So, you want to play in the World Series of Poker? Well, who doesn’t these days? Each year since 2003, the WSOP has broken attendance and prize money records of various sorts. This five-part series will show you the best and cheapest ways to get to Las Vegas, book a accommodations and a rental car (optional), win your way into the WSOP live and online, make the most of your Las Vegas experience, and finally, how to maximize your winnings during the WSOP.
Now that you have figured out the best way to get to Las Vegas, where should you stay? Sin City offers decent accommodations for those on a budget, high-roller suites for the big players, and rooms for everything in-between. I’ll help you get the most room for your money. Will you need a rental car? It depends on where you stay if you’ll need one or not, but they certainly are nice to have. I’ll help you figure out if you need one, want one, or shouldn’t get one at all.
Location, Location, Location
Poker players should look at their WSOP experience as, at the very least, a working vacation. A player’s hotel room is to be considered a tool to help get the job–playing long sessions of poker–done as efficiently as possible.
There are dozens of hotels to stay in within reasonable proximity to Rio, where all WSOP tournaments will take place. It is important to note here that Rio is about 1.5 miles from Las Vegas Blvd, otherwise known as The Strip.
Walking a mile and a half isn’t too far under normal circumstances, but Las Vegas has extremely hot summers. In June and July the temperature stays in the 105-110 degree range. Not to mention that you have to walk on the I-15 overpass on 130 degree concrete. Why put yourself through that before playing poker all day and night? Under no circumstances would I recommend walking down Flamingo Rd to get to Rio (and back) from the Strip.
Staying at Rio during the WSOP is obviously the easiest path, and to be sure, it isn’t insanely expensive. For example, it will only set you back $562.24 to stay there during the first week (5/311 – 6-5) of the six-week series of tournaments. Aside from an unbeatable location, Rio is an all-suite hotel–meaning the rooms are big enough to share with another poker buddy without feeling cramped.
There are two other places to stay within easy walking distance to Rio, The Palms and Gold Coast. These two places couldn’t be any more different, and they offer much different experiences to their guests. The Palms is pure twenty-something Las Vegas, and it is one of the prime off-strip party spots in town. Their rooms are also expensive, and will run about $300 more per week than Rio. Gold Coast is purely a place to call home while you are out there–there’s always a party at The Palms across the street if you want to cut loose and have fun. Here’s the great part about Gold Coast–it will cost $300 less per week than Rio.
There’s nothing like staying on The Strip
Nobody wants to be cheated out of a great Las Vegas experience when they fly cross-country to get there. Aside from having access to some of the best clubs and restaurants in the country, staying somewhere else besides Rio will give you buffer from the fervor of the WSOP.
There are other good reasons to stay on The Strip while in Las Vegas during the WSOP. There will be hot and heavy non-WSOP poker action at Bellagio, Venetian, Caesar’s Palace and Aria during those six weeks in June and July. Bellagio and Venetian both run a high-profile tournament series at this time which have increased in popularity every year over the past four or five years. Aside from the tournaments, there will be very lucrative cash games all over The Strip (and off of it) at WSOP time. I”ll cover that in the final blog of this series.
The strip is huge, what hotels are right for you? There are a small handful of hotels I recommend on the strength of their location and affordability. Vdara, Flamingo, and Imperial Palace are the best places to stay on the strip and for varying reasons.
A week’s stay at Vdara, one of the newer and nicer resorts on The Strip, is about $750 during the WSOP. Vdara is very close to Aria and Bellagio, where there will be prime-time poker action.
Flamingo, for about $525 per-week, offers solid rooms and a great pool area. It is also right across the street from Casears Palace and kiddy-corner from Bellagio. It is a 1.5-mile walk to Venetian, but you can get there in part by cutting through neighboring casinos–thus, staying in the air conditioning while you walk. Not all 1.5-mile walks are created equal.
Imperial Palace, located next door to Flamingo, offers the same great location for half the price. For $250 a week, you can stay right in the heart of The Strip during the WSOP. Great deal, right? It sure is, but the rooms at IP are strictly adequate. It is perfect for a poker player on a budget, though.
If you do choose to stay on The Strip, I highly recommend renting a car. Renting a car in Las Vegas is cheap, and it give the poker player immediate access to transportation night or day. Sure, there are taxis everywhere, but they will set you back $8-$12 per trip (with tip) back and forth to the Rio. For $20-$24 (or less) per day, you can have your own car. Parking at all of the hotels in the area is free, unless you valet your car. The cheapest way to rent a car there, or really anywhere, is to bid on one at priceline.com. Sometimes budget.com offers comparable rates, and to be sure, it is worth your time to look on both.
Should you rent a place to stay?
Professional poker players often rent a place to stay for the entire six weeks of the WSOP (and sometimes for more). Many players like having the space of a house to spread out in after playing poker all day. For those who are pro-active in finding a place to stay during the WSOP, their reward is saving hundreds of dollars per week on living expenses. It goes without saying that you shouldn’t rent a place unless either you or a roommate is renting a car.
Three or four players can group together and rent a furnished four bedroom house–some with pools–for well under $2000 per-month. Groups of eight to ten online pros have taken over four and five bedroom houses in Las Vegas, and slept in shifts while the others played online.
It kind of defeats the purpose of going to Vegas to play in live tournaments, but I would be lying if I said it didn’t look like it could be fun for a few days.
At any rate, houses are renting very cheap in Las Vegas these days. Much like Florida and Phoenix, Las Vegas is a place where you can rent a pretty big house for cheap (and a smaller one for cheaper). There are houses listed in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, The Las Vegas Sun, and on Craig’s List.
It is also cheap to rent a room month-to-month at a private residence. I stayed on the western outskirts of Las Vegas for four months in 2007, from the middle of March to mid-July. I found a room to rent on Craig’s List for $500 per-month (with the option of renting at $150 per-week. It was six miles from the strip (but it was almost all freeway), in a five-bedroom house.
The rent included wifi, basic cable, laundry service (I’m not kidding), and all utilities. I shared a bathroom with two other guys, and I didn’t have much in the way of kitchen access. But who cares? I paid a $50 security deposit, the landlord (an older lady who lived there) told me it was ok if I came and went whenever I pleased, and the AC kept the house cool during that record-setting summer (over 40-straight days up and over 100 degrees).
There are places like this to stay all over Las Vegas. I never had an ounce of trouble there, and nobody asked any questions when I came home at 8 AM from an all-night poker session. As long as I paid my rent, I was golden.
Your room should be a tool which helps you do your job at the WSOP. What kind of accommodations you book depend entirely upon the type of experience you would like to have in Las Vegas. Based on my varied experiences in Las Vegas and at the WSOP, these are my best recommendations.
All sample prices from Caesars Resorts and MGM Resorts International properties were obtained by using my players club card. Prices will vary without them, and even with them depending on when the rooms are booked. The price will not change once you book the room, however. If you do’t have a players club card with any of the casino companies, it never hurts to call about getting reduced rates. Priceline.com is also an excellent tool to use for bidding on four-star hotels on the strip. It is important to note that the bidder doesn’t have control over which exact hotel they stay in, just on what class of hotel it will be and where it will be located.