As a full-time poker player, you want to make sure you take advantage of all the comps available to you, with the most obvious being free unlimited cocktails. I recommend you don't take too much advantage of that one while you're playing.
Other than drinks, and hotel room rates, the only thing a poker player will usually get comped is food. Here's my chart of food comps:
|The Room||Time At Table||Comp|
|Bellagio||One Month||Maybe get a buffet, but they won't be happy about giving it to you|
|Harrah's casinos (Caesars, Rio, Flamingo...)||1 Hour||$1 toward food credit|
|Wynn||1 Hour||$1 toward food credit|
|Mirage||4 hours||Free buffet or Carnegie Deli Sandwich. You have to ask the pit for it, and they only give out a couple per shift, so be the first to ask.|
|MGM Grand||1 Hour||$1 toward food credit|
|Venetian||1 Hour||$2 - $3 toward food credit|
All of the casinos who use an hourly rate for comps require you to get a card for that casino, and check in and out. Just ask the dealer for the details.
There are other rooms on the Strip that offer comps, but I seriously don't understand why you'd be playing in them in the first place. You have a few of the world's greatest poker rooms on one street; why play in a dank room with only four tables?
Live poker rooms will never come close to providing the same sort of incentive as online rooms can afford, so it's important to take advantage of whatever you have available to you. The Venetian has one of the best bad beat pots in Vegas, especially considering most of the other rooms don't offer one.
Being a low-stakes professional, you're going to be grinding the cash games pretty much full time. Every room has slightly different buy-in amounts for the same games, and each room plays very differently. You want to play in a room where you can beat the game. Beyond that, all other details are moot.
Caesars Palace: The poker room at Caesars is one of, if not the, largest in the city. The tables have ample room. The setting is bright, white and very open.
You'll have an easier time finding alternate and mix games at Caesars than in most other rooms. It's common for Caesars to spread $4/$8 Limit H.O.R.S.E.
The game-play here is that of a solid deep-stack game. It's rare for the room to be in an uproar of gambling, and you'll be sitting with mostly decent to good tourists. This is not the room for consistent easy money, but it has one of the best-playing lower-limit games in Vegas.
Mirage: The Mirage used to be the center of the poker world. In the post-Bellagio Vegas, the Mirage has become a pretty low-traffic room that has started showing its age.
With the low min-buy, the Mirage attracts the cheaper end of the Vegas players. The Mirage is the place to play with the locals who enjoy poker as a hobby, not a profession. It will remind you of your games back home.
The room spreads a No Ante $1-$5 Stud game. The table has quarters in play on it, and is full of cotton-topped locals who get upset when you make bets over $2. Because of the small scope of this game, this is where you want to come for free food when broke.
It's almost impossible to lose any money at this game. Sit for four hours and grab your buffet comp.
MGM Grand: The MGM is pretty much identical to the Mirage in skill of play, tone and buy-ins. The MGM's room is bigger, but unfortunately very loud. It's right next to the Centrifuge bar, so you'll be assaulted by very loud bad music every 30 minutes or so.
On the bright side, you can watch the bartenders dance on the bar when the music kicks in. The biggest plus to this room is the deli next to it. Hands down the best Reuben sandwich I've ever had.
Bellagio: The Bellagio is the flagship poker room in Vegas. The tables are packed in, making it a physically tight room, where your chair will be back to back with that of a player at the next table.
The lowest No-Limit game the Bellagio spreads is the $2/$5. It matches the lowest max buy-in for any $2/$5 game in Vegas, but don't let this fool you into thinking it's the best choice to play on a short roll. The $2/$5 at the Bellagio is a serious action game. Most players on the table will be sitting with chips between $500 - $5,000.
Because the Bellagio is where all the pros come to play, it's also where all the well-to-do tourists come. If you have a very large roll, this is the place to play.
Venetian: The Venetian underwent a massive renovation a little while back. The place is large, and looks fantastic.
Unfortunately I can't personally comment on the play in this room. They pump some sort of potpourri smell into the whole building, which gives me a massive headache. Everyone I talk to seems to really enjoy the room.
It's also the only room I've seen spread a low-limit mixed game including Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw Lowball. The only other place I've seen this game spread is in Bobby's Room.
Before you go to Vegas search Google for a current tournament guide. Every room spreads tourneys; you just need to find out when, where and how much.
My favorite daily tourneys are held at Caesars seven days a week:
The buy-in structure is unique for these. At noon there is an $80 buy-in with a single $50 re-buy. You get more chips for the re-buy (or add-on) than the starting chips. In this case, the $80 gets you 1,500 starting chips with the $50 re-buy adding 3,000. Essentially you're playing a $130 tournament with 4,500 chips.
At 7 p.m., it's $120 plus $100, again for the total of 4,500 chips.
The rounds are 40 minutes in both, with a relaxed structure, allowing the tournament to have a lot of play to it.
At 11 p.m. the tournament is $60+$10 for 2500 chips and 30 minute rounds.
You have until a set deadline to use your re-buy/add-on. If the majority of your table adds on immediately, do the same. If they wait, then so should you. When you can afford to wait, and still have a stack well into the Harrington Green Zone, you might as well keep the add-on as insurance for a botched coin flip.
Vegas is the city that never sleeps, and a mecca of entertainment. In our final installment of this series I'll talk about what to do when you're not grinding away the night.
More strategy articles from Sean Lind: