The Beat - Vegas Baby

The Beat - Vegas Baby

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Neil Channing looks forward to the WSOP.


So we've reached that time of the year when everyone starts talking about Vegas and the WSOP.

They don't actually do anything about it. Of course not, these people didn't become poker players because they like their lives to be organised efficiently.

Who am I kidding? I'm just the same. The schedule has been out for a while now and I've done nothing but glance at the headlines. They've got an event where you can win a bracelet for just $500 and they've given it a catchy name - that should be good. They seem to have done something to the payout structure of the main event which I won't be too worried about if I win it and which won't make me feel ecstatic about my min-cash and also won't make my life even more depressing if I get down to the last few tables but don't have to plan for November. I guess the only people with regrets might be those wish they'd gambled a little with 100 players left in an effort to make the final table, and that is as it should be.

We ought to be planning now then. There is no reason not to.


Lots of people talk about Vegas like it's a massive pipe-dream that they'll one day get round to ticking off their bucket list, which probably won't happen, but it really didn't ought to be. Obviously you can play satellites online and win a lovely package with flights, buy-ins and spending money, helping you really feel part of an organised group. If you're lucky enough to snag one of those prizes that is great, you've managed to tick one off your list for possibly less than £50 (what do you know? I've just had a look and I've noticed Sky Poker are doing these with their popular Viva Las Vegas promotion which will have at least 35 lucky winners. It's lucky I checked).

In the unlikely and unfortunate event that you don't manage to win a package online, you can still go to the ball Cinderella. Around this time of year I often hear people telling me there is no way they can go to Vegas as it's way too expensive for them. I then see those same people travelling to Manchester, Newcastle and Nottingham from London, staying in hotels that always seem to cost £50 to £80 a night however down-market you go and then playing an event where the buy-in is often around £300 to £500. They maybe play one side event and then they come home.


If you think about those trips in terms of how much you spend on travel and hotels relative to how much you spend on tournament entries they are just not practical when compared to a two week Vegas trip where you can cram in so much more poker relative to the amount you spend on expenses. Many players I consider to be good solid grinders in the smaller NLH games around London simply move their base to Vegas for the summer and do their eight hours every day in the Rio instead of the Empire. There is a massive choice of games to play, you don't have to spend a fortune on hotels if you shop around, and you'll get a substantially better hotel room for your money than in the UK. The weather isn't bad either, and you might get to throw a few tournament entries into the mix if that's your thing.

Obviously if you are a young person paying rent in the UK and you have to also now pay hotels and a flight it doesn't come for free but if your alternative plan involved three or four costly trips to play £3,000 worth of buy-ins in the UK then I reckon you should get yourself over there.


One thing I would say if you are thinking about booking a trip and you're very conscious of budget is beware false economies. The idea of the trip is to get the maximum amount of poker time relative to expenses. If you decide to save £250 by booking a flight that stops for 12 hours in Dallas or Charlotte before flying to LA where you have to get another flight and you end up arriving a day later and you're exhausted and can't play for a day then you've cost yourself a couple of days of your trip. When planning you should think about how much you intend to spend in expenses per day and how much you intend to spend on tournament buy-ins per day. That ratio should be at least 3/1 with the buy-ins being the big figure. If you waste a lot of time travelling then the buy-ins per day go right down and hence you have not really saved money. Far better to scan the sites every day and make sure you get the cheapest of the direct flights. Sometimes by flying on Wednesday instead of Saturday you can easily save £250 or more and still be on one of the direct flights with Virgin or British Airways. I'm told that booking months in advance is not the best way to get the cheapest price, but the "plan" of leaving it until days before definitely is not. A few weeks before will often be the optimal time.

The Beat 3

A young pro that I know was very conscious of his budget in Vegas and every day he would walk from his hotel to Harrahs in the centre of the strip. He would wait there for a while and hop on the free shuttle bus to the Rio. They would drop him off at the front of the casino and walk through. He did that every day for six weeks and saved about $500 in cab fares. Sadly for him by the time he walked to Harrahs, waited for the next shuttle, dawdled along to the Rio and walked the long way through the casino to the poker room he would spend an hour every day each way, so that came to 85 hours on the trip. This pro earned around $35 an hour playing in the cash games so I pointed out to him that he was "spending" $3,000 to save $500. He was a smart fella but I still saw him getting on the shuttle the next day.

Often when people are new to Vegas they book a package with a travel agent online. The fully inclusive flight and hotel deals are tempting and the prices can mean that the hotel part of the deal is very cheap. These packages often involve staying at the Stratosphere or the Circus Circus and without getting involved in discussing the quality of those hotels or the merits of the lovely areas around them, I would just say that you need to factor in the huge cost of travelling back and forward from there to where you want to actually play poker. If you plan to be at the Rio every day playing then you'll have to spend about half and hour and $18 each way getting a cab to and from "work". For that extra $30 a day you can stay in the Rio itself and over two weeks you just gained an extra day of your holiday while also having a bigger room. You could even stay over the road from the Rio in the Gold Coast and save yourself some money at the same time.

If you have any kind of budget at all I would try and stay in one of the nicer hotels. For the last couple of years I have stayed in a lovely apartment at Palms Place. I've booked those through Main Event Travel and they will do you a deal at around $100 a night. This year I've already stayed in many worse hotel rooms in the UK for the same money, and in the Palms Place we are talking about an apartment with a fridge, microwave, dishwasher and cooker as well as a nice balcony. It takes about 20 minutes to walk to the Rio card room from there and half of that is indoors. Alternatively, if you commit to playing some poker in their poker room, you'll get a discounted rate at either the Aria or the Bellagio. It's true that at weekends the prices can go over $200 a night but midweek you'll get it for half that and you won't mind playing six hours or so while you're there.

I often see people scrimping and scraping by staying in a grotty place miles from the action and then wasting all the money they've saved on taxis. My suggestion would be cut out the drunken roulette and stop chasing draws at bad odds and stay somewhere nice. It'll really help your poker. 


My Vegas plan this year is to go for a nice trip at the end. Not too long and not too short. I think I was pretty good at doing the whole seven weeks of the series, playing 28 events and avoiding the burn-out, but there still must have been a total of around $30,000 in buy-ins that I've wasted in the last five years. This normally takes the form of playing tournaments that I wasn't ready for, playing when my head had gone, when I hadn't slept properly or I didn't have the right mind-set.

I reckon if I go for a couple of weeks this year and play a few side events, some cash, some satellites and the main event I'll be fresher and much more ready to win in The Big One.

The Sky qualifiers will all be arriving at the same time and we'll be taking them out for a 4th of July dinner. I'm looking forward to meeting them all and sharing some of our Vegas experiences together. I'll definitely be looking to enjoy some sun, catch up with friends who I only see at the series as well as those who live in town.

I'm off to plan my schedule now.

Tags: Neil Channing, WSOP, Las Vegas