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Making the most of your time when visiting Las Vegas

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Introduction

When Bugsy Segal was looking for the perfect place to build a casino, I’m sure he didn’t have to spend too much time in the Nevada desert to recognize that this was a place that would keep people indoors. It was Las Vegas!

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The first thing that hits you when you get off the plane in Vegas in the summer months is the heat. It’s only mid-June and the daily temperatures are already above 100 degrees. Vegas heat doesn’t come with a sea breeze like most resorts, and a person has to keep the heat in mind when they’re roaming around town or they could find themselves in trouble. Most of the casinos on the Strip offer up some type of heat relief like outdoor cool-water spray systems. Even waiting for a shuttle bus can be a scorcher without some cover from the sun.

Some people can tour around town or golf in this heat, but if I’m in town in the summer I only leave the casino to go to another one, or to a restaurant. If there isn’t a pedway or a Monorail stop, I’ll take a cab to escape the heat. That’s why I prefer to stay at the Rio during the WSOP because I’ll only end up having to make my way there every day anyway. They have a nice pool at the Rio as well, and a couple of dips go a long way to keep one feeling fresh and sharp.

Poker is the perfect game when it’s too hot the roam around The Strip. If you know how to play at all you’ll get a lot more playing time for your money. Daily tournaments at the Bellagio will take up to as much as four or five hours to play out if you go deep into the tournament. If you have an adequate bankroll you can sit and grind at a limit table all day until the sun goes down and the heat backs off a bit. But temperatures stay in the 80’s at night, even this early in the summer, so remember to drink lots of water while you’re in town.

Not looking like a tourist in Vegas is a little tougher to achieve than it is in other places you may be visiting. If you’re trying to blend in with the locals at other resorts, one only has to research the local customs and prepare prior to going there. But Las Vegas has been built on tourism, and the identity of the city was born from that. There are, however, some ways to diminish the level of “tourist” you present to others in Sin City; here are a few hints.

Make the most of your Las Vegas vacation:

Image is important if you’re competing against other players. Looking like you just got off the plane from an Idaho potato-field (no offense, I like potatoes) won’t get you much respect at the poker tables. So what can a guy do to fit in a little at the Bellagio poker room? First, I would recommend that you get a little sun before you head to town. Do some tanning or get in a few sessions of “fake and bake” so you won’t look like an albino for the first couple of days you’re in town. Locals have a tan, tourists don’t.

The camera is a dead giveaway every time. Only tourists tote cameras around, so if you’re planning on playing a serious session you should leave them in your room. The same applies for your casino player points cards; put them in your pocket or in your wife’s purse. Cheap sunglasses don’t fit in very well in Vegas. If you live here, you need a good pair of shades.

Most locals dress for the casino when they hit it. Image is everything in Vegas and slick players want everyone to fear them. Dressing sharp and wearing jewelery presents an image of success, and conveys the impression that you shouldn’t be messed with because you’re an experienced gambler who’s dangerous. Bring out the bling and wear a nice shirt – leave the Bermuda shorts and work t-shirts in your suitcase until your day trips about town.

Most of all don’t walk around in wide-eyed amazement at everything you see. Checking out the sites as you move around is something only a visitor would do; act like you live there while you’re looking like you belong. Viva Baby!

If you want to see a show in Vegas but you don’t know what to attend, it makes sense to go see something that has stood the test of time. Some entertainers can only be seen in Vegas, preferring the regularity of a Vegas gig to the road. Here are a few shows that have been around for awhile, so they should be sure bets to entertain.

The Blue Man Group has been in Vegas for seven years now. It first appeared at the Luxor Hotel and Casino from 2000 to 2005, and now is at The Venetian since then. The show incorporates humour, music, odd props, lighting and paper to thrill the audience from start to finish. It’s still one of the top shows in town after seven years.

The Rio has “Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding” which has been running for over five years now. This show is an invite to a wedding and the reception of an entertaining Italian-American family. The bridesmaid is pregnant and the priest is drunk, and with audience participation factored in, each show is different. Tickets run around $90 each.

If you want to see a traditional showgirl performance, the longest and most acclaimed show is “Jubilee” at Bally’s. Beautiful girls in Bob Mackie-designed costumes dance elaborate numbers. Total glitz and glam at a reasonable price.

“Mama Mia” is the longest running Broadway musical ever to run on the Strip. The musical has 22 ABBA songs woven into the show and continues to be a favorite with tourists and critics alike. The Mandalay Bay has had some killer shows over the years, but none have been as popular as this show.

Penn and Teller have been performing at the Rio since 2001. The magicians/ comedians pack them in six nights a week – every day of the week except Fridays. They take pokes at the supernatural claimers and fakers, and have a show on Showtime Network called “Bullshit!” dedicated exclusively to that subject matter. Tickets were around $80 bucks, and the show is definitely worth it.

Poker vacations are not very common unless you take a cruise or a riverboat trip. A Vegas poker vacation depends on the size of the action you’re looking for and the level of luxury you wish to be exposed to during your stay. It’s still better to find your own action and plan your own poker package vacation.

All you have to do is find a poker room or a couple of rooms you like and stay right in the hotel at which you plan on playing. If you play at the Golden Nugget, then stay in one of their rooms. When you switch to another poker room, switch to that hotel. There’s no rule that says you have to stay in the same hotel for the entire stay in Vegas. That way you have a couple of different casino experiences in one visit. There are lots of poker rooms in town that offer a variety of action.

