A couple weeks ago I did a one-hour Facebook live stream during which I shared a number of tips for players heading out to the World Series of Poker, with a focus on trying to help people save money, save time, and just have a fun experience.
That – and the fact that it’s the 50th running of the WSOP – inspired me to compile this list of 50 tips. Here’s hoping you find some of them useful, and that they enhance your upcoming trip to Las Vegas this summer.
Disclaimer: There’s no single “correct way” to experience the World Series of Poker. The advice I offer is based solely on my own experiences.
Many people come to the World Series of Poker knowing full well they’ll be spending the majority of their waking hours playing poker. As such, while it would be nice, you don’t need a baller suite while you’re in town. A clean room will suffice.
- Non-casino hotels such as the Days Inn, Extended Stay, or Howard Johnson’s offer just that, with far lower daily resort fees than their more prominent hotel-casino counterparts. Downtown Las Vegas also presents a more affordable lodging option for the more budget-conscious traveler.
- There’s a lot of potential savings to be had by splitting accommodation costs with a friend or two. Whatever advertised rates you’ll find at hotels or Airbnbs across the city, it’s always a pleasure to divide that number in two, three, or more.
Carefully weigh the cost of renting a car vs. Uber/Lyft vs. public transportation based on the type of trip you envision having and what you’ll be doing each day.
- Car rentals offer the greatest convenience by far, and plenty of great deals can be had if you search hard enough online. Generally speaking, the more moving around you tend to do during your WSOP trip, the more worthwhile a car rental ends up being.
- If you’ll be opting to rent a car, it pays to be aware of where on the Las Vegas Strip you can park your vehicle for free, as these costs could otherwise quickly add up. As of this writing, Treasure Island, the Wynn, Venetian, Palazzo, SLS, Tropicana, Circus Circus, and Stratosphere offer free parking. It should be noted that parking at most off-Strip hotels is free, including, of course, at the Rio.
- Rideshares are also super convenient, of course, plus you’ll completely avoid pesky Strip parking fees that way.
- Las Vegas’ public transportation system – including the monorail – isn’t too shabby either, but while it’s the cheapest option, you’ll also have to factor in extra waiting time plus walking in the desert heat while getting around the city.
Food and Beverage
I’m not trying to sound preachy in the five items listed below, and I’m certainly no health expert, but the following practical tips derive purely from a poker player’s “GTO” perspective. I happen to know a thing or two about saving money on food, as I keep a strictly kosher diet while in Las Vegas for the WSOP (as well as all year round, of course).
- It’s super-hot and dry in Las Vegas throughout the summer, so staying hydrated is important. Bring your own water bottle and keep refilling it multiple times a day. Get caught without one and you could end up paying as much as $5 for a bottle! Even free water bottles offered in the casinos while you gamble entail giving at least a $1 tip, and those can add up over multiple lengthy poker sessions.
- The above tip notwithstanding, don’t drink TOO much during the tournament grind itself. Too much fluid intake means you’ll be making numerous bathroom runs, which could prove quite inconvenient, especially with crowded bathrooms during the scheduled breaks.
- Stay away from sugary drinks. Juices and sodas are fun, sure, but tend to temporarily spike your sugar levels after which time your senses are slightly dulled. Not something you want happening at the felt. If you need a pick-me-up beverage, I recommend a hot tea with honey. If you MUST have a soda, plan to consume it during the last half hour of your poker session.
- Brown bag your own food! Tips abound for how to save money at different eating establishments across the city, but if you’re really looking to save (as well as eat more nutritiously) visit a supermarket right when you arrive in the city and buy a week’s worth of food, just like you would at home: fruit, veggies, a loaf of bread, spreads, condiments, bottled water, snacks, etc.
- Take the time to advance plan some sort of daily or weekly meal schedule and use Ziploc bags for extra freshness. An extra few minutes of meal prep time each morning will save you lots of time and money on a regular basis.
Merchandise and Supplies
- If you’re looking to purchase some WSOP-branded merchandise at the Rio, be sure to present the cashier with your Caesars Rewards card (it’s free to sign up) for a 10% discount.
- This one’s not a guarantee, but as it gets later in the WSOP, merchandise inventory tends to run out, and the vendors want to liquidate their supplies. I’ve seen days near the end of the Main Event where merchandise has been marked down by 25%, 50%, and even 75% (and I have capitalized accordingly).
- Especially if you’ve got a lengthy Las Vegas sojourn up ahead, you’ll need to periodically launder your clothing. Your best bet is Las Vegas Laundry Services.
