by Ashley Adams
I go to Las Vegas at least once a year – and have learned how to minimize my overhead while out there. Less money for expenses translates into more money for tournaments.. Here’s how I save.
Let’s look at the four major cost components of a typical poker vacation:
3. Ground Transportation (taxi, buses, rental cars)
Airfare – Save $150
I live in Boston, Massachusetts. My travel costs may be different from those of you who live elsewhere. Even so, I think the process of saving money is the same, regardless of your place of departure.
Many of my friends have frequent flyer cards and use one airline exclusively. I don’t do that. I use a consolidator, an internet service that scans all airlines for the lowest fare. Recently, I noticed a disparity of $150 between the most expensive seat and the cheapest seat on a round trip flight from Boston to Las Vegas. The best site for this, in my opinion, is Fly.com. It looks at all of the consolidators and finds the cheapest seat. It also shows you the cheapest days to fly, allowing you to further cut your costs by leaving a day or two earlier or later to qualify for the lowest fare.
2. Hotel – Save between $420 and $1,940
First of all, you should decide what kind of a place you want. Maybe you want to stay only in a first class place – five stars all the way. Fine. I just checked the rates through the site of a well-regarded 5 star hotel on the strip in Las Vegas. Their least expensive room was $2,050 for five nights including a Saturday night. I then went to my favorite internet site, Trivago.com – and booked the exact same room for $1,630 – for a savings of $420. But maybe you’re a little more flexible than I was – and are willing to stay in another 5-star hotel – just not that particular one. Using Trivago again, I found another popular, well known place, in roughly the same strip location, for only $750 for five nights including Saturday night – for a savings of $1,250. Same quality, roughly the same location – and over $1,000 less!
Of course if you’re willing to go down slightly in quality you can save even more. I found a well-known three-star hotel, near the northern end of the Strip for just $210 for those same five nights – for a savings of $1,840. Believe it or not, if you want, you can do even better than that in Las Vegas. I typically stay in a clean two-star place for $110 for those five nights – for a savings of $1,940. If you are a serious poker player like I am, you’re spending nearly all your waking hours in a poker room anyway. You’re just using your room for sleep. Who really cares how fancy the pillows and drapes are? So why pay top price?
3. Ground Transportation: Save $225
Many people take cabs wherever they go in Las Vegas. That can get expensive. With a $3.30 initial charge, $2.60 a mile plus $.60 a minute “Waiting time” plus $3 or so to use your credit card – a typical ride from casino to casino or casino to restaurant typically runs no less than $20 a pop including tip. Do that three or four times a day, five days in a row and you’ve out at least $300 to get around in Las Vegas.
Instead, consider renting a car. If you go through Hotwire.com, my favorite site for rental cards, you won’t know what rental car company you have, but I really don’t care about anything but the rate. Recently, I paid just $75 a week (including all taxes and fees) for an economy car –$225 less than using cabs.
4. Meals: Save $300 -- maybe
You can get a room with a kitchenette and cook many of your own meals – saving the cost of going out to eat. Groceries are a lot cheaper than restaurant meals to be sure. I used to do that. I saved a few hundred dollars. But I found that it often wasn’t worth it, since I so enjoy the experience of eating out while in Las Vegas.
All tolled, depending on the choices you make you could save from $795 up to $2,615 for your five-day vacation, airfare included. With the money you save you could afford at least the entry into the Aria’s recently announced $565 tournament with a $1,000,000 guaranteed prize pool. Not too shabby! For my money, saving the money is worth the slightly extra effort.
For information about finding poker games while on vacation or traveling, check out my other article on PokerStrategy.com.
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by Ashley Adams
My poker-playing buddy Andrei and I were nearing the final quadrant of this circular poker playing tour we had been on for five days. We had flown from Boston to San Francisco on a Saturday, driven east and north to Chico, then south through Sacramento, Stockton, and the Napa Valley, before heading west through Livermore and Tracy to San Jose. We played poker all the way, in about 23 rooms.
Once in San Jose, our first port of call there was the Bay 101 Casino. It is a huge, modern, grand poker palace – along the lines of the Commerce in Los Angeles. The room is divided into two halves, with a large lobby and enormously high ceilings. On the left are a myriad of “California Games” like baccarat, blackjack, pai gow tiles, and 3-card poker. I watched these games briefly – but moved quickly over to the poker side.
