Ozy’s poker travel guide to Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Phnom Penh still has some of its old attractiveness as a green South East Asian metropolis with a pleasant riverfront promenade and many stunning Cambodian Buddhist wats, palaces, and other antiques, and yet still a little rough around the edges.

Most tourists will visit the “riverside” neighborhood in the city’s center, which has a large number of cafés and restaurants. Because there aren’t many typical tourist attractions, the city is a good spot to unwind, observe daily life, and get a sense of the culture, oh yeah, and to play what we all love, poker.

About Ozy, your tour guide for Phnom Penh

Hi, I am Ozy. I’m a regular tournament player in Asia and have been living in the region for 20 years. I’ve travelled to Phnom Penh over 10 times! That’s says something. Say hello to me when you see me 🙂

About Ozy, your tour guide for Phnom Penh

About Ozy, your tour guide for Phnom Penh

This guide is copyright but feel free to link back to this page. I am grateful to NagaWorld for sponsoring this travel guide!
For more details, try Wikitravel.

General vibe of Phnom Penh

I love my time in Phnom Penh. The locals and expats are all so chilled, going on their own speed without a care in the world. What’s more, amongst the hustle and bustle, I get all my favourite first world comforts. Most things are cheap: accommodations, food, massage, nightlife. The riverside is lovely, great for exercise or just mingling with Khmers. Definitely check out Phnom Penh and play some poker here.

Worth going to Phnom Penh for poker?

Easy yes for live tournament players when there is a series on. Also, I great place to grind cash with several options available and rock bottom low living expenses. High rollers will find all their favorite tables games too.

Cash or tournaments in Phnom Penh?

Tournament poker is taking off in Phnom Penh as of 2022 and is fully legal at the NagaWorld resort. NagaWorld also has cash games running daily. The Riverking is an independent poker room, which I believe is safe that runs daily cash games and weekly low buy-in tournaments. Other cash games and small tournaments are available at various bars and pubs but are perhaps not as safe. The best time to visit Phnom Penh for poker is when a regional or international series such as WPT, APT or APPT is running. Phnom Penh is heating up for these events and is attracting players from all over Asia and even Europe and the USA.

Poker cash games in Phnom Penh

The only fully legal cash game in Phnom Penh is at NagaWorld. Read more about the Nagaworld cash games here. There is ongoing action at RiverKing (usually NLH and sometimes PLO) and at the time or writing, another PLO cash game. Ask around. In the riverside area, a couple of bars have cash games and regular tournaments too. Again, ask around. Keep in mind, one of those bar games was recently raided by police.

Poker tournaments in Phnom Penh

NagaWorld offers Saturday and Sunday low-buy-in tournaments. RiverKing usually offers a tournament each Sunday. Some smaller drinking bars have very low buy-in tournaments on various days. Mostly however, keep you eye on pokercalendar.asia for the regional and international poker events hosted by NagaWorld.

About Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Despite being a bit rough on the edges, Phnom Penh retains its former charm as a leafy South East Asian capital with a nice riverside promenade and numerous beautiful Cambodian Buddhist wats, palaces, and other artifacts. A large infrastructure catering to tourists makes it easily accessible, and many consider it to be one of the friendliest capitals in Asia, as Cambodians have not yet become jaded by mass tourism.

Visas for Cambodia

Your visa requirement will depend on the country of your passport. Cambodia is one of the easiest countries to travel to. Some countries can travel visa free: Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam. The duration for for visa free varies by country. Otherwise, you can get a visa on arrival for 30 days for around US$30. Bring some USD with you for this. The airport processes your visa quickly, often within 15 minutes. Another option is is to get an e-visa only with costs around US$36 and lasts 30 days. Hint: If you might stay longer than 30 days, the e-visa is not the way to go. The visa on arrival can be extended however.

See here for the Wikipedia page on the visa policy of Cambodia.

How to fly to Phnom Penh

You fly to Phnom Penh from all major airports around Asia. Another option is to transit in Bangkok.

Direct and indirect flights to Phnom Penh, Cambodia

How to fly to Phnom Penh

Airport to downtown Phnom Penh

Getting from the airport to the casino area or the neighboring riverside area is easy. A private taxi will usually cost US$12-15. Or take a tuk-tuk usually for under US$10. For budget munchers, install the PassApp where you can take a tuk-tuk or tax for much less. Pro tip: just show and mention PassApp to one of the drivers at the airport and usually they’ll drop their price right away.

The Nagaworld casino is about 12km from the airport

The Nagaworld casino is about 12km from the airport

 

Where to stay in Phnom Penh for poker

There are hundreds of hotels in Phnom Penh. Use Agoda or booking.com to find one you like. For convenience, stay in the NagaWorld Resort itself or one of the hotels recommended in the player’s guide. Don’t worry too much about being close to the poker room because the tuk-tuk and taxi services are cheap and convenient. You might like to stay in the riverside area too, nearby nightlife and tourist attractions. That’s only a 5-min tuk tuk ride to the casino and can add variety to your travels.