— Las Vegas Laundry Se (@Lasvegaslaundry) February 4, 2019
- Assuming you’ll be taking my advice and brown bagging your food and carrying your own water bottle, you’ve got to have a place to put that stuff all day. A sturdy backpack does the trick. As long as you’re carrying it, use it to store a number of other useful supplies, such as:
- Hand cream + sanitizer
- Headache pills
- Hoodie/sweater (it gets COLD in poker tournament rooms if you sit there all day)
- Portable charger and ear phones/air pods
- Looking for something to do during your downtime? Pick up a copy of Eli Elezra’s autobiography (which I had the honor of translating from Hebrew into English). If you order a hard copy rather than the Kindle edition, I know that Eli would be happy to sign it for you!
- Be sure to get yourself a free Cardplayer Lifestyle patch! I’ll be in Las Vegas from May 29-June 7 and July 1-14 and I’ve got hundreds and hundreds of them to distribute. I’ve been told they bring good luck when playing in bracelet events. 😀
— Robbie Strazynski (@cardplayerlife) July 5, 2017
- The WSOP cash game area, in the Pavilion Room, had always been strictly no-frills, but that’s changing for the first time this year. Firstly, they’re integrating card shufflers, so you’ll see more hands per hour. Also, every single hour during the duration of the WSOP, there will be a random seat draw to award one lucky player $500. I recommend playing the graveyard shift, between 1am-8am, for the best pure odds of winning (plus you tend to have the best stories).
- If you want to be close to the WSOP action but for whatever reason don’t find the Pavilion Room cash games to your liking, head over to the other side of the complex (about a 5- to 10-minute walk) and try your hand in the Rio’s permanent 10-table poker room, adjacent to the sports book. You’ll accrue hourly comps, plus you’ll be eligible for whatever other room promotions they’ll have running.
- Aside from the WSOP cash game area, wherever you’re playing cash game poker in Las Vegas, you’re probably earning somewhere between $1 to $2 per hour in comps. If you won’t be back in Las Vegas (or a sister hotel property) within the next 6-12 months (depending on the hotel chain’s membership card), be sure to spend the money you’ve earned before leaving town (otherwise they’ll expire). Among the ways to use your comp dollars are applying them to your hotel bill, spending them at on-property restaurants, and in gift shops.
- This ought to be obvious, but on the other hand it can never be said enough: treat dealers, floor staff, and other players how you would like to be treated. That doesn’t just go for things you shouldn’t say/do, but also for things you should say/do. In a nutshell, smile and the world (and perhaps the poker gods!) will smile back at you.
- Stay far away from the 9 topics you should never discuss at the poker table. Here are 9 alternative topics that are always safe to discuss.
- It’s the WORLD Series of Poker; players come to Las Vegas from across the globe. That said, even if you and other table mates happen to have a foreign language in common, stick to speaking English only. Otherwise, something like this might happen to you.
- Stack your chips in 20s (at least when playing tournaments)!
Gratitude and Gratuity
- Never forget to wholeheartedly say “thank you”. Live poker is a social game, and as a visitor to Las Vegas, know in advance that you’ll be immersed in and interacting with a largely service-based employment sector. While on the one hand it’s part of everyone’s job description to be of service, actually uttering the words “thank you” can often go a long way to giving these employees a great deal of fulfillment. Verbal isn’t just binding at the poker table.
- Actions speak louder than words. If and when anyone provides you with a service – whether it’s a waiter, dealer, masseuse, cocktail server, parking attendant, etc. – tip happily and with a smile. Be thankful that you’re in a position to help all of the people in the service industry make a living. If you head into your WSOP poker trip with the attitude that that’s what you’ll be investing $50-$100 in, you’re guaranteed to boost your own levels of happiness.
WSOP Event Registration
If you intend to play in a WSOP bracelet event, you’re going to have to register and pay the buy-in fees just like tens of thousands of other people. Lines, then, are unavoidable, unless you take into consideration the following tips:
- You can register for events in advance online or via your mobile phone via Bravo Poker Live. Full details for how to do this are available on WSOP.com.
- If, like me, you still prefer to register in person, don’t forget that the cages are open 24/7. That means there are “off peak” hours, such as between 10pm and 8am, with the “sweet spot” being in the dead of the night. If you’re an early riser, you might not even see a handful of souls in the early am hours when you walk up to the counter to pay your buy ins. The same goes for collecting your payouts, if you’re fortunate enough to cash in any WSOP events.
- You can opt to pay event registration fees via credit card, but there’s a 2.95%-3.95% surcharge for this service. On the other hand, you’ll at least earn mileage/program points should you choose this payment option.
- How your poker winnings get taxed depend on a variety of factors. For any questions, advice, or help filing, speak to the experts: Kondler CPA. You can even introduce yourself in person, as they’ve got a booth set up in the Rio hallways.
