Everything is easier when you plan your Vegas vacation in advance. I’d go as far as saying that planning is the key to a great visit to Las Vegas. Hotel room prices are often less expensive, show tickets are more readily available and fewer restaurants are booked early. When you plan in advance you can save money and stress.
One of the biggest events of the summer in Las Vegas just released their schedule. The 2016 World Series of Poker (WSOP) will once again take place a Rio and includes 69 events taking place between May 31 and July 18. There are poker tournaments all over the world but nothing compares to the size and scope of the WSOP in Las Vegas. Admission to watch the WSOP in person is free and something everyone who loves Las Vegas and/or poker should see once in their life.
If you’re a poker player and are interested in participating in this year’s WSOP you might want to be aware of some changes:
- Places Paid:
- In the Money Earlier:
- Start Times:
- Five Times Starting Chips:
- Structure Tweaks:
- Playing into the money on Day 1 of Colossus:
- Registering for only one flight at a time:
The majority of bracelet (and Deepstack) events will now payout 15 percent of the field, up 50% from what was WSOP standard. The minimum payout is expected to be one-and-a-half times the buy-in.
With payouts increasing, many events are expected to reach the money on Day 1.
Moved up one hour: Most (not all) events are on a new time schedule, with the first event of the day scheduled for 11 am and the late events now to begin at 3 pm. Deepstacks now at 2 pm, 5 pm, 7pm & 9pm.
All $10,000 buy-in events, including the Main Event, will now feature 50,000 in starting chips, up 66%. This means all WSOP events now start with at least five times buy-in amount.
With some of the above changes, structures have also been modified slightly in an effort to aid events meeting scheduled duration. Players are encouraged to review structure sheets in advance. (One example: Instead of a 100-200 level followed by 100-200-25, there will now be just a 100-200-25 level).
Each of the six starting flights of Colossus II will reach the money and begin processing payouts immediately within the flight versus a traditional hard bubble on Day 2 of a consolidated field. This will cut any congestion in payouts process significantly and also allow players who cash in a flight or surrendering their stack at the end of the flight, a chance to re-enter another flight and perhaps cash again within the same event.
In order to better manage, multi-flight, multi-entry events (Colossus, Millionaire Maker, Crazy Eights & Little One for One Drop), players may only register for one flight at a time in advance. If they are eliminated in that flight, they may go to the cage to register for another flight if they choose.
Last year’s WSOP was a record breaker that had 100,000 entrants for the first time. 2016 is set up to blow the doors off that record. Eight new events have been added to the schedule to meet player demand:
- June 5:
- June 9:
- June 15:
- June 23:
- June 26:
- June 30:
- July 1:
- July 7:
Event #4 – $1,000 Top Up Turbo No-Limit Hold’em. (2-day event) – 20-minute levels.
Event #12 – $565 Pot-Limit Omaha with re-entry. (Lowest ever price point for this variant)
Event #23 – $2,000 No-Limit Hold’em – new price point for poker’s most popular game.
Event #40 – $2,500 Mixed Triple Draw Lowball featuring Limit A-5, 2-7 and Badugi.
Event #45 – $1,500 Mixed No-Limit Hold’em/Pot-Limit Omaha. A mix of today’s two most popular games.
Event #53 – $1,500 Mixed Pot-Limit Omaha-8/Omaha-8/Big O. A trifecta in the Omaha variant.
Event #54 A/B/C/D – $888 Crazy Eights Eight-Handed No-Limit Hold’em – $888,888 guaranteed for 1st. First time a sub-$1,500 buy-in event will be run short-handed
Event #61 – $1,000 Tag Team No-Limit Hold’em. 2-4 person teams. Must register together. $1,000 per team.
The WSOP event that most people are familiar with from TV is the Main Event. The $10,000 buy-in tournament begins July 9, 10 and 11 at 11 am and is scheduled to end on July 17. The final nine players remaining will return to the Rio to play the final table live on ESPN from October 30 to November 1.