Many poker players who are on an longer stay like the The Bridge Club, which offers a hotel and a serviced apartment with gym, pool and facilities at good prices and is just behind the NagaWorld complex.

Many poker plays love the class and convenience of staying in the NagaWorld Resort

Many poker plays love the class and convenience of staying in the NagaWorld Resort

Get around Phnom Penh

The riverside and casino areas are both suitable for walking. Of course, this is SE Asia, so the weather is hot and does rain. For quick trips, just flag down one of the many tuk-tuks. Trips cost between US$2 and US$5 typically. Use PassApp to get local prices. Taxis are plentiful too.

Tuk tuk in Phnom Penh usually costs US$2 to US$5

Tuk tuk in Phnom Penh usually costs US$2 to US$5

Airbnb in Phnom Penh

Airbnb is available in Phnom Penh but considering the large availability of listings on Agoda and Bookings, you probably won’t need Airbnb.

Stay near the poker room or not? 

For players who are mostly playing, I recommend you stay in the NagaWorld Resort or a hotel nearby. The main convenience is avoiding the beaming sun and the pouring rain. For players wanting some more variety, stay in the nearby Riverside area to be close to nightlife, restaurants, massage and fun streets and lanes to wander around.

No taxation on poker earnings in Cambodia>

For tournaments no tax is removed by the room from your winnings when you cash out after a tournament ITM. Read here for more information about tax in Cambodia.

Poker rooms in Phnom Penh

Nagaworld casino in Phnom Penh

Nagaworld casino in Phnom Penh

NagaWorld poker room

The only fully licensed poker room in Phnom Penh. The regular poker room is suitable for casual players and grinders alike. Click for reviews and details. NagaWorld has two buildings that are connected by underpass: NagaWorld1 and NagaWorld2.

NagaWorld Poker Room

NagaWorld Poker Room

Ballroom in NagaWorld hosting the World Poker Tour

Ballroom in NagaWorld hosting the World Poker Tour

Riverking poker room

A dedicated poker room that mostly runs cash games. They serve complimentary food from a large menu. Facebook.

Other rooms

Ask regular players what other poker options are available and proceed with caution. The government has recently been cracking down on the independent poker rooms.

Currency and banking in Phnom Penh

ATMs with international networks are easy to find, and you can withdraw USD. Here, two currencies are used: USD and the local currency, the Cambodian Riel. The two currencies are used interchangeably. For buy-ins, you’ll use only USD. The casino is quite picky about the integrity of the notes, so ensure your notes have no marks, stains or tears at all. And likewise, if they try to give you unclean notes as change, don’t accept them. For small purchases around Phnom Penh, you can use the local Riel and will often receive local Reil as change. Typically 1USD = 4000-5000 Riel. For example, if you change due is $11, you might receive a USD10 note and 4500 Riel. On the Riel, be careful not to misread the local writing for number.

Currency and banking in Phnom Penh

Currency and banking in Phnom Penh

Power in Phnom Penh

For Cambodia there are three associated plug types, A, C and G. Plug type A is the plug which has two flat parallel pins, plug type C is the plug which has two round pins and plug type G is the plug with three rectangular pins, in a triangular pattern. Cambodia operates on a 230V supply voltage and 50Hz.

Cambodia uses a mix of plug types

Cambodia uses a mix of plug types

Safety and dangers in Phnom Penh 

Phnom Penh is a relative safe city, especially around tourist areas. In my personal experience, I’ve not once witnessed any kind of crime, any violence or heard of any nasty scamming. 

  • The most common crimes in Cambodia are bag-snatching and pickpocketing. Whether you’re in a tuk-tuk, on the back of a motorbike taxi or just wandering around the crowded markets or countryside, non-violent petty theft can happen anywhere. Some thieves will simply lift your bag while you’re sitting at a restaurant, and others will make a quick snatch and grab from a tuk-tuk. The one to be most wary about is the moped snatch and grab. While the driver is concentrating on the road, the passenger will grab your bag and hold on tight. If the straps don’t break they will just drag you along the road with them. So, it’s best to let it go rather than risking serious injury.
  • Stick to well-lit, busy areas and always be aware of your surroundings. When walking through a crowded place, carry your bag or backpack in front of you
  • Keep your valuables out of sight as much as possible
  • Leave your passport locked up at your accommodation. Take a photo to keep on your phone, or bring a scanned copy of the passport
  • Don’t carry cross-body bags over one shoulder, and when walking ensure that the bag is on the side of the street away from the road
  • Whenever in a tuk-tuk, ensure all your bags are securely inside the vehicle. When riding a motorbike try and put valuables in front of you, or between you and the driver if riding pillion. 
  • Never leave your bag unattended on the bus while you go to the bathroom
  • Look left, then right, then left and keep looking when walking along or crossing roads.

Internet access in Phnom Penh 

Every hotel is steady fast internet available. For mobile internet, which is very convenient, especially if you find your seated in a dead zone while playing, is cheap and reliable. At the airport, bring your phone to the booth outside and purchase a SIM. I usually go with SMART for US$5 for 40GB.

