Vegas is a whirlpool, designed to confuse and disorientate visitors whilst all the time sucking out all your dollars into an enormous pit of money, guarded by girls in mini skirts, carrying trays.
Vegas is a huge, beautiful, tacky, moral wilderness, replete with contradictions and vice. You will see incredible sights and sounds that will be etched into your brain and memories for the rest of your life.
Vegas is, well, it's unique.
You will hear hundreds of stories that start with "I can't believe xyz" and end with "that's Vegas!"
It's a one-size-fits-all, universal justification for a host of strange and sometimes ludicrous behaviours and situations that only ever crop up in Vegas.
Most of these will be thoroughly alien to you and will be left looking stunned and amazed as you view the latest vice or incredible sight.
You will watch on, mouth agape, as you witness a woman rapaciously playing slot machines for hours on end with a neglected baby hanging off her arm or a security guard, like an overweight, balding version of Jack Bauer, trailing behind two hookers in a casino, officiously conferring with a walkie talkie because their skirts are just a few millimetres short of acceptable "hooker bar" standards.
"Roger 10-4, target acquired. Moving to intercept..."
You will soon be shaken out of your open-mouthed stupor however by someone nearby grabbing you and delivering that ubiquitous platitude,
"That's Vegas buddy!"
Newcomers such as myself can find themselves so bedazzled by all the glitz, the lights, the scantily clad young women and general debauched pizazz they don't notice that a hoover is being held to their wallets and someone's pushed the button up to max.
With this in mind, here is a mini survival guide for those who want to make it through Vegas alive, sane and financially solvent.
Food: Don't pay through the nose
The variety of food available in vegas is overwhelming and there is an abundance of choice.
Use this to your advantage!
Let's say you are staying at the Rio. There are upward of 20 restaurants in the complex, with a breath-taking range of cuisines available ranging from average to very good.
One thing that is pretty common to them all is the expense though.
They are all pretty over-priced and a short trip to the nearby Gold Coast or Orleans casinos will be a frugal move and if you are in for the long haul then you will probably shave quite a few hundred bucks off your trip by dining at the cafes, or stocking up with a big meal at one of the buffets than by treating yourself to 30 buck steaks every day.
Heck, even Taco Bell is relatively tasty and for four bucks you can fill that hole in your stomach without creating a giant one in your wallet.
Laundry: You want clean clothes, not a cleaned out wallet
If you intend to stay a while then you will want clean clothes. No one wants to smell or look like a hobo in a town where image and appearance is held in such high esteem.
With temperatures in excess of 115 degrees fahrenheit at times, you will hum with a vengeance if you don't keep on top of this.
However, getting a load of laundry done by the casinos will cost you in excess of $80-100. Do a load a week for seven weeks and you might find yourself needing to take out a second mortgage just to wear clean underwear.
Locate your nearest laundromat (the US equivalent of the UK Laundrette) and visit it once a week. For 3 bucks you'll be able to do all your washing, another couple of bucks to dry it, and many places throw in the soap for free. 1/20 of the cost of a casino laundry service, it's a must if you are looking to get through a long trip to Vegas without having to pawn all your silver when you return home.
Crossing The Road : Ready, Set, GO!
This may only apply to European readers, but the road system is worthy of a mention.
America is a BIG place and as such, the system has been designed primarily for car users. Pedestrians seem to be frowned upon and as someone who likes to perambulate through the streets, looking around for interesting sights, this hits home very quickly.
The roads are enormous expanses, 10-12 lanes wide in some parts, and seem to be set-up partly to provide maximum assistance to car drivers, and partly as a death trap to reduce the number of pedestrians wishing to cross them.
Press the button to cross the road and you will be in for an often long wait whilst the hundreds of vehicles are given priority and you stand there roasting in the desertsun.
After several hours though, a fleeting opportunity will open up.
A large green hand will appear and you will stroll across happy as larry to be on the way to your destination.
"Stroll" should not enter your vocabulary when crossing the road in Vegas.
As I said, this is a fleeting opportunity, and time is short.
Don't waste it!
As soon as you step foot on the road, you will have about five seconds to cross the vast expanse of tarmac, before a flashing red hand will warn of your imminent demise.
Another 5 seconds later a solid red hand will appear, indicating to the
drivers that you are now fair game and should be taken out, in some kind of bastard version of Orwellian evolution where vehicular ownership is favoured.
"Four wheels good, two legs bad. Death to the bi-pedalled infidel!"
At this point panic may set in, as you find yourself stranded betwixt sea and sky, and you hear the revving of beefed up engines coming at you from every side.
Save yourself from this gasoline-fuelled nightmare and crouch by the side of the road in classic sprint-start position. As soon as the benevolent, electric hand of goodness signals you may cross, break into a sprint and provided you can do the 100 metres in sub 10 seconds, you've got a shot at making it across in one piece!
There's lots of fun to be had in Vegas, but don't be one of the hard luck cases who comes back from Sin City broke, both financially and in spirit.
Good luck making it through Vegas alive, well and solvent!
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