2021 WSOP trip planning: Las Vegas is getting expensive

Jon Sofen
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Published: August 7, 2021 8:41 PM EDT

Getting your trip booked for the 2021 World Series of Poker? You’ve probably noticed that Las Vegas travel is getting to be quite pricey as it is in many tourist hotspots (thanks, inflation!). And it isn’t just flight and hotel expenses that will put a dent into your bank account balance as you plan for an enjoyable WSOP vacation.

The 2021 WSOP begins September 30 at the Rio and runs through November 23. In total, the live poker series will feature 88 gold bracelet events, including the $10,000 buy-in Main Event beginning November 4.

Getting the bad news out of the way

The World Series of Poker is the most exciting time of year for poker. But if you haven’t booked your trip to Sin City for the series, you’re going to find that travel expenses will be much higher than in year’s past, when the series was hosted in the summer, the slowest season for travel in Las Vegas.

The fall season brings out hundreds of thousands of sports bettors and the weather is far more pleasant than summertime. And that is one of the main reasons you’re going to pay a premium on your WSOP trip this year.

But it isn’t just the change in season that is causing poker players to take out a second mortgage to get to Las Vegas for the series. The cost of just about everything in town has gone up since COVID-19. That includes hotel rates (and resort fees), gas prices, airfare, food, and pretty much anything else you can think of purchasing.

Las Vegas isn’t the only city in the country to experience inflation since the pandemic. It’s happening all over the country at an alarming rate. But few cities around the world have seen the spike in the cost of goods, services, entertainment, and housing as in the Las Vegas community.

There is some good news

Despite the rising travel expenses many will be forced to deal with, you can still make your trip affordable. The first thing to do is to be flexible on your travel dates. Some poker players might have to stick to a strict travel schedule due to job commitments or because they can only come to town for a specific tournament.

But if your schedule is more flexible than the average person, search around for the best flight and hotel prices. If you can avoid staying in Las Vegas over the weekend, that will help. Hotel rates are at a premium on weekends, and the same can be said for AirBNB costs. As for flights, try to avoid flying into town on Friday and out on a Sunday, and seek out the discount airlines such as Spirit, Allegiant, and JetBlue.

One last thing on this topic, book your flight as soon as possible. Don’t wait until the last minute. We’re already less than two months away from the start of the 2021 WSOP, which means we’re getting close to that time when flights are going to be outrageously priced. The longer you wait, the more you’ll pay, especially for an airline such as Southwest.

Avoid renting a car

The Rio is located about a mile east of the Strip, borderline walking distance to Caesars Palace, Bellagio, and a few other major casinos. If you’re staying at a hotel in that area, you could conceivably walk to and from the Rio to play poker, although we wouldn’t recommend it at night. The weather should be pleasant throughout most of the series this year.

If you aren’t staying within walking distance to the Rio, you probably think renting a car is your only option, and that simply isn’t true. Car rental rates are ridiculously expensive right now due to a nationwide car shortage related to the pandemic. If you were to book a car from Hertz for one week starting on the first day of the WSOP (September 30), picking up at the airport, you’d pay nearly $500, and that doesn’t include gas, which is at nearly $4 per gallon in Las Vegas. That will eat into your bankroll.

There are other, more affordable options, including carpooling with friends and taking the city bus. There is a bus stop right across the street from the Rio and it runs late at night. If you don’t feel comfortable riding a city bus and you don’t have any friends you could ride over to the Rio with, your options are going to be limited to Uber and Lyft or renting a car, unless you’re staying within walking distance of the WSOP’s host casino.

Where to stay

Housing expenses have gone up significantly in the past year for Las Vegas tourists. Daily resort fees at nearly all Strip casinos is between $35 and $55. These hidden fees can add up, especially if you’re staying for a week or longer.

If you’re driving into town, you’ll be at an advantage because you won’t have to pay for a rental car to stay miles away from the Rio. The best way to find housing is through AirBNB or if you really don’t care about the quality of a hotel, staying at a dumpy property like a Motel 6 or Baymont would be affordable. Most nicer hotels, especially those on the Strip, are going to cost you a pretty penny that time of year. If you have the money for it, great. But if not, don’t panic.

Henderson, a suburb southeast of the Strip, will offer some affordable rooms on AirBNB. The drive northeast to the Rio isn’t too bad (about 15-25 minutes depending where in Henderson you’re staying). As for the area surrounding the Rio, you won’t find much on AirBNB as those rooms have mostly already been scooped up by other poker players. But you might get lucky and find a place if someone cancels.

Featured image source: Twitter