The Rec's guide to the WSOP with Jim Reid: Part Two

An old-fashioned style billboard at the WSOP
Jim Reid
Posted on: March 27, 2024 04:06 PDT

Last week we brought you the first part of Rec.Poker podcast host Jim Reid's guide for recreational players to get the most out of a trip to the World Series of Poker. In part one of Jim Reid's WSOP guide he shared his tips and advice on setting a budget and a schedule, focusing on tournaments at the more affordable end of the buy-in spectrum.

This week Jim looks at the nuts and bolts of a poker trip to Las Vegas, including some practical advice on where to stay, where to eat and what to do when you're not having fun at the tables.

Welcome to Las Vegas! You made it... now what?

Let's talk about money. You’re going to need to bring some, no matter how low your buy-ins are. One great tip is to get a safety deposit box at the WSOP cage. The price is reasonable, and not only do you not have to walk around Vegas with thousands of dollars on your person, the real perk is that the line for the boxes is always much, much shorter than the registration line - and if you have a box, you can register for tournaments right there at the cage. This can save you hours of lineups when things get busy.

Now that you have your bankroll squared away, where you sleep at night will be the biggest variable in the cost of your trip. For grinders' trips, it’s going to be a mix of convenience and proximity versus cost. You will find closer places, and you will find cheaper places, but not both. If you can find someone you trust to travel with, sharing a hotel room nearby with two beds is a no-brainer. I always post in the forums to find a roomie to split costs with when I am down there for a stretch.

Where to stay at the WSOP?

AirB&Bs are popular, but it's hard to find one on the Strip. And when you are playing all day every day, it’s a non-trivial luxury to be able to have a room close to the tables. Plus, you will often pay more in parking or Uber costs from staying elsewhere in the city than you will save in cheaper accommodations, and the commute adds time to your day.

I’ve done both hotels and apartments, and would only go the AirB&B route again if there was a large group for a long time. Otherwise, for shorter trips, the Strip is too convenient for me to turn down, and I look around online for deals before settling for a rate. You should too - and don’t forget that most places add an extra variable resort fee charge, and these can add up fast!

A twin room at the Flamingo, Las Vegas

There are four hotels I’ve stayed at in the immediate area of the WSOP enclave, and they all have different pros and cons. Now, I don’t pretend to be a seasoned traveller or tour guide, I am sure there are a hundred other great recommendations about where to stay for the series, but these are all hotels right next door that I have personally tried over the years and can vouch for, ranked from least to most expensive:

  1. The Flamingo: It’s a little run-down, but it is literally across the street from where the WSOP holds all their events. Other than staying at the Horseshoe or Paris (see below) you can’t get any closer to the action than the Flamingo. I stay here a lot and in fact will be back this summer, as I find it’s the best mix of cost/proximity. And they have a fridge in every room, so I can keep my PB&J ingredients fresh all trip long!
  2. The Linq: It’s generally nicer than the Flamingo, but a little further away and a little more expensive. Old person alert (lol): If you stay here (or at Harrah’s next door) for a long stretch do not get a lower-floor room overlooking the Strip-based music performance area, as the noise will keep you up all night, every night, and getting a good sleep is imperative when you are marathoning a poker trip like this - more on that later. Another note: not all rooms at the Linq come with fridges.
  3. The Horseshoe: It’s literally an elevator ride away from the WSOP tables, which is amazing. You can use your own washroom on breaks, you can rotate cold water bottles in your minifridge, and other little perks like that. Plus, being able to shoot right down to the food court from your room in the morning is super convenient when it’s time to fuel up for the day ahead and every extra second of sleep counts. If the Flamingo wasn’t so affordable, I would stay here at the Horseshoe more often. Being so close is the nuts.
  4. Paris: Similarly to Horseshoe, you can get from your room at Paris right to your tournament table without going outside (again, in July this is non-trivially luxurious to be able to avoid having to hoof it down the Strip in triple digit heat). These rooms are the nicest of the bunch, and they are more expensive. If you are travelling with a partner who doesn’t play poker, or someone who you have to entice to come along by getting a fancier room or suite, this would be my choice.

The fact is, if things go well for you on a poker trip, you will likely be spending about 6-7 hours a night sleeping, and most of the rest of your time will be at the tables, so my advice would be not to expect to spend a lot of time in your room other than to sleep. And price can matter for trips like this; if you save a few hundred bucks over your stay by choosing a cheaper room, that’s a whole buy-in for some of the tournaments you are looking to play while you are there!

Room at the Paris Hotel, Las Vegas

Food options for a WSOP trip

When it comes to food, your own budget will ultimately determine your options. The fact is, Las Vegas has some of the best restaurants in the world, and many phenomenal shows and activities that you can experience at virtually any time of day or night.

I won’t tell you how to spend your time, but I’m not a ‘foodie’ so I will point out a few ways to keep your culinary costs down if that's your jam. Speaking of jam, I always stop at a CVS on my first day and get my usual order: jam, peanut butter, bread, bananas, and a pack of small ziploc bags. You can save a bunch over the course of your trip by picking up some sandwich fixings or that kind of thing on day one that you can prepare from your room - especially if you have a fridge. And you’ll want simple things that you can pack in your bag and eat easily at the tables or on breaks, ideally without getting your germ-covered paws all over it as you eat.

The food court in the basement of the Horseshoe has a Subway if you prefer not to pack your own lunch. It gets busy on breaks, just like the washrooms, so plan ahead. Leaving the building, some folks swear by Egg Slut (that still feels weird to say or type) down the road, but for later in the day if you leave the Horseshoe by the main entrance by the valet, you can walk through the driveway area right into the open-air food market which has a lot of decent value offerings just steps away from the tournament areas.

Crowds surround the tables during the bubble of the 2023 WSOP main event Bubble Main 2023 Melissa Haereiti

Give yourself a break

When it comes to activities and events, I’m not the best guy to talk to, to be honest - when I’m in Vegas, I’m either playing or sleeping with very little else involved.

But may I offer my last piece of advice if you are making a trip any longer than a week? Plan to give yourself a break, whether it’s to get off the Strip for an afternoon to touch grass and regrow some nerve endings, or just to take a day off playing and catch up on your sleep in your room all day, or go to a show. Or maybe it’s a relaxing, restful morning, a visit to the sun-drenched pool in the afternoon, and a sizzling steak dinner.

Whatever it is, do what you need to do. Last year I was down for 14 or 15 days in a row and I played all day every day without a break - until about day 11 when I found myself literally falling asleep at the table! Aside from wasting a buy-in, that was an embarrassing experience I’m not clamouring to repeat (and one my friend Craig will never let me live down).

The moral of the story? When you feel yourself slipping out of your A-game, be honest with yourself and give your body what it needs to perform at its best. For a marathon trip like this, plan for a day off of some kind after the first week. You won’t regret it.

Hope to see you down there - at whatever buy-in level fits you best!

Paris and Flamingo room images courtesy of Caesars Entertainment