PokerPlayer’s ultimate guide to Las Vegas, the original and best Sin City
The World Series is here, and whether you’re off to Sin City to play in poker’s biggest showpiece, or just want to make the most of the trip of a lifetime, our five-point plan will get you through. From travel arrangements to key Vegas dos and don’t, check out our ultimate guide to Sin City.
1. Fly Direct
Do you really want to spend the first day of your holiday sat on the floor of an airport in Dallas eating McDonald’s with the worst jet lag of your life? Unless you get the world’s best deal, or can change in LA, always fly direct. You might not think there is much difference between a 15-hour flight and an 11-hour one, but it’s huge and you will wipe out at least one day of your trip recovering. You also have to deal with the hell of the regional terminal, which can have queues so long it will make Heathrow seem like a holiday camp. If you have to fly indirect due to costs then try to change planes somewhere close to Vegas, such as Los Angeles. But bear in mind you will need to clear customs and immigration before catching your internal flight so leave plenty of time to make the connection. Or just don’t be a tight-arse and get a direct flight. You know it makes sense.
FLY: Virgin Atlantic direct to Las Vegas from London Gatwick or Manchester. Typical cost is between £700 and £900 return.
DON’T FLY: On any flight that involves a stopover in Houston or Washington DC.
2. Stay Somewhere Decent
You’ve all heard people say ‘it’s just somewhere to sleep’. Why not save your money for other things rather than wasting it on a hotel room where you will only spend a few hours crumpled on the bed asleep? Well quite simply because Vegas hotel rooms are probably the best value in the world. For less than £100 a night you can stay in a five star hotel with some of the best facilities and service you will get anywhere. Even better than that, you can find really good four star hotels for less than £50 a night! Try that in any other major city. Our budget tips are the newly revamped Tropicana, Bally’s or Planet Hollywood. And for the luxury hotels you can’t beat Wynn, Encore, Venetian and Palazzo. Martin Ryan from Vegas travel experts Book-Vegas.com also recommends the new Vdara in the CityCenter complex, next to Bellagio. ‘It’s a nongaming resort, so it’s got four star prices with a five star experience,’ Ryan says.
A long-time favourite of PokerPlayer for value for money this has recently been revamped and its location just opposite MGM Grand is excellent.
LOCATION: Planet Hollywood
Directly opposite Bellagio at about half the price. This is a slick, modern looking casino with some great bars and good quality rooms.
Fantastic rooms in one of Vegas’ most iconic hotels. This is also home to the best cash games and tournaments outside the Rio.
Not as expensive as you think and peerless when it comes to quality. Amazing facilities, restaurants, clubs and casino.
3. Eat And Drink Like A Team
Vegas is home to some of the best restaurants in the world. And some of the worst. So do some research before you go, get your hotel to make you some reservations and generally eat and drink like a king. While buffets are great, if you enjoy the ambience of a motorway service station, the general risk of food poisoning and gorging on food like Jabba the Hutt, try and drag yourself to a couple of decent restaurants while you are there. If nothing else, make sure you go to some of Las Vegas’ ridiculously good steak restaurants. If you’ve never eaten a steak in the US it will be a life-changing experience a million miles from your typical shite British steakhouse. Incredibly tender, flavour-packed steak cooked over a charcoal grill. It’s seriously almost worth going to Vegas for alone.
STEAK: SW At The Wynn
You’re spoiled for choice with all the major casinos hosting incredible steak joints, with N9ne at the Palms and CUT at the Palazzo exceptional. But SW narrowly gets our vote despite the slightly camp setting.
GENERAL: Grand Luxe Cafe In The Venetian
Not one for food snobs, but arguably the most useful place in Vegas. A huge menu serving really good food in massive portions all day and all night.
AMERICAN: Hash House A Go Go, Imperial Palace
Exactly what you would expect of classic American food. Plates piled ridiculously high with the kind of food your doctor warned you about for around $15. If you manage to clean your plate here you need to have a good look at yourself.
SOMETHING DIFFERENT: Julian Serrano At Aria
This is arguably the best restaurant in Vegas offering a modern twist on classic Spanish food and some truly inspired cooking. Treat yourself or someone else as it’s not cheap.
BREAKFAST: Bouchon Bistro At The Venetian
Strictly speaking this is a French Bistro, but you wouldn’t know it from the breakfast menu where you can get stuck into waffles, French toast and even old favourite corned beef hash. The weekend brunch menu is even more amazing.
