This story begins like so many stories from the city in the middle of the desert:
I remember it better now than I did the morning after.
It was the night I learned to roll low in Las Vegas.
Before I head for another Top Ten list (the lazy but quick way to write), walk with me into the Excalibur Poker room. See, it was here I first met the poker bloggers. It was here I embraced my inner donkey. It was here that I realized that Vegas not only offers to fill you full of drink for free. It also allows you to grub for free. It ain't good, but it's the way to roll low.
With that in mind, here is another in a series of pre-Vegas Top 10 lists.
How to Roll Low in Vegas and Still Have Fun
1. Drink for free-- Now, this is a bit of a misnomer, because you aren't really drinking for free. It's going to cost you on average a $1 tip for a drink at the tables. However, a buck is much cheaper than paying for drinks at the bar. If you're on a limited budget, never, ever buy a drink at the bar. Even if you're at a bar with friends, don't buy. The only exception to this rule is the Otis Quads Method, under which you can turn $20 into $200 without much thought at a video poker bar. There, you'll get free drinks for your play. Be aware, this is a learned skill and is not to be experimented with unless you are prepared for disaster.
2. Eat for free-- Find a poker room that offers free food. The Excalibur has a nightly dinner buffet that offers--in rotation--Mexican, Italian, faux Cajun, and American food. It's free to players in the room and it will fill you up. It's not gourmet, but it's free. The Mirage puts out finger sandwiches and cookies early in the morning. I believe the Aladdin does as well. Eat as much as you can. If there's no free food in the room, pay a little homage to the Tilt Boys and order a meal in a glass (bloody mary with extra olives and celery). It's free!
3. Eat on the cheap-- If you're failing to fill up on the free food, I would suggest you are not working hard enough. Your punishment should be not eating. Seriously. It's not as important as people say. However, if you still feel like you should be nourishing yourself, don't get sucked in by the restaurants. Do not get me wrong. I love a nice sit-down meal. But that's for when you've got some money in your pocket (with money in your pocket I can recommend Delmonicos in The Venetian). So, find a freakin' snack bar. And I don't mean a deli. Find a snack bar and fill up. New York/New York has $2 slices of pizza. Little John's (or is it Friar Tuck's?) has 2 fer $2 tacos. Also, don't forget Fat Burger. Oh, and don't be buying a soda. Take your food back to the table and get a free drink.
4. Play small to start-- Just as there is no pride in playing big, there is no shame in playing little. If you don't wanna risk more than $200, do not play anything above $2/$4 limit or $1-3 spread limit. Given, you'll get eaten up by blinds and tokes, but if you take $200 to the the next biggest game ($4/$8), you're just one bad session from being bust for the trip. If you feel like you can risk $500, feel free to move up to $4/$8 limit, $2-$6 spread limit, or even a $1/$2 NL game. Just be careful. No need to be creative. It's not easy to find a $2/$4 or $1-$3 game, but they are out there. They are readily available at the Luxor, MGM, and Excalibur. Before my game took off, I once spent 13 hours at a $2/$4 table. And I had fun.
5. Be prepared to nut-peddle-- At the lower limits, creative play means you'll likely lose. Nobody is going to lay down their hand, which means bluffs are worthless. It's all about value betting the hands you know you are going to win and pushing the edges. Sit back and wait for your winners, drink your free drinks, eat your free food, and wait for the monkey to come on the big screen.
6. Conserve-- Budget a given amount you're willing to risk per day on the trip. You're going to want to have fun and if you go broke on the first day, you will have nothing to do for the remainder of your vacation. Trust me, you don't wanna be broke in Vegas.
7. Play a tournament-- Now, this is contrary to my belief that most low-limit tournaments in Vegas are crap-shoots and not worth your money, but if you're on a strict low-rolling budget, consider entering a $25-$30 tournament. It's a good way to play poker for a few hours without risking very much money. What's more, if you you hit the lottery and win the thing, you'll be rolled for the rest of your trip.
8. Talk to folks-- This is "blogger trip specific" but if you're there for a meet-up, your best conversations will happen off the poker tables. Sure, you're going to have a good time when slinging chips, but you're going to get to know people at the bars, waiting for a table, or having a quick bite to eat (make it free!). Talking is a great way to spend time but not money.
9. Pick your spots-- While I would suggest you not do any -EV gambling, if you feel you must, find cheap tables. Usually you'll find them in cheap casinos. The Boardwalk and the Barbary Coast usually have lower limits. You could also go downtown where the tables are the cheapest. However, you're going to get eaten up by cab fare that way. Also, I'm a big proponent of Pai Gow, the slowest of the -EV games.
10. Don't worry-- If you spend every hour counting how much you have left in your pocket, you're not having any fun. You're not a pro player, so make sure you have fun and don't worry so much.
How do I know all this? Because I've done it all. I'll admit, it's nice not to worry so much these days. However, I still enjoy the time I spend scrounging for free food and drink and playing fun poker.
That do, Scott?