For the better part of a decade, I’ve spent about 33% of my life inside casinos, be it playing poker, reporting on it, or sleeping in a hotel. During my years with PokerNews, I spent more than half the year on the road, and while I’ve cut that back a bit as Media Director of the Mid-States Poker Tour (MSPT), I’m still hitting different casinos up nearly every other weekend.
As such, I’ve learned the ins and outs of the casino business, including some veteran tricks I’ve decided to share with you here. Below are things to either do or keep in mind when you’re living the casino lifestyle.
1. Sharing is Caring
Traveling for poker can get expensive; that’s why many people opt instead to play at online casinos and poker rooms – no overhead costs! For live players, gas money, airfare, food, taxis, and hotel costs are just some examples of the overhead associated with playing in poker tournaments away from home. Unless your bankroll is flush, chances are you’ll be looking to save on expenses, and there are some ways to do that.
First, if you haven’t already, join Twitter and start following your fellow poker players. Become part of the community, and eventually you’ll make poker friends. They’re great to travel with, which right off the bat cuts expenses by at least half.
going to philly airport tomorrow, Anyone else want to share a ride?
— Allen Kessler (@AllenKessler) February 4, 2010
Along those lines, befriend other poker industry folk. Dealers, media, and floor staff are people who constantly travel for poker. Oftentimes they’re willing to either split expenses or allow you to stay with them for some cash. You should approach those same people when it comes to splitting a cab, hitching a ride to the airport, etc.
Finally, you can even eat for free a lot of the time if you participate in credit card roulette. However, be forewarned that losing said game can be a big punch to the gut.
We played credit card roulette (whatever card waiter picks pays for all) 3 times and I haven’t lost yet! Food tastes better when it’s free ?
— Ryan Belen (@ry_belen) August 25, 2017
2. Sign Up for a Players Card
Practically every casino has some sort of rewards program. Simply head to Guest Services to sign up. When you do, be sure to ask whether or not there are any incentives for signing up. Many casinos will offer free play, table match, or meal discounts just for joining.
Once you have a card, be sure to use it whenever you play. Most poker rooms offer comps (my local casino offers $1 per hour), while playing slots and table games can help you quickly achieve a higher status. Once the casino sees you’re a legit player, they’re more likely to extend you special offers such as free hotel stays, meals, etc. Some Nevada properties even cover airfare to get their bigger players to come out!
Another benefit of signing up for a players card is that you’ll often get offers via email and regular mail. These are great in keeping you looped in on what’s happening at the casino in the coming months including gaming promotions, concerts, lucrative poker tournaments, etc.
3. Beware the Liquor Rules
This is especially applicable at tribal casinos in the United States. For example, Wyoming’s Wind River Casino doesn’t even serve alcohol, and you can’t bring your own. To that end, I’ve been to tribal properties that have wacky booze rules such as being allowed just one drink every 30 minutes, only being allowed to buy one drink at a time, and in one instance not being allowed to take alcohol into your hotel room (Pro Tip: Get it in by hiding it in your luggage, and keep it safe covering it up whenever you get room service).
If you’re used to Las Vegas casinos where you get free liquor just for playing, don’t expect that to be the case everywhere. Many top casinos offer free alcohol, but many venues, either by choice or by law, don’t give it away. Whenever I play somewhere new, I always ask whether or not drinks are complimentary and inquire about their bar time.
4. Do Your Research
Having spent so much time in casino hotels, I’ve developed a set of priorities. For instance, I really don’t care how luxurious a room may be. I’ve stayed in some of the best, and while it’s always nice, I’ve found that a comfortable bed, air conditioning, and good water pressure is really all I really need.
However, I always like a place that offers other amenities such as a refrigerator, microwave, laundry, fitness center, and a pool. Preferably the latter two are open 24/7 (not many are, but they all should be) to fit my busy lifestyle.
Whenever I get my lodging accommodations sorted, I always do some research to see what the amenities are. If a fridge and microwave are available, I often bring my own food and drink to cut down on expenses. Likewise, if there’s a pool and/or fitness center, I know to bring proper attire. It sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many times I’ve had to lend colleagues and fellow poker pros a pair of shorts.
5. Get Out and About
I’ve had the opportunity to travel the world thanks to poker. However, it’s for work, which means 12–14 hours a day in the poker room. Still, I’ve made it a point to get out and experience the surrounding area. Whether it’s someplace famous like Monte Carlo or somewhere relatively bland such as Tama, Iowa, every place has something to offer.
It amazes me how many poker players simply travel from stop to stop and never venture outside the casino. For me, I like to get up early and simply go for a walk to see what the surrounding area has to offer. Just by wandering around like this, I’ve found some great hiking trails, shopping malls, parks, and bars over the years.
So, next time you’re on the road, do yourself a favor and go explore. There will always be another poker game, but you won’t always be in a cool new place.