Poker road review: In praise of the non-casino hotel

Lee Jones
Published by:
Posted on: February 16, 2023 6:43 pm EST

It’s been a while since I’ve stayed in a casino hotel in Las Vegas. In fact, we’re probably going back to the early noughts, as the casino hosts’ memories of my days as a blackjack high-roller decayed, and the comp offers stopped showing up in the mail. Somehow their recollection of my high-rolling outlasted their recollection of my card-counting, but that’s their problem, not mine. Honestly, I was willing to pay for hotels at that point – many non-casino hotels are fully non-smoking, a feature that is worth more than dollars to me.

You had me at “Smoke Free”

But if the casinos were looking for a way to ensure that I never came back, they couldn’t have picked a better means than inventing “resort fees” around 2007-2008. I come here not to excoriate resort fees (there are plenty of places to find such material), but they were the final straw that forever pushed me into the beds of non-casino hotels.

Now, I fully understand that my utility curve is not yours – if you dig the full-on Vegas resort hotel experience, then good on you. I merely offer an alternative perspective.

The underlying principle of my alternative perspective is this:

Any money that I don’t spend on a hotel room or food moves directly into the poker bankroll column of the ledger.

–L. Jones

My utility of increased bankroll swamps that of dinner at Chez Cher or a room in the same building where the poker room is. Now, I’m all about convenience too, so I don’t want to stay ten miles from the poker room. But let me give you an example from a recent trip to Sin City. I was going to be playing mostly at the Wynn and Resorts World. After verifying there was no universe in which I was paying their hotel prices, Expedia and I found the Las Vegas Marriott.

My hotel was no further from the Encore poker room than some Wynn hotel rooms. And close to “Here Kitty Kitty Vice Den.”

Location, Location, Location

I don’t mind a walk. In fact, I prefer to be somewhere that forces me to stretch my legs and get some fresh air. The LV Marriott was an entire 0.5 miles from the entrance to the Encore – that’s less than ten minutes walk for me. And I note that that half-mile stroll passed both the legendary Tacos El Gordo and the should-be legendary Bagelmania, where I had breakfast three of the four days.

This was like $15. Price it out at Resorts World, and see if the waitress calls you “Honey.”

The walk also passed a 7-11. Say what you want, but if you want fresh coffee 24/7, they’re tough to beat. And a Walgreen’s, which meant my poker protein bars cost $2.50 instead of $4.

A caveat: I wouldn’t walk from either Resorts World or Wynn to the Marriott at night. There’s a 99.9% chance that nothing bad would happen. But I have security utility too, and one night’s resort fee buys 2-3 Ubers between the two properties.

But what about the hotel?

I’ve been over this before elsewhere, but if I spend a lot of time in my hotel room at a vacation/fun/poker destination, I’ve grossly misplayed my hand. My hotel room is where I do w*rk, and lay my head down at the end of the day. Or 3:00am if I got badly stuck somewhere. I want the shower hot, the bed comfortable, and the WiFi reliable.

If I have to IRL, this is a great place to do it. And a view of the LV Convention Center
Plenty of space and comfort

The Marriott gave me all that. Plus there was a refrigerator and full bar in the living room, a separate bedroom (which would be useful if you have a non-pokering spouse/partner/friend), and an in-room safe.

There’s a restaurant in the hotel lobby. One morning, I walked down to get coffee because I didn’t feel like making it in the room. The hostess brought me a cup of fresh hot coffee, winked at me, and said, “You can pay me when you come back for breakfast.” So I gave her the same $5 that that coffee would have cost me at the Wynn, and we were both very much happier.

I was in town for four nights. My all-in hotel costs were over two $1/3 buy-ins less than they’d have been at the Wynn (which was a hair cheaper than any of the Resort World properties).1

Your Mileage May Vary

As I said, my utility is not yours. If you love the whole Vegas experience, and everything about it, then staying at the Wynn or Resorts World may be just the ticket. But I go to Vegas for two reasons: to see friends and play poker.3 Staying in a fancy resort is just not on the list, and if I can convert some corporation’s resort fees into a high-equity turn bluff, so much the better.


  1. I need to thank my dear friend and poker buddy, Carrie B., for the epiphany of denominating real-world costs and revenues in “buy-in” units.
  2. There’s nothing particularly special about the Las Vegas Marriott. It was a great place to stay, and I’ll certainly consider it when I go back. But I have no particular loyalty to any hotel property or chain. That’s why travel consolidators (Expedia, Orbitz, etc) are so awesome – you get the best deal (based on your dollar/location/amenities utility) for that trip. Then rinse and repeat for the next trip.
  3. And to see the Cirque du Soleil show Love. I have three reasons to go to Las Vegas. And the all-you-can-eat sushi. Four. I’ll come in again…

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