The Main Event may be the most popular event today but Colossus is closing in on the leader. The new event debuted last year and had 22,374 entries thanks to its affordable $565 buy-in. The pot for winners is increasing from $5 million to $7 million this year. At least $1 million will be paid to the winner. Colossus begins on June 2nd and will end on June 7.
Having the dates and schedule of events for WSOP a few months in advance should help save a few bucks and get you into shows and restaurants you want to visit. For more information and a full schedule of events visit WSOP.com.
Looking for a room discount for WSOP 2016? Check out the TravelVegas deals HERE.
Believe it or not Las Vegas is no longer the mecca for gambling like it used to be. Today there is legal gambling in most states in America. That said, plenty of people still come to Las Vegas and gamble. Fabulous shows and dinners may top the list of priorities today but there’s always time to hit the casino.
We’re always searching for ways to save money in Las Vegas and there are plenty of ways to do that. There are discounts to be found in restaurants and bars, there are websites like Travel Vegas that offer discounted show tickets but one overlooked way to save money, or extend your money and fun, is to play the right games in the casino. Here are a few ways to maximize your money in a Vegas casino.
Blackjack has changed a lot over the years. The traditional payout when you’re dealt blackjack used to be 3:2 everywhere ($3 for every $2 bet). That traditional payout for blackjack is being lowered at many casinos to where you only receive 6:5 ($6 for every $5 bet) when you’re dealt blackjack. This may not seem like a lot of money per wager but it adds up over time. Check the rules of the blackjack table to see what the rules are for the game.
The Wizard of Vegas has a very hand blackjack survey that details which blackjack payouts and rules you’ll find in each casino. The 1.5% difference from 6:5 blackjack to 3:2 blackjack goes a long way over time to keep you a) playing longer or b) hitting a hot streak and having a winning session. More fun and/or winning go a long way to a great time in the casino.
Craps appears to be really complicated but it can be one of the most simple games and one of the best ways to maximize money in the casino. The casino only has a house edge of 1.41% on pass line wagers is among the smallest in the casino. There are other wagers on the craps table with a house edge in the double digits so be careful where you place your money. Keep it simple and make smart wagers. Craps is also a smart way to extend your bankroll because each roll can take a while when you’re at a full table. The game is always fun be it’s also one home to one of the smartest wagers in the casino.
Slot machines are a tricky lot of games. Just because you’re playing a penny slot machine it doesn’t mean that you’re playing a cheap slot machine. Some of the games have minimum wagers that are more than the maximum wager at a quarter slot machine. Similarly some penny slot machines might have a higher maximum wager than some $1 slot machines. You should check the amount of money per spin to make sure you’re risking an amount of money you’re comfortable with.
This is important to note because penny slot machines have the worst return rates of any denomination of slot machine. For example casinos win about 10% of the money played in penny slots but only win 6% of the money played in quarter slot machines and even less when you play $1 and $5 slot machines. If the amount of money spent per spin is the same you’ll be wise to play the higher denomination slot machines. Like playing better rules in blackjack you can playing longer and/or hit a hot streak and having a winning session when playing a slot machine with better returns.
The annual Global Gaming Expo (G2E) took place in Las Vegas this week. There are seminars for the casino business to discuss the state of their industry but that’s not what’s interesting to most casino visitors. G2E also has an expo where casino game manufacturers debut their new games for casinos. Some of these games are concepts that we may never see and some of the ideas are ready to hit casinos. Here are a few trends in new slot machines that we can expect to see hitting casino floors in the next year.
Skill Based Slot Machines
Skill based slot machines have the biggest buzz as manufacturers and casinos seek to find games that appeal to younger gamblers. The average slot machine player is a 55 year old married woman so this change may not happen right away. While the first phase of these games might not reach millennials, the first skill based games that hit the casino floors might help bring that average age of slot machine players a few years. When you reach the Space Invaders bonus round in this slow machine from Scientific Games you can have returns based on your video game skills or you can set the game to randomly max out at a certain return rate. It’s unknown right now what range returns will be with these skill based games but they’re estimated somewhere between 90% for low skill and 99% for high skill.