by Ashley Adams
In my last installment of this seven-part series, my friend Andrei and I were playing our way through Stockton on a 25-room poker trip in Central California. We left the two gritty rooms there and headed south to Casino Real (1355 North Main St., Manteca, 209-239-1455). This seven-table room struck me as being a blend of a modern casino poker room and a traditional local California card room. There’s tableside food and beverage service as well as a reasonably priced player’s menu, with $6-$8 sandwiches and $8 Asian dishes like pho. They spread $1/1/2 and $1/1/3 no limit, $3/6 limit hold’em, and $4/8 Omaha with a ½ kill. There was a prop in the Omaha game I played in – but other than he, the action was good and the quality of my opponents was, at best, tight and predictable. After an hour, I moved over from Omaha to $1/1/3 no limit. I managed to lose a large contested pot with a full house but ended up winning money when I was awarded $100 by the poker room thanks to a neat little bad beat promotion they had going. Sweet! The other distinguishing feature of the room is Ernie’s, the high-end gourmet restaurant located on the premises. I didn’t have time to sample the menu, but everyone I met in the poker room raved about it.
by Ashley Adams
This is the fifth installment of my chronicling of a visit to 25 poker rooms in Central California. Frankly, by this stage of the journey I was getting tired and sick -- having come down with shingles.
Following a relatively quick stop at an emergency room to treat my painful virus, my friend Andrei and I visited the poker room/bowling alley/bar/restaurant known as Folsom Lake Bowl (511 East Bidwell Street, Folsom, 916-983-4411). The poker there is played in a separate five-table card room behind the restaurant. They typically have a morning game of $1-$3 no limit that starts by 11:00 AM, with a $40 bonus for players after they have completed three hours of live play. A later game begins at roughly 4:00 PM. They run a house-funded regular $10,000 freeroll tournament for the forty players with the most hours of qualifying play. There’s a bad beat promotion as well, funded out of the $4 + $1 maximum rake. They have a nice little Saturday night $30 tourney with a $1,000 guarantee. The poker room had just taken over the kitchen when I visited – and they were in the process of developing a poker player’s menu. If I lived closer I’d return to try it out.
We left the FLB and drove south to the Lodi Casino, (1800 S. Cherokee Lane Lodi, 209-334-9777). It’s located right on route 99, a 15 minute walk from a surprisingly nice Motel 6. It has seven poker tables. I enjoyed playing in a great, lively, $1-$3 no limit game. My buddy played some $4/8 with a half kill – and enjoyed his session as well. To help promote the room they have $3K, $10K and $50K freerolls, as well as comps of $2 an hour for live play. There’s a kitchen with a full menu. I sampled the $1 tacos. They were perfect as a snack. Later, I had the inexpensive prime rib dinner. It was outstanding.
The next poker room we visited was Rancho’s Club Casino (10499B Folsom Blvd Rancho Cordova, CA 916-361- 9186). I really enjoyed this little room where I had the privilege of playing with and really getting to know the rooms owner, Reuben Marquez. We sat together at a $4/$8 with a half kill game of Omaha hi-lo. But this game was very special—perhaps unique—in that it was played with a 9 qualifier for low rather than the standard 8. The game was populated by six recreational players, and two extremely tight players: a house shill (someone who plays with house money) and Reuben himself. I only played for about 90 minutes, but managed to win about $100. That wasn’t the most memorable part of the experience. Instead, I learned from Reuben how to play a house game he invented: double hand Marquez. It combines the best of pai gow, baccarat, and blackjack and has just been approved as a legitimate California game. I shan’t explain it except to say that it’s relatively easy to learn, has a modest house advantage of about 3% or so, and seems fun to play (if you can find gambling games with a house advantage to be fun). The room is officially open from 8:30 AM until 3:00 AM, but considering there was just one short game going when I was there at 5:30 PM on a Tuesday night, I’d call before driving over.
by Ashley Adams
We left Rancho’s Club at about 7:00 PM and shortly thereafter arrived at the nearby Cordova Casino (2801 Prospect Park Drive Rancho Cordova 916-293-7470). This is a busier and larger poker room than Rancho’s Club, with about six tables in action when we were there. I played in a $1/$3 no limit hold’em game that allowed an under-the-gun straddle of up to ten times the big blind. Their rake was a reasonable $4 a hand (with another $1 for the many promotions they offered). They also had a low limit hold’em game that my friend Andrei played in. This seemed to be the hangout of the more serious poker players in town. I managed to win one fairly large pot with some trickery—something that wouldn’t have been possible if the players had been looser or less observant. There’s a nice $120 in chips for $100 buy-in promotion that visitors should take advantage of. The eight players at my table rated the food as better than average.
by Ashley Adams
It was Super Bowl Sunday morning, day two of my California poker odyssey. I’ve reported on my earlier visits to the California Grand, Casino Royale, the Limelight, Capitol Casino, and Cache Creek. Sunday I drove from Sacramento up through Colusa and Oroville to Chico and then back south again to Marysville. I played in four more rooms: Colusa Casino, 99 Casino (formerly Angie’s Place), Feather Falls Casino, and Casino Marysville.
