It starts as restlessness when I pick up the latest issue of Poker Player Newspaper and see all the ads for tournaments in June and July. It grows to a rumbling in my brain as I read my many emails from poker rooms urging me to enter satellites for the main event. It then crescendos into a wave of uncontrollable desire to bask in poker glory by winning a championship bracelet. It's World Series of Poker fever. And I've caught it!
It happens to me every year, and I've been giving into it for the last half-dozen years or so. And now I've figured out how to do so in an affordable and even remunerative way. Here are the first steps I recommend you take, so you'll enjoy rather than suffer from this seasonal poker malady. First, determine the duration of your trip that's right for you. Poker eyes tend to be bigger than poker stomachs. Much as I think I'd like to join the folks who go for six weeks, I've learned that the combination of 24/7 poker action and sleeping in a strange place makes me start to get really weird after six or seven days. So that's my limit.
If you want to play a big tournament, look at the WSOP schedule in advance. Think about which events are right for you. It would be a shame if your return flight departed one day after the start of the three-day $1,500 Omaha/8 event you'd most like to enter. While you're at it, check out the action at the other major poker rooms in Las Vegas and Southern California that have tournaments going during the WSOP. Binions, the Orleans, and the Bicycle all come to mind, but there are others. Maybe you can get your big tournament thrill by playing in one of their lesser-priced events. This will give you a rough idea of when you'd like to arrive and depart from Las Vegas. You'll then be ready to go about booking your flight, room, and for those of you who want to be fully mobile, your rental car.
Many guys I know-not rich guys, just regular poker players like me-pay little attention to the planning of their trip. But for me it's the most important piece-even more important than how well I play in the side games where I try to earn my tournament entries. A quick look at how much can be saved will illustrate the point.
I compared the "rack rate" cost of my trip to the discount cost of my trip after doing all that I do to find the lowest rate (while still avoiding a flea bag hotel or a torturously long flight). Here are my calculations (taxes and fees included).
That's a savings of $1,875 just from doing a little research and settling for a slightly less convenient room and flight, and a less well-known rental car brand. Think about it. If you play a full 40 hours of poker during your stay, $1,875 in savings amounts to over $45 an hour. If you're a successful $20-$40 player that's probably doubling your hourly win rate. If you're a tournament player, you've just won a $1,500 satellite without putting up any money- and you've gotten another $375 in spending money as well.
Have I whetted your appetite for more information about how to save on your Las Vegas trip?
Now let me tell you how I did it. For my flight I used three major airline search services: travelocity. com, orbitz.com, and expedia.com. Travelocity has the nice feature of allowing you to search without a date first-to find out the cheapest day to travel. It also indicates when there is a cheaper fare at a nearby airport.
I then searched hotwire.com. It doesn't tell you the airline, but tells you the price, departure, and the duration of the flights. It also allows you to check dates immediately before or after you're requested dates to look for cheaper fares. I found a fare of $309 on AirTran. It was $400 less than the rack rate ticket on American.
I followed a similar process for my room. I also used the excellent sites hotels.com and cheapovegas.com to see what rates were being charged by different rooms in and around Las Vegas. With that knowledge I went on hotwire.com.
Hotwire lists rooms by region and by stars-from one to four, but without letting you know the actual property until you've booked your room. In years past they found me a two star suite west of the Strip for $39 a night. It turned out to be the Extended Stay Suites, one block from the Rio. So I was very excited to see that a room, west of the Strip was listed for $29.95/night, including Friday and Saturday night. I paid for it and discovered that I had just booked a room at Palace Station. Though not the perfect location, I was very pleased with the price.
Finally, I booked my rental car. I had just received an email from travelzoo.com, a free discount travel news service. They and shermanstravel.com send me weekly updates of the hottest deals they found on the Internet. Travelzoo listed an awesome rental car deal through Advantage Rental for $9.95/day. With taxes and fees it came to under $100 for the week. So I booked it.
Here are some other tips for your trip-though I didn't use them for this one. Many hotels, rental car agencies, and airlines publish discount codes from time to time, for an additional 5-25 percent off their rates. You can find these just by doing a google search. When it comes time to pay, just plug in the discount code in the space provided and save even more.
There's also priceline.com. This site allows you to plug in a bid for a rental car, hotel, or air plane ticket. It then shops your bid around to all of the companies offering the service you want. If it's accepted you have a deal. You can sometimes save 50-80 percent off the regular rate.
I sometimes use them to check to see if I can do better than the lowest price I can get through other means. But recently, and with this trip, my prices were so far below what I expected that I didn't bother. Still, it's an option you may want to employ. One word of caution. Make sure that you know if the price you are quoted includes all taxes and fees. These can be enormous. I remember seeing a promotional rate to fly to London for $199 round trip on Travelocity. But with taxes and fees it came to $429! The same can be true for hotels and rental cars. So make sure you're comparing apples to apples and oranges to oranges before actually paying for any trip.
All tolled, I saved over $1,800 with about one hour of work on the Internet. Not a bad way to deal with WSOP fever!