We’re all poker fans (at least if you’re visiting this website 😀), and there’s more poker content than ever before being pumped out by a wide variety of media outlets and multiple personalities. Here, then, are my content consumption tips for where to get your poker infotainment during the World Series of Poker.
- Live tournament updates: PokerNews.com and WSOP.com
- Live streams of WSOP final tables: Twitch.tv/wsop (free) and PokerGO (paid subscription)
- Traditional poker media sites: pokercentral.com, pokernews.com, cardplayer.com, pocketfives.com, cardschat.com, pokernewsdaily.com, pokerfuse.com, and – of course – right here at cardplayerlifestyle.com.
- Podcasts: There are LOTS of poker podcasts out there, but I’ll focus here on the ones most likely to consistently be giving you the lowdown on daily happenings at the WSOP. Look for these on your favorite podcast catcher: the PokerNews Podcast, Poker Central Podcast, and The Fives. Of course, I also have to recommend subscribing to the ones I host and co-host, the Red Chip Poker Podcast and Top Pair Home Game Poker Podcast, respectively.
- Vlogs: There are dozens of great poker vloggers out there and I regularly enjoy plenty of people’s work, but the two that I make time to watch “religiously” during the WSOP are Daniel Negreanu’s and Andrew Neeme’s.
- Good Twitter WSOP poker media follows:
Apps, Internet and Tech
- Bring your own portable phone charger so you can politely ignore all the WSOP hallway vendors trying to sell you one. Walking the gauntlet can be annoying, but remember that they’re just trying to make a living.
- Download the Bravo Poker Live app. It’ll tell you – in real time – exactly which games and how many of them are running at every poker room across Las Vegas. The extremely helpful resource also features the contact information for each poker room as well as ongoing promotions, tournament times, structures, and much more. You can also place yourself on cash game wait lists and register for tournaments, including WSOP bracelet events.
- If you’re a fan of mixed games or want to give non-hold’em poker games a try for the first time without breaking the bank, bookmark vegasmixedgame.com and use the site to navigate the sea of every non-hold’em poker tournament on offer in Las Vegas throughout the summer.
- Download the Poker Notes Live app so that you can take notes on your opponents at the poker tables. Use it to jot down tells, record your wins and losses, and improve your overall results at the poker table.
- Commit to doing at least a little bit of exercise a couple times a week, whether it’s swimming, power walking, or hitting the fitness room.
- Be sure to give yourself enough hours of sleep. That’s coming from someone who loves pulling multiple all-nighters! Everyone has their own tolerance; just know your limits and don’t go overboard.
- Use tournament breaks to exit the casino confines. See the sun, stretch, and breathe fresh air.
Embrace Being a (Poker) Tourist
- Schedule one day off at some point during your trip to be a “typical Las Vegas tourist.” Visit the pool for a few hours (bring sunscreen from home; it’s outrageously expensive in the gift shops!), visit the Fremont Street Experience, go hiking at Red Rock Canyon, visit the PokerGO studio. Those are just some free things to do off the top of my head. Plenty of other free as well as paid attractions are available as well (Google is your friend).
- This list contains a lot of money-saving tips. As you’ll thus have a little extra cash in your pockets, use those savings to go see a show. There are plenty of great comedic performances, musical acts, magicians, and residencies to take in while you’re in Las Vegas. It would be a shame to not see at least one of them during your trip.
- When you arrive at the Rio for the first time, even if it isn’t your first WSOP, give yourself 1-2 hours to just walk around, be a poker tourist, and (re-)familiarize yourself with the area. Take in the atmosphere. Stop by some of the vendor booths (then you can ignore them for the rest of the series), pick up free copies of the different poker magazines on the racks. Take lots of pictures.
- Take another hour or two to scout out your favorite poker players. Most well-known pros are very approachable, friendly, and happy to mug for selfies. Just be respectful of their time and don’t bother them while they’re actually playing.
- If you have any questions, look around the Rio hallways for someone walking around with a media credential. Alternatively, use Twitter to ask any of the poker media folks I listed above.
- Document your experiences so that you can look back on it all someday with fond memories. Take pictures, post them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Send updates to your poker buddies, family, and friends on WhatsApp.
- HAVE FUN! The WSOP represents the pinnacle of poker. If you’re reading this article, it means you’ve got the good fortune to be attending poker’s greatest festival. There’s no telling how the cards may fall, or whether an unlucky run might prove your undoing despite all your hours of preparation and study. Navigating the ups and downs in poker, however, is an essential part of what makes the game so beautiful. Don’t let how good a time you have be determined solely by your wins and losses. Remembering to have fun is the most important tip of all.