You’re ready to do Vegas and cross the World Series of Poker off the bucket list. Or maybe you’re a hungry grinder looking for those juicy cash games and electric atmosphere. Perhaps you’re a degenerate with a dream. In any case, we can help you hit up Vegas on a budget during the World Series of Poker.

The venerable WSOP generally starts at the end of May and runs through mid-July. Unless you are coming back in November to play the Main Event final table for a million bucks plus, you’re going to be bankroll-conscious. Life in Vegas can grow expensive fast. Whether you’re taking shots in tournaments or just siphoning up the tourist cash game bucks, this is your podcast.

Coach Doug Hull is a Vegas resident and familiar face in that city’s poker rooms. In this week’s podcast, he gives the ins and outs of living your poker dream on a shoestring budget.

And if you’re listening to this at the time of broadcast, join our official Vegas meetup thread for June 15th, and sign up for the meetup to hang with Red Chip coaches and community members.

Featuring: Hull

How Much Does a Trip to the WSOP Cost?

Hull has set up a theoretical 9-day, Friday-through-Sunday trip, that anyone from rec to grinder might take to Vegas to spend some quality table time soaking in the fish-stacks and scenery. Your plans and mileage may vary, this is a jumping off point to discussing all the most important considerations (though we’d love to hear suggestsions we missed in the comments — there can never be enough Vegas insider knowledge).

Breaking down the major costs of a trip to the WSOP:

  • Transportation
  • Accommodations
  • Food
  • Bankroll

Travel Costs to Vegas for the WSOP

The first consideration is obvious: How do you get here? Hull picks Boston as his imaginary departure city. It’s where he used to live and it’s reasonably far enough from Vegas to be a worst-case budget scenario for many US players. At the time of writing (roughly 50 days in advance of the trip), a flight was going for about $300 round-trip. Based on airline ticket price research, 30-90 days is often cited as the sweet spot for flight booking.

Do You Need a Rental Car in Vegas?

The short answer is no. Stay on the strip and you can walk or shuttle yourself anywhere on the strip. Yes, the Rio is not exactly right on the strip, but you’ll manage. And it’s not impossible to get a cab or Uber (Hull saw them going for $10 from the strip to the Rio) when you need it. Want a rental car? Hull saw them going for about $200.

Now, there is an exception, and this if you’re not a fan of walking in the heat. Vegas in the summer is no picnic. You’re in the desert, remember? All of the sudden a rental car might be looking a little nicer right now?

Do the math, and if you think you’re going to be out and about a lot, a rental car might make sense. $200 is lowballing it, though. We know you want to spring for the convertible.

What Hotel to Stay in for WSOP?

Hull looked into rates at the Gold Coast vs. Rio — that’s about $100/night to $170/night. Gold Coast is your best bet when you’re talking about convenient distance. It’s basically the other place to stay besides the Rio that gets you within spitting distance of the WSOP.

If you’re determined to take a budget deal at a casino like Stratosphere, you’ll find super-budget room rates approaching $50-$60/night. But realize: You’re going to want to get a cab, Uber or rental to get to the WSOP unless you want to spend a super-long time walking and shuttling your way. If you’re planning on heading to the Rio everyday, staying somewhere like this could get tiresome. Your time is valuable when you’re in Vegas.

Hull notes that the ballers among us might want to team up with poker buddies to rent a townhouse. Even though poker is far from its pre-Black Friday heyday, there is still a healthy rental market around the WSOP, as dozens of poker groups descent to tackle the WSOP. It’s a great way to maximize your fun and share costs, but it’s not exactly WSOP on a budget, so moving on…

Food During WSOP

If you are just going to be eating at the Rio, you’re looking at about $12-$15 per meal, based on a glance at the menus at All American Dave’s and the cafe in the area. If you’re up for the supreme budget challenge, go grocery shopping on day 1 and live out of your hotel room. Think of every peanut butter-and-jelly sandwich as a run on the ladder you’re climbing to a huge win rate.