Space Invaders is probably appealing to people that grew up in the 1980’s and are currently in their 40’s. That’s a slightly younger slot machine player but not drastically and not the millennial that marketers crave so much. There are other companies with less familiar skill based games that might attract younger players but Scientific Games (they own WMG and Bally Technologies) is one of the largest slot manufacturers so they have a good chance of these games hitting casinos sooner. They estimate this game is will hit casinos in the 3rd quarter of 2016.
Every year there are a slew of new slot machine themes based on familiar TV, movie, music and lifestyle brands. Many of the biggest names are slapped onto older cabinets with technology that you’ve already played. The familiar themes and familiar game play make many of these new releases immediately popular. Some of the slot machines with new skins with game play that may look familiar include Breaking Bad, Caddyshack, Cher, Downton Abbey, Elvira, Harley Davidson, House of Cards, Magic Mike XXL, Margaritaville and Orange Is The New Black. Expect to see many of these slot machines in casinos before some other, more technologically advanced, games.
While I can be easily impressed with slot machine themes that I love (like Caddyshack) the thing that I find most appealing in slot machines is technological advancement. The new slot machine for The Simpsons is the biggest advancement in mainstream slot machine technology that I saw at G2E that will actually hit casino floors. Many will simply love The Simpsons slot machine because it features all of the favorite characters from the show. The things that got me excited about The Simpsons slot machine was the technology. The graphics were as crisp as any slot machine and the game is displayed on what appears to be 4 screens. There’s one main screen with one on each side of the main slot game. There’s a 4th screen above the main screen to show even more action.
One of the more subtle technological advancements in The Simpsons slot machine is the motion sensor. When you get the Doughnut Bonus you place your hand under the the motion sensor and actually catch falling sprinkles in your hand for more spins or credits. This is a simple use of the new technology but it seems like it’s just the beginning of this motion sensor technology for slot machines. There’s always one slot machine that offers something different and awesome at G2E and this year it was The Simpsons. Sadly The Simpsons slot machine isn’t expected to hit casinos for another year.
Gambling in Vegas has changed a lot recently in Las Vegas and that’s not a good thing for those who like to partake. Before diving into the specifics let’s look at the history of gambling in Las Vegas. Las Vegas is a city that was essentially built on casino gambling. There were always beautiful hotels and great performers but people visited Las Vegas for the gambling. That started to change about 30 years ago when gaming (as the government likes to call it) revenue dipped below 50% of overall casino revenue. Since that time casino operators have altered their business models to fit customer demand.
Fast forward to today and hotel-resort-casino operators are looking at gaming revenue that’s closer to 30% of overall revenue. The change is understandable as you can now gamble in almost every state in America. While this dip in gaming revenue started because of customer demand it’s being driven by casino operators who are decreasing the size of gaming areas and offering worse odds that discourage players from wanting to gamble.
It’s understandable for a business to create an environment that’s appealing to the majority of customers. While some gamblers may complain about having less space to play there’s usually an ample number of table games and machines to fit everyone that wants to play. However, the changing odds and rules in the casino isn’t appealing to anyone.
Most casino gamblers are okay knowing that the casino has an edge on the games. Most are looking for entertainment with their time gambling. The better the odds the longer someone can play. The longer you play a casino game the better your chances of walking away a winner. Over time the casino will always have the edge but in the short term it’s always possible to walk away a winner.
A recent report from the Association of Gaming Equipment Manufacturers showed that slot players don’t gamble as much on slots as they once did. Without getting too deep into the into casino operations the casinos are looking to “hold” more money from slot machines. This makes you lose money faster and ultimately spend less time and money gambling. You can view a short press release on the report if the entire paper is a bit too much to digest.
Beyond slot machines, table games are having their odds changed to the point where it’s becoming more difficult to win. Blackjack was once a game where players could mathematically win if they played the game perfectly. That’s no longer the casino on the Vegas Strip with rules changes at just about every property.