The Colusa Casino (3770 Highway 45, Colusa, 530.458.8844) is a full service resort casino with a modest poker area on the casino floor typically running just $3/$6 limit hold’em. They rarely get no-limit, but they do have a fantastic mixed game on Wednesday evening. In it they spread Crazy Pineapple, Irish Hold’em, and Superflop. I had never heard of the last two games, and describe them to you here—perhaps for the first time in print!
Irish Hold’em is a variation of hold’em. Instead of getting two cards, you get four. You discard two before the flop. The rest is the same. Superflop is dealt the same as hold’em, but there are only two additional rounds of betting, both at the higher tier. The flop and turn are done together—with four cards being exposed initially. There’s a round of betting. And then there is a one-card river, making the board the same as a regular hold’em board. Watch for them soon at a card room near you—or travel to Colusa on Wednesday at 3PM to play them.
by Ashley Adams
I left off the first part of this article after finishing play at the Casino Royale poker room in the beautiful Red Lion Hotel in Sacramento. Though my friend Andrei was tired out by our cross country flight and subsequent poker jaunt, I was still energized. So before retiring I headed out on Saturday night to the two other rooms in Sacramento, The Capitol Casino, and the Limelight Bar and Cafe Card Room.
The Capitol Casino (411 N. 16th Street, Sacramento, 916-446- 0700) is the dominant card room in the area. Open 24/7, there are ten poker tables and many “California Games”. The food is outstanding. They have Asian dishes, diner fare, and elaborate desserts that literally sit on shelves surrounding many of the areas of play. It was weird looking, but so tempting that I went back the following day just to eat breakfast (and had a great omelet and perfectly prepared coffee).
The room has the biggest action in the area. I played in the $2/$5 game that rocked and rolled. (They sometimes have $5/$10 no limit I was told—but it wasn’t going on the Saturday night I was there). Seventy percent of the hands were 3-bet or 4-bet pre-flop. I don’t recall if there was a cap on the buy-in, but at my table there were three players sitting with well over $1K. While the level of play was not of the very highest level—that you’ll find at some of the very large poker rooms like Commerce, Aria, Bellagio, Borgata, or Foxwoods -- this was better than a collection of local rocks and recreational players. I didn’t sit in or observe their other games, but there were $1/$2 no limits going as well as a few $4/8, $6/12 limit and even a $4/$8 Omaha8 with a half kill. They offer a wide variety of tournaments as well.
by Ashley Adams
What’s the poker capitol of the world? For my money, the honors have to go to the entire state of California. This state’s rich poker legacy goes back to the 1930s, a time when gambling was banned everywhere in the United States, but in Nevada. But in California, poker clubs were legal and thrived in those municipalities that allowed them (if only for draw poker games).
Poker continues to thrive in California today, with 104 rooms listed on www.pokeratlas.com. Having played in just about all of the poker rooms in Southern California, I decided to explore the vast sea of poker rooms in the northern and central part of the state. My buddy Andrei (a limit hold’em specialist) and I managed to hit about 25 of them on this five day trip. In this and my next few articles, I will tell you, at least briefly, about the rooms we visited—as well as a few of the highlights and lowlights of our excursion.
We flew into San Francisco and immediately rented a car and left the Bay Area. We could have played in the four rooms that ring San Francisco: The Oaks in Emeryville, Artichoke Joe’s in San Bruno, Palace Poker in Hayward, and Lucky Chances in Colma. All are fine rooms, worthy of at least a visit. But I had played in each of them in the past and decided that we would spend our limited time in rooms to the east that I had yet to visit. So off we were for points east.
by Ashley Adams
As a Boston resident, I am regularly asked about poker in Massachusetts. Sadly, there are no casinos or other public poker rooms in this state. However, in 2011, the state passed a law that enabled full-scale casino gambling here. In 2012, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission was assembled; and in 2013, they accepted applications for casino licenses. Applicants have been investigated and their applications have been reviewed. Some have been rejected; some approved. Communities have voted, in accordance with the enabling legislation, on whether they will accept a casino. Some have rejected the projects; others have accepted them. One, Revere, will vote again on February 25th on a new proposal (the initial proposal included putting part of the casino in East Boston, who rejected the plan).
Here’s how the casino gambling picture in Massachusetts looks now, with my estimate of when poker will actually be available. There are three regions that have been given the right to have one licensed casino: Eastern, Southeastern, and Western/Central. The Mashpee Wampanoag tribe has been given first crack at a license for Southeastern MA—but they had to have both a state compact, approved by the federal government, and a “land in trust” deal – because they do not have any tribal land. As of January 17th, their requisite compact with the state has been approved. They still do not have a land in trust agreement, however. And the entire matter of preferential treatment is under challenge by a private casino developer, KG Urban. So it may be a while before this casino deal is squared away. My guess is that this will not be fully sorted out until the beginning of 2015, with no spades in the ground until the end of 2015, and with the casino opened up by the winter of 2016.