4. Play Lots Of Tournaments
Let’s face it, we’re poker players and above all else we’ve come to Vegas to play some poker. And around the WSOP you are going to be faced with a bewildering array of options from dirt-cheap daytime tourneys to $10,000 WSOP events and everything inbetween. The two venues you must have on your agenda are the Rio for the WSOP events and The Venetian for its huge range of deep-stacked tournaments. Yes the rake is high, but the standard of play is generally poor and the prize pools are enormous. If you come to Vegas and don’t play in any Venetian Deepstack events you’re insane. The Bellagio also typically runs $1,000 events every night of the series with sit-and-go qualifiers running all-day. For the budget crowd, if you can face the trek downtown to Fremont Street you will find the Golden Nugget and Binion’s hosting a series of low-stakes deepstacked events throughout the WSOP. Just take enough for the cab fare home.
VALUE: Grand Poker Series At The Golden Nugget
Ranging from $125 to $1,080 this 79 event series takes in everything from Omaha hi/lo to Badugi with a ton of no-limit events thrown in. Every event has a 10,000 starting stack and 40 minute blinds.
QUALITY: Venetian Deep Stack Extravaganza
Two daily no-limit tournaments in the best poker room in Vegas with huge fields, deep stacks and much slower structures than the WSOP. The nightly $200 events look tasty if you don’t want to spend three days playing poker.
There is no getting away from the fact that the WSOP tournaments are the most fun you will have in Vegas. The worst structures, expensive buy-ins and a freezing cold room doesn’t stop them being a must for any poker player.
5. Play Even More Cash
Tournaments for show, cash games for dough. It’s long been the rule in poker and nowhere is this more true than the WSOP. While you might bink a tourney and pay off the mortgage, your more realistic route to profi t is to take on the evening cash games at the Rio or at one of the bigger strip casinos. Aria, Venetian, Bellagio and MGM will be packed full of drunk poker players and tourists during the WSOP so try and stay sober and go fishing. Cash game poker is really what Vegas is all about, with a generally high standard of dealing, table service and a low standard of play. Make sure you avoid the casinos during the day unless you like folding a lot as they are full of nits and regulars. Also try and get off the beaten track and head to the lesser known casinos. One night of sobriety at Planet Hollywood, and you could find the holiday pays for itself.
MICRO-STAKES: MGM Grand
While the poker scene in Vegas changes day by day the most reliable place to find good low-stakes games is the MGM Grand. The huge open poker room seems to attract players at all times of day and night and even runs $0.50/$1 games.
One of the biggest rooms in Vegas, this is the place to come for $1/$2 and higher. During the Deep Stack series you will also get plenty of tilted tournament players sitting down to blow off steam. Lovely.
One of the newest poker rooms in Vegas the plush Aria attracts some of the higher-stakes players. Bellagio has long been the regular haunt of the high-stakes crowd so make sure to check out both.
Vegas Dos and Don’ts!
Tip The Dealers:
Unless you want to become a social pariah then get used to parting with your hard-earned cash every time you win a pot. Don’t over tip, and if you forget just say ‘oops sorry I’m British’. Works every time.
Get Off Strip:
While the lights are less bright and the women less drunk, there is still a lot of fun to be had at the off-Strip casinos where the atmosphere more relaxed. Try it for yourself at Red Rock, M Resort or South Point.
Get Bottle Service:
Yes it’s ridiculously expensive, and it makes you look a bit of a dickhead, but everyone should do it once in Vegas. Get a big group of mates and get yourself a table at Marquee or Tao.
Play Table Games:
Wait? A poker magazine telling us to play -EV games? Yep. They are some of the most fun you can have in Vegas, especially craps. Just don’t expect to win. And ride the free drinks as
hard as you can.
Play Late Night Cash:
This is when the freaks come out. Drunk blokes at the end of a night who want to gamble it up, and men who’ve been up way too long. A more profi table situation you will not find if you have the discipline to stay sober.
Take The Freeway:
When you arrive at the airport ask your cab driver to take Paradise Road or you will find your fare nearly doubling. If they ask if you want the quickest or shortest route say the shortest. Avoid the freeway.
Walk Anywhere When Drunk:
Don’t walk longer than a few hundred yards when you’ve had a drink. The Strip is a huge fastmoving street where your drunk brain is going to make some really bad decisions. Cabs are plentiful. Make sure you take one.
Go Without A Plan:
Unless you’re a fit woman or have a wallet full of hundred dollar bills you will fi nd yourself waiting in queues for the best clubs, turned away by restaurants and even queuing for buffets. Have a vague plan if you want to have a good night.
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