Video poker pay tables on the Vegas Strip have been so altered that it’s almost not even fun to play. If you’re at a bar you’ll probably find better value simply paying for drinks instead of playing video poker in order to receive complimentary drinks. You’ll probably have more fun too but that’s a matter of opinion.
Let’s not get started on the rules changes coming to craps. Wynn recently decreased odds from 3x-4x-5x to just 2x. Once the casinos alter the odds for craps they’ll move on to other traditional casino games. This craps rule is likely to spread across the strip like changes to video poker, slot machines and blackjack.
So, what’s a gambler to do? I someone is looking to extend their gambling bankroll there’s a good chance that they’re heading off the Vegas Strip to gamble. Downtown Vegas and locals casinos just off the Vegas Strip offer better rules, odds and an overall better gambling value.
Las Vegas is such a great place, in part, because there’s something for everyone. If you’re looking for great dinner and a show but not gambling so much then you have the Vegas Strip. If you’re more concerned with gambling and want to play with the best odds and rules then you can head to one of the many casinos off the Vegas Strip. Viva Las Vegas!
The value of a Las Vegas players club should not go unnoticed. There are more rewards for new members of a Las Vegas players club than ever before. There have been a lot of changes in the past few years to almost every Las Vegas players club because they’re now more useful to casino marketers and thus offer more value to you, the customer.
For the uninitiated, a players club is the loyalty club for Las Vegas casinos and hotels. Players clubs started off as cards to track spending of slot machine players but have evolved into something closer to the loyalty club of your local supermarket. Like that supermarket loyalty club the benefits from a Las Vegas players club are free when you sign up. Similarly you receive points to use as rewards for dollar you spend when you use the card.
Everything else to do with a players club card is different because the properties have different business models. Some players clubs will reward points for all spending on property while other only offer rewards when spending money in the casino. Check your favorite casino’s players club for benefits and how to earn rewards.
Since your information is more valuable to casino marketers the players clubs have evolved to offer more entry level benefits than ever before. These players club entry level benefits are free just for signing up. When you spend money with the property you’ll get more rewards and greater benefits but there are a few things you’ll get just from signing up.
Immediate Discounts – Just about every players club will offer a small discount when purchasing items from casino operated restaurants, bars and shops. Entry level players club discounts may start at 5% but as you become more loyal to a property these discounts will grow to become as high as 50% off items in these outlets. Entry level players club member may also receive random discounts that aren’t promoted like $1 or $2 discounts per item at specific restaurant. Every property is different and you can find a lot of these discounts on twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
The expanded discounts are a reason that everyone visiting Las Vegas should sign up for a free players club card. Here are a couple other benefits that entry level players club members receive.
Better Access – Another basic benefit of players clubs is access to events at a property. When a property is hosting a concert or special event they’ll often allow their players club members first access to tickets. This is mainly seen as a simple thank you but it’s a benefit when you’re looking at events that will sell out.
When you spend more money and your status with a players club grows this greater access will extend into the other areas of the property where you may be able to have a dedicated check-in area or the ability to skip long lines at restaurants. These benefits don’t hold a dollar value but the intrinsic value is a nice perk to the beneficiary.
Partnership Benefits – The larger casino players clubs will team up with partners outside of the property to offer benefits that you wouldn’t have access to otherwise. Total Rewards (Caesars Entertainment), has a partnership where all members can earn reward points when they make purchases from 1-800-Flowers. As your status increases with Total Rewards you can gain up to 30% discounts on cruises from their partnership with Norwegian Cruise Line. Again, check your favorite players club for their partnerships.
Sign Up Gifts – Some of the locals casinos will offer small gifts when a new customer signs up for the players club. These gifts can range anywhere from a discount book to a free deck of cards to a few dollars in slot play. These aren’t huge gifts but they’re a nice bonus.
Signing up for a players club should only take a few minutes. If you don’t feel like waiting for someone to enter your information into a computer when you get to Las Vegas you can sign up for some players club accounts online. If you’re an analytic type and want to see if the benefits are worth your time just measure the savings you receive from having a players club card versus the value of the 5-10 minutes of time it takes to sign up. You might be surprised by what you see.