The Bellagio poker room is a very popular place that consistently has action. It’s on the higher end of the price bracket, but this is poker central and if you’re lucky there will be a high stakes game at one of the private tables full of players like Ivey, Brunson, Reese, Hanson, Greenstein, and Negreanu. Shops and restaurants are top-notch at the Bellagio, and the location in the heart of the Strip can’t be beat.

For the penny-pinching poker tourist, Circus Circus offers lots of low limit action and is considered one of the best poker rooms in town. The rooms and food are more affordable than most Strip casinos, so you’ll have more cash for another sit and go.

The Mirage is another great spot for poker. Tournaments are held nightly, and the cash action is diverse both in blind levels and poker variations that are played. The room prices aren’t crippling and the Mirage always has the best shows in-house when you need a break from the tables.

Remember to budget your action prior to hitting town so you don’t go broke halfway through your stay. If you win some money don’t dump it all back on the blackjack tables, put it back in the bankroll for next time.

A trip to Vegas isn’t like a week at an all-inclusive island getaway where you get to choose from a handful of day trips to fill in the time when you’re not around the pool. There is so much to do in Vegas that a person can go back numerous times before they even get close to seeing it all.

The way to make the most of your Vegas stay is to do as much prep work as you can before getting there. If you just want to kick back and relax that’s one thing, but if you’re here to get the most you can out of Sin City then you’ve got to plan ahead.

Some people like to stay in the same room for their entire vacation but you’ll experience so much more if you spread out your vacation over two or three different hotels. Try and stay in the hotel where you’re planning on being that day. If you’ve planned to see a show at the Rio, then stay at the Rio that night. If you’ve got some tournament poker action planned at the Golden Nugget, then stay there for a night or two. It makes it easier to get back to your room if you‘re partying where you’re sleeping.

If there’s one thing that sucks in Vegas its going broke early. Once you’ve planned out the shows and tours you’ll be seeing, you should decide how much you’re going to gamble. Add all the hours up that you expect to be gambling and divide it into the amount of money with which you plan on playing. Then you know how much to take to each session when you decide to sit down and try your luck.

One more tip is to take advantage of your player points. Every casino has player points that you accumulate as you play. These points can be redeemed for free meals, room discounts, or generous gifts. You may be surprised the how much a person can accumulate over the period of a few days at the tables. And don’t be afraid to ask the Pit Boss for a free buffet coupon if your bets are $5 or more.

Hitting Vegas for a little Casino Action sometimes is all about trying to grow the bankroll. Keeping the living costs of the visit down will only help the bankroll that much more. There’s no sense in winning a couple of grand, only to have to dump half of it back on rooms and meals. Here are a couple of ways to keep the trip on the cheap:

The best place to have an inexpensive casino experience is downtown. Binions and the Golden Nugget have lots of slots, low-limit action and cheap tournaments that run daily. The rooms are not as nice as you’ll find on the Strip, but they’re certainly cheaper. The Steak and Lobster or Prime Rib will leave you with more dough for the grind.

The Mirage gives meal comps to poker players, and the limits range from $2/$4 to $40/$80. They also used to offer $200 max buy-in no-limit cash games, but I am not sure if that still exists. The action is always hot at the 24/7 poker room and many different variations of the game can be found here. Skip the food and rooms here though, they’re not as cheap. Head over to the Monte Carlo to eat; their buffets are inexpensive for both lunch and dinner.

Circus Circus is probably your best bet for economy on the Strip. Good room prices and low stakes at the 24/7 poker room. Player comps for poker players give you more for your money. The casino is family-oriented and is not about draining your cash. Surprisingly there are only 10 tables, but the wait to play poker is rarely long.

If you’re staying off the Strip make sure that you get conformation of your plans before you leave home – it will save you some headaches. Remember that downtown is cool inside the casinos, but not the best place to go strolling around late at night.

In Vegas a guy can have just about anything to drink he desires. Martini bars and nightclubs in Sin City have the widest variety of drinks I have ever seen. But what if you feel like just being a Regular Joe for awhile? Where can a guy get a beer that puts the beer first and the slots second?

Here are my top ten spots in Vegas to suck some suds and kick back a little. This list is not best to worst; they’re in no specific order. It would be too hard to arrange them considering my usual state after a couple of hours in one of them.

  1. Steiner’s Pub (8168 Las Vegas Blvd South): A great beer pub with an impressive collection of beer including many microbreweries, plus 30 taps and great service.

  2. Big Dog’s Brewing Co./Draft House (4543 N Rancho Dr.): Good brew and a wide selection of drafts along with top-notch service.

  3. Barley’S Casino & Brewing Co (4500 E Sunset Road): Super cheap prices for beer and food, plus free beer if you’re playing Video Poker.

  4. J.C. Wooloughan Irish Pub (221 N. Rampart Blvd): Fifteen taps and a cider option, plus at least ten different bottled types.

  5. McMullan’s Irish Pub (4650 W. Tropicana Ave.): A dozen taps and 17 bottles make this comfortable pub a good choice if you want a break from the usual Vegas scene.

  6. Tilted Kilt at the Rio (3700 W. Flamingo Rd.): A whopping 27 taps available, but a short bottle list; lots of cider options and Scottish brews.

  7. The Lounge (in THEhotel at Mandalay Bay): Great selection of beer at great prices for the Strip.

  8. Freakin Frog (4700 South Maryland Parkway): With 500 bottled choices it’s one of the widest varieties in the west. It can be a bit pricey for the reserved brews if the owner even wants to sell one to you.

  9. The Lodge at Tenaya (5711 Sky Pointe Rd.): It has lots of televisions and pool tables with a great selection of different suds.

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