Bankroll Management at WSOP

Remember: If you are traveling from out of the country, you need to make sure you arrange to access your money before departing. One popular way Hull sees is PayPal transfers to Americans who can then hand foldable bills to foreigners. A more trusty method is to wire money to the casino — they are happy to facilitate this transaction for obvious reasons.

If you’re feeling particularly cyber-savvy, you can use one of several bitcoin ATMs in vegas to withdraw funds.

Security in Vegas During WSOP

Travelers from abroad or even far away stateside may wonder about security in a town founded on gambling and debauchery. Worry not, travelers. Vegas (the Strip, at least) is about as safe a city as you’ll find in the states. Why? For one, it’s under an incredible amount of surveillance. It’s well-staffed with a police force that is vigilant about any disturbance that might jeopardize tourism. And almost every square inch has a security camera pointed at it. Wander down to old Vegas and you might emerge with a different story, but for the most part, you’re in a tourist trap, and tourist traps are generally under intense security scrutiny in America.

One thing you have to watch out for: Security in your hotel room. Many are equipped with a safe (especially in Vegas, where hotels are selling the idea you might have to stash tens of thousands in casino chips, or something.) Hull’s advice: Don’t trust the safe. The combinations are known to many hotel staff — just try calling the desk and telling them you accidentally forgot the password to the safe and you need your belongings removed. Need more convincing? Watch this:

Hull recommends something like this portable lockbox for pistols as a good alternative. Chain it to something in the hotel room and know that staff ain’t breaking in.

One other consideration would be to carry your cash. Muggings are rare in Vegas and you really have to make some boneheaded moves to make yourself vulnerable to one. If you have your wits about you, carrying your wad might even be the safest option.


Hull has a few more tips for those looking to maximize buck-bang at the WSOP:

  • Instead of playing one $1500 event at the WSOP, play 5 $300 events at Planet Hollywood. Remember, the WSOP is not the only game in town.
  • Drink whoring — go to a Jacks or Better machine at the bar and get free drinks. As Doug says, “I know I can drink faster than I can lose at Jacks or Better”. If you want to brush up on your skills at this game, Wizard of Odds is a great resource.
  • $10 food vouchers are available from floor staff in the Rio poker room — but remember, these people are human beings, and the food voucher requests fly nonstop during the series. Be discrete and respectful, and ask them at an opportune time. They are limited and when the word gets out, they’re gone.
  • The $20 trick is a popular custom of the well-traveled tourist. Basically, you discretely slip a $20 to the check-in clerk at the hotel while asking if there are any available upgrades to the room. This sometimes works because clerks are often allowed to make upgrades at their discretion. However, it is far from guaranteed and a certain amount of Jedi mind trick charisma is required for maximum efficacy.

Thanks for reading and please leave your tips in the comments below.

Showing 7 comments
  • Stephane

    On the last point, there is a website tallying the success of the $20 trick at the different hotels:

  • Doug Hull

    @stephane Yes, that was linked to above in the show notes.

  • Doug Hull

    I can’t believe I forgot. Use Von’s home grocery delivery to the hotel. I think this makes it much more feasible to cook out of hotel. Also Amazon Prime Now to Hotel is a good option.

  • Ej

    Did you factor in the dreaded resort fees to hotel cost? Just curious.

  • William

    Last trip out in March I rented a car from dollar on swenson st. near the airport for less than half of what it costs if you pick up at the airport (i actually paid 80 per week booking through total rewards getaways). U can uber there from the airport for under 10 bucks. Also check groupon getaways. They dont ALWAYS have good deals but in March I stayed at Alexis Park (Across from Hard Rock)in a nice suite with fridge and microwave plus hourly shuttle to Planet Hollywood for around 350 total for two weeks and they have no resort fees. Also dont forget the monorails on the west side of the strip from mandalay bay to luxor and from monte carlo to bellagio are free.

  • Bill

    Heres a link for some uber and lyft promos that I just stumbled on after reading this yesterday.

  • Bill Stevens

    If you plan to rent a car, almost every hotel EXCEPT the Rio and the Wynn charges for parking. The fees are fairly stiff too.