deck with outside bar.
A brief yet colorful history of the Bike
George Hardie, Sr. founded the Bicycle Casino which opened on November 30, 1984. Its early reputation includes allegedly having been funded by drug laundering money courtesy of Sam Gilbert, a businessman and one-time athletic booster for the UCLA Bruins men’s basketball team.
In 1987, the feds launched in investigation into alleged racketeering and money laundering based on evidence of marijuana smuggling proceeds being used to finance the Bike’s construction. In April, 1990, the US government seized the Bicycle Casino after determining that $12 million of the $22 million used to finance the Bike came from Florida drug smugglers. Hardie and the Bike’s owners—Park Place Associates—were both exonerated and regained their 35 percent stake. However, other owners and partners from LCP Associates were found to have known about the illegal funding. These parties settled by yielding a substantial portion of their interest in the company. Both Gilbert and his son, Michael, were, ultimately, indicted.
Interestingly, after making tens of millions of dollars and lobbying to defeat a proposed rival poker club in Orange County, the federal government sold its share of the casino in 1996 to a British gaming company.
Today, this massive 185-table games casino is privately owned by Bicycle Hotel & Casino, LLC.
2017 Bicycle Casino raid
The Bike was, again, the subject of controversy when it was raided by federal law enforcement in April 2017 for money laundering. This time, some players allegedly used the casino to exchange “dirty” money for chips and then cash those chips in for “clean” money. Despite numerous other allegations of rigged games and cheating, these accusations were not part of the investigation.
During the raid, the Bike closed for about 20 hours while agents seized thousands of financial records. The casino reopened the following day.
While the California Gambling Control Commission placed restrictions on the Bike’s gaming license, there is no new news regarding the scope, nature, and extent of the investigation. As it stands today, the Bike is business as usual.
Cleanliness, comfort, and cuisine
Fans cite the spaciousness of the poker room, sheer variety of games, friendly dealers, tableside service, and incredible food as the Bike’s key benefits. Other strong points include the structure of cash games and the overall comfort of the room itself. If you’re going to be sitting at a poker table upwards of ten (or more) hours per day, comfort is definitely a key consideration. As is food.
Cash games at the Bike
With 185 poker tables, the Bicycle Casino poker room spreads a large number and variety of games throughout the day and night such as:
- $2/$4 to $20/$40 Limit Hold’Em and Stud
- $2/$3 to $10/$20 No-Limit Hold’Em
- $15/$30 and $40/$80 mixed games
- As well as a variety of Pot-Limit Omaha, Mexican Poker, and single tournament tables (STT).
Check here for a complete listing of available games and up-to-the-minute waiting lists. Be aware that players have criticized the Bike for its seat availability and extensive waiting list at times, particularly for lower-level cash games.
Tournaments at the Bicycle Casino poker room
There is no shortage of Bicycle Casino poker room tournaments. This high-profile, world-class card room has hosted the best of the best. In addition to the aforementioned WSOP, WPT, and Legends of Poker, the Bike also regularly hosts Card Player Poker Tour tournaments, the Mega Millions Series, the L.A. Poker Series, Stars & Stripes, Big Poker Oktober, Winnin O’the Green, and the newer Quantum reload tournaments.
For the non-professional, there are ample daily No-Limit Hold’Em tournaments as well as weekly Limit Omaha 8/OB and Mexican Poker tournaments. Buy-ins range from $40 to $115, both with and without bounties and/or guarantees. Check here for the Bike’s current full tournament schedule.
A common complaint regarding Bike tourneys is the lack of clarity regarding reentries, rebuys, and add-ons; however, generally, Bicycle Casino poker tournaments are pretty nifty.
New players may sign up for free for the Bike Players’ Club. Membership benefits include free meals for players who play for at least three continuous hours as well as access to all of the Bike’s tournaments.
Additionally, those who play Plaza games—$8/$16 Limit Hold’Em and above—receive $3 per hour in comps.
The Bike also holds its weekly $10,000 Sunday drawing between 12:30 p.m. and 12:30 a.m. Those who have played during the week are eligible for the drawing. Lucky winners can take home an additional $1,000 or $2,000.
Bicycle Casino poker room staff
Some people have complained about rude dealers and floor people; however, generally, the Bicycle Casino poker room staff receives consistently above-average marks. Dealers are exceptionally knowledgeable given the wide variation in games offered.
What about cheating accusations?
Perhaps the greatest shared complaint about the Bike is the possibility of cheating. Of particular concern is the use of automatic card shufflers. These devices are not uncommon in many casinos across the country due to their ability to speed up the game. However, in reality, there is a growing consensus that these machines can (and are) rigged.
Just do an Internet search for “card shufflers poker” and you will find several chat rooms, forums, and blog posts about the suspicions card shuffles incite. From stacking the deck to developing certain “patterns” to any other wear and tear common to mechanical devices, shufflers are becoming increasingly despised at the poker table, and the Bicycle Casino’s increased use of these devices have many poker players up in arms.
Finally—as one reviewer pointed out—if automatic card shufflers are so great, why don’t premium tournaments like the WSOP and WPT use them?
Another common grievance is that The Bike isn’t in the best area. The Bike’s biggest competitor—the Commerce Casino in nearby Commerce—is also not in the safest of Los Angeles’ suburbs. Thus, debate over which card room reigns supreme is ongoing. Whereas the Commerce does have the Bike beaten in terms of size—in fact, the Commerce is the largest card room in the entire world with over 240 tables—Bike loyalists assert that valet parking solves the potential parking lot danger concern.
Regardless of the pros and cons—which, frankly, every place has—if you can overlook the Bike’s somewhat shady past, the consensus is that it is a great place to play some poker. Oh, and everyone seems to love the new hotel! So, while you’re there, stay for a few days an enjoy the mini-suites and other new amenities.
Have you played poker in the famous Bicycle Casino poker room? Please share your thoughts and experiences below.
Until next time.
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Natalie Faulk is a Las Vegas-based freelance writer/blogger and the author of several books. She is an avid low-stakes (for now) poker player and huge Vegas Golden Knights fan.