Awesome things to do off the felt 

  • Darlin Darlin in Nagaworld1: Young and trendy crowd enjoying live music and drink promotions. Facebook
  • KTV Club 888: Private karaoke rooms with state-of-the-art sound equipment in chic setting.
  • Golden Jazz: national assembly street. Facebook.
  • Secrets: nightclub run by expat poker player in Riverside area. Drinks, girls, music. Facebook.
  • Take a river cruise, day or night.
  • Check out the Royal Palace
  • Walk along the riverside, pretty and fun at dusk
  • Learn something of Cambodia’s dark recent history by visiting the Killing Fields, Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (S-21 Prison)
  • Thunder Ranch Shooting Range
  • Cambodia Golf and Country Club
  • Central Market
  • Russian Market
  • Sorya Mall, Aeon Mall

Food and drink in Phnom Penh 

When I played WPT in Nagaworld, the service staff were readily available with menus for dining at the tables while playing. There were 3 menus: two for Asian foods and one for Italian. I like to look around at what others are enjoying first. The casino offers many high-end restaurants and friends have highly recommended the buffet. Within 10 minutes by tuk tuk, there are endless restaurants serving up local Khmer cuisine, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Western, and French and Italian. Everything from street food to fine dining is at your doorstop. Oh, Nagaworld2, which you can reach via the underpass by foot, has a food court with something for everyone.

Eating at night in Phnom Penh 

Convenience stores are open 24 hours for snacks and quick bites. Also, try Grab, Foodpanda or Wownow for home delivered food. The service is prompt and cheap.

Coffee in Phnom Penh 

Cambodia does pretty good coffee in some places. You can look forward to your morning brew.

Languages in Phnom Penh 

Khmer is the national language. In the tourist areas, many locals speak sufficient English and Chinese too.

Weather at Phnom Penh 

Weather in Phnom Penh, simply put, is of three types: 1) hot 2) too hot, and 3) too hot plus too humid. The Khmer call these the cold season, the warm season, and the rainy season, respectively. 

Weather is pleasant during the “cold season” from November to January, highs are around 30 degrees C. Staring February the temperature begins to rise, and by March the daily highs are 35-38 degrees C, making it hardly bearable. This is followed by the rainy season, which is more humid than rainy, as on most days it just rains briefly in the afternoon. Arguably, the humid heat of rainy season is even worse than the extreme heat of hot season. Occasionally, there are massive downpours that cause major flooding, making parts of the city inaccessible.

Weather at Phnom Penh

Weather at Phnom Penh

Massage in Phnom Penh

No true poker player can do without massage to work out those bad beat knots. What can I say. I like the massage here even more than Thai massage. Most of the massage shops offer a variety including Foot, Thai, Swedish and other combinations. Typically a massage will set you back US$8 and up. They are open till around midnight. Find massage shops on Google maps, or for a pampering, check out the Elixir of Life Spa in Nagaworld.

Elixir of Life Spa in Nagaworld

Elixir of Life Spa in Nagaworld

Nightlife and things to do in Phnom Penh

Nightlife is well blogged. There is lots of fun to be had in Phnom Penh at night.

Phnom Penh is foreigner friendly 

Cambodia is refreshingly open to tourists from all countries and backgrounds. Service staff are usually courteous and patient with tourists and will often go out of their way to help you as best they can. Phnom Penh service is easy in the tourist areas. The casino staff are professional, courteous and helpful. 

The locals are used to interacting with Western and Asian tourists alike.

Keep in mind, not everyone has fluency in your language. Try using Google translate when you get stuck. The local language is called Khmer.

Adult entertainment in Phnom Penh uptohere

Phnom Penh can definitely meet your off-the-felt needs. Mostly there are drinking bars and karaoke places with hostesses. Here is a handy link.

Gay life in Phnom Penh 

I don’t know about a gay poker player niche however. Try this guide.

Romance in Phnom Penh 

I would consider Cambodian girls very conservative. Many are interested in foreign men, especially white men, but would be too shy to approach or date. The average Cambodian girl is looking for a serious boyfriend with a traditional courting path: meet, friends, date, go serious, engage, marry, family kind of thing. There are some girls who want a different adventure. 

There are many working girls in Phnom Penh. You can find them in the Riverside area in bars and gogos. 5 Best Night Clubs in Phnom Penh to Meet Girls

Also, in the casinos you might meet someone very special too in a nightclub.

Alcohol and tobacco in Phnom Penh

Alcohol and tobacco are legal and plentiful but other recreational drugs are illegal. Many items can be bought off tuktuk and taxi drivers, but the quality is ordinary. Otherwise ask around. Some special items are available on home delivery services.

Smoking cigarettes in Phnom Penh

Most places have no smoking indoors, but smoking on the roadside is permitted. 

Nearby countries to Phnom Penh

You ought to consider these nearby locations on your poker travels: Manila, Ho Chi Minh (1 hr flight or 5 hours bus), Hanoi, Japan, South Korea,Taipei (tournaments) and Bangkok.

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