Vegas for Low-Limit Professionals Part 1

Las Vegas Strip

This is part one of a three-part article to help save you from yourself in a city built for high rollers. In Las Vegas, where money is concerned, it can be easy to go 'O'-verboard.

Vegas baby... Vegas

Being a low-limit poker professional requires as much bankroll discipline off the table as it does on the table.

There are people in Vegas whose whole job is researching the psychology of spending. They literally build and renovate casinos trying to maximize the amount of money they can take out of your pocket. To give you some basic examples:

• The carpet in a casino is obnoxious. This is done on purpose; they use obnoxious patterns and colors to make you stop looking at the floor when you walk. If you're not looking at the floor, you're looking at slot machines and table games.

• There are no clocks or natural light. They don't want you to know what time of day it is. People are happy to drink and gamble at 8 a.m. on a Wednesday, just as long as they don't have to be reminded of it.

• The casinos are a maze. You will have to walk past hundreds of tables and slots to find your way out.

• Higher-limit tables and slots are in more attractive areas, with more attractive people in them. Casinos hire beautiful women to sit and play at higher-limit tables. You won't be the first, or last, guy to sit next to her to chat her up. (These people are known as "props.")

The whole city is built in a way to make you want to play games and limits in which you had no intention of playing. The Vegas culture glorifies any decent-sized wins, and sweeps losses under the carpet.

Don't get me wrong and think I'm talking smack here; Vegas is one of the greatest cities in the world. You just have to know how to keep your roll in your own pocket. This guide should be a great starting point for you.

Vanessa Rousso
Best-case scenario is to have a girlfriend who plays as much as you do. Vanessa Rousso would be a fine choice.

The Company You Keep

If you're a low-stakes professional, you will be going to Vegas to work. This will translate into 8-20 hours of poker a day. You will live in the various poker rooms, and be more than content doing just this. As a result you have to go with friends in a similar frame of mind.

If your best friend wants to go with you but he/she doesn't play poker, you'll be making a big mistake going with them. You'll have the choice of making them hang out in Vegas alone, or chilling with them and losing out on playing cards. If you can't play cards, you can't work.

Your goal is to leave Vegas with more money than you had before you arrived. You need to make enough money to cover all the costs of your trip, as well as earning for yourself. To do this, you need to grind.

Ladies: before you write angry letters to me about this next point, please read the reasoning as well.

Guys, it's a mistake to go to Vegas exclusively with your girlfriend (unless of course she's going to be playing too). If your best buddy wouldn't like being left alone to entertain himself, how do you think your girlfriend would feel? I've said it before, and I'll say it again: no girl wants to feel like she's second-best to a card game.

If you go to Vegas just for a vacation, then by all means, there's no one better to bring along. But if you plan to go and play some serious cards, it would be a mistake to bring the old lady. Along with not being able to earn, you're going to be spending significantly more money on entertainment and food if you're not playing all day. That's a double hit to your roll.

Another person to watch out for is the über-gambler. If you bring your friend with a gambling affliction, it's easy to get dragged along. If your friend is rocking the table games all day, you're going to be doing the same. You'll want to party with them, and it's easy to say "Screw it; we're in Vegas!"

I'm not just making these things up. I've been in these situations and made all these mistakes. Luckily for me, "All of it on red" was very good to me. After your fifth glass of cognac, putting all your money on one spin of a wheel can seem like a really smart idea.

Being a low-stakes professional, you can't afford to be giving away a few buy-ins on a roulette table. Playing a little $5 blackjack is one thing, but when you get in with a manic gambler, it's not long before you start pushing $200 bets.

The best way to avoid making such a mistake is to only carry a small portion of your roll on you. Hotel rooms have safes, and hotels have lock boxes. I suggest you use them.

A bed and a bathroom. What else do you really need?

Where to Put Your Suitcase

Anyone who's been to Vegas before will understand why I say "Where to put your suitcase" rather than "where to stay." You're not going to spend much time in your room at all. When you do need to sleep after being up for 36 hours or so, you'll crash so hard that you couldn't care less what the room looked like.

When you go to Vegas to play poker exclusively, it's more of a working trip than a vacation. On a trip like this you won't be partaking in many of the inter-room activities you otherwise would. (I'm talking about playing big two and Yahtzee!, obviously).

If you're going to be spending almost no time in your room, the quality of the room isn't of the foremost importance. I'm pretty sure my girlfriend would disagree with me on this point - yet another reason why it saves you money to go with someone other than your honey.

Imperial Palace: This is the go-to hotel. It can be booked for as low as $40 a night, and it's literally across the street from Caesars Palace and the Bellagio. All hotels in Vegas cost more on weekends and during peak times, so it can go up as high as $90 a night.

Staying on or near the central Strip keeps your cab costs low. It also makes it easy to stumble back to bed after a long night.

The downside to this wonderland of cheap is it's pretty clear you're not staying at the Ritz the second you step through the front door. Some people describe the place as "creepy," others, "dank." I like to go with "rustic."

It's pretty dark, not the cleanest place in the world, and makes you feel like you've just hit 88 mph in the Delorean. But $40 a night to be across the street from the Bellagio? Fine by me. Plus there was a really awesome, and cute, waitress working the Palace's casino last time I was there.

The Travelodge behind the Harley Davidson café: If reading that hasn't scared you away already, I highly recommend this place as well. It's also across the street from the Bellagio, but a bit to the New York New York side, putting you more of a walk from Caesars and the Mirage. This place looks pretty sketchy at the best of times.

It's also in the $40 a night range, and even sports a pool. I enjoyed my stay here, and found it only to look sketchy. It was clean and friendly and I never felt at risk of being... sketched. This place is my Imperial Palace backup.

Bellagio Hotel and Casino
The Bellagio is as beautiful and spectacular inside as it is out.

The Bellagio: I bet you didn't think I'd have the Bellagio on my list. The Bellagio is my second-favorite casino in all of Vegas (The Wynn being No. 1). The rooms are spectacular, the place is spectacular, and you're minutes away from the Bellagio Poker room.

The downfall to the Bellagio is cost. You're looking at close to $500 for a room. Don't get discouraged just yet. The poker rate for a room at the Bellagio is $120 a night on weeknights. To get the poker rate, you're required to play five hours a day in the Bellagio poker room.

The lowest limit the Bellagio spreads is $2/$5 No-Limit. And it's a serious action game. So the Bellagio is a great place for medium-stakes poker professionals with a large roll. I put it here for when you move up the food chain.

If you're planning an extended stay it might be really worthwhile to look into this one. If you're staying for over a month, the game changes. You'll play shorter sessions, and spend more time in your room relaxing and sleeping. At this point having a nice room is paramount.

Part two to come will cover poker room comps and where to put in your hours. Stay tuned... same bat time, same bat channel.

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