Vegas or Bust: Planning your trip to the WSOP
Whether you are a Vegas virgin or an experienced World Series of Poker phenomenon, we think the following guide should prove useful as you plan your excursion to Las Vegas this summer.
Before you can plop yourself down on your Vegas hotel bed, you’ve got to get there. For most of the country that means travel by plane, and there are a number of options for seeking the cheapest tickets. Our favorite is www.farecast.com, in which you input your travel dates and get four pop-up windows showing comparable rates from Hotwire, Expedia, Travelocity and Priceline. Usually there isn’t much difference between the four, but you will often save $5-$10 (like if one of the services is waiving the booking fees for a promotion) that can be used for the slots. A recent look at the site uncovered a number of round-trip flights from Birmingham for under $300, so similar fares are likely from other airports in the East. The trick is to fly between Sunday and Thursday. Rates are generally higher on Friday and Saturday.
Another great option is to install Southwest’s DING program on your computer and select Las Vegas and your home airport. If you keep this program running, it will pop up daily with one-day only specials for the airports you choose. We recently saw one-way flights from Birmingham to Las Vegas for $99. There are different specials each day and flights to any one city aren’t that common so you will have to be vigilant in checking this, but you can find a really good deal.
A bonus tip to you first-time Vegas fliers – fly at night. The view of the fully illuminated Strip after the sun sets over Vegas is fabulous as you descend into McCarran.
Hotels and houses
Obviously, choices are not a problem in the city that has more hotel rooms than any other in the world. It’s just a matter of how much you want to spend. If you plan to be in Vegas for a month or more and are not filthy rich you probably want to start cheap so let’s look at some of those options.
First, you must consider if you want to rent a car. If not, stay on the Strip or in Downtown (where you can ride the city bus to the Strip for $2 if you’re frugal. Otherwise it’s at least $10 each way for a cab). Even if you rent a car it’s still nice to be able to walk out of your hotel room and be within walking distance to the Strip or Downtown. And it’s better yet to be able to walk out of your hotel room and into a poker room without leaving the premises. Your best bets for reasonably priced casino hotels with poker rooms include Binion’s, which offers a poker rate of around $30, and the Sahara, which has some summer specials with rooms under $50. Some other cheap options with poker rooms in the downtown area include El Cortez and Fitzgeralds, though neither poker room features much action.
For those looking to fork over more for their rooms, the Venetian is offering discounted suites this summer during the Deep Stack Extravaganza. The prices are $139 for weekdays and $199 for weekends.
Harrah’s is offering discounted rates at its Las Vegas properties, including the Rio, Bally’s Caesars Palace, Flamingo, Harrah’s, Imperial Palace and Paris. The lowest rate is $89 on weekdays and $159 weekends at Imperial Palace. If you’d like to be able to ride the elevator and walk straight to the WSOP area, you will pay $139 weekdays and $279 weekends at Rio. If you pre-register and pay for WSOP events, you get $20 to $30 off of your room rates each night.
Other options include weekly rentals at places like Budget Suites, which has several locations in Vegas. For $239 a week for one bedroom and $339 for two bedrooms, you get a full kitchen and living room and private bedrooms. You can get similar accommodations and rates at Extended Stay America, including a location on Flamingo not far from the Rio.
Alternatively, you can rent any number of houses and condos during the summer. If you have several friends traveling to Vegas with you and really want to party, you can rent a 5,000 square foot condo with full bar, game room, pool and other amenities for hundreds of dollars a day. Split four or five ways, the price might just be right for you. There are numerous options out there, but you can start at this site: www.travellinkunlimited.com to see a handful of choices.
Not sure which option is best for you? Try this new site called www.myvegaspokerhost.com where you answer a few questions that help match you with a property that will best suit your extended stay needs.
The easiest way to rent your car is to use one of the online travel sites listed under airfare. Las Vegas recently constructed a new transportation hub near the airport where all of the car rental agencies are located. You can get a compact or economy car in Vegas for under $100 a week in many instances, and unless you’re planning on driving to the Grand Canyon and back you probably won’t need more than a tank or two of gas during your stay.
Grab a book too
Our last piece of advice is to get a copy of American Casino Guide, not because it is all that great for helping you pick a poker room, but because it has fantastic coupons. For $15 you get a book filled with discounts for 2 for 1 rooms, 2 for 1 buffets, match play coupons and other casino sign-up bonuses. This year the book includes a $10 chip bonus for playing poker at the Golden Nugget, which almost pays the cost right there. You should get your money back out of this investment several times over.