Last week we told you about saving money in Las Vegas by making the right wagers. Playing games with a smaller house advantage extends your bankroll and gives you a better chance to win in the casino. This week we’re going to look at the other side of things. Making bad bets are the easiest way to lose money quickly in the casino.
Below you’ll find some of the worst wagers you can make in the casino. If you enjoy the games or specific wager or game feel free to play it but approach with caution or limit your wagers. For example, I only allow myself $20 per penny slot game. I know it has a large house edge but I love playing them. This just helps minimize the damage while maximizing fun.
If you play blackjack with perfect basic strategy you can bring the house edge to almost zero (actually 0.20% on a game with favorable rules). Blackjack is a great game that involves just a little skill. One of those skills is to avoid buying insurance when the dealer shows an Ace as their upcard. Depending which blackjack game you’re playing the house edge on insurance can be almost 8%. When you play blackjack you’ll almost always see other players wave off insurance as soon as they see the dealer’s Ace. Follow your fellow players.
Big 6 Wheel
The Big 6 Wheel is a game anyone can play. It involves absolutely no skill and you’ve probably played a similar game before ever walking into a casino. You’ve grown up seeing variations of the Big 6 Wheel at carnivals. The game is easy, you place a wager on a number (or dollar amount) and if the wheel lands on your number you win. There’s a reason this game is displayed so prominently as soon as you walk into a casino. The Big 6 Wheel comes with a huge house advantage ranging from 11% on the $1 wager to over 24% if you play the joker or wild slot on the wheel. If a casino game looks to easy that’s because it comes with a large house edge.
Craps Prop Wagers
You can make certain wagers when playing craps that take away almost the entire house edge. When you play the pass line with max odds your house edge can be as low as 0.00099% depending on the odds available in the casino. Unfortunately the craps table is littered with bad wagering options. Most of these are the proposition (or prop) bets you see in the center of the table. The hard way wagers (rolling doubles) have a house edge between 9% and 11%. The worst wager at the craps table is that “any 7” will show up on a roll. The house edge on “any 7″ is 16.67%. Avoid the center of the table and you’ll be safe from the bad wagers at craps.
Live Keno (as opposed to video keno) used to be a popular casino game but that popularity has waned over the years and you’ll no longer find a live Keno lounge in every casino. They still exist and should probably be avoided. The game is played similar to the lottery where you pick a certain amount of numbers and when a ball matches enough numbers selected you win. Prizes vary depending on how many numbers are hit and where you play. Live Keno has almost a 25% house edge depending on which casino you play. Over time you’re going to lose $25 of every $100 wagered at Live Keno. That’s more than any other game in the casino.
The casino floor isn’t filled with these bright, shiny and loud games because they’re the most fun slot machines to play. They also give the casino a large house edge without even paying a dealer. While high limits slot machines may have a house edge as low as 4%- 5%, the penny slots may have a house edge as high as 15%. A 15% house edge may not seem like a lot when you’re playing a game at 9 cents per spin but some of these games have a maximum wager above $5 per spin. Even though the house edge is the same for each type of spin you feel it a lot quicker when you’re playing that higher maximum wager.
Last week MGM Resorts and M Life announced a new partnership with Celebrity Cruises. Celebrity’s Captain’s Club and MGM Resorts’ M life players club members can choose from exclusive premium offers throughout the year. These offers include complimentary cruises for qualified M life Platinum and Noir members, and Captain’s Club members can enjoy benefits and special access at MGM Resorts’ destinations including concerts, events, entertainment venues, restaurants and more.
This partnership encourages guests to sign up for both loyalty clubs as it offers rewards for members of both. The current MGM Resorts/M Life cruise partnership with Royal Caribbean is still in tact (you can find details here). This means you now have two cruise partnerships to choose from if you’re an MGM Resorts M Life rewards member. The addition of Celebrity Cruises just adds to your travel options when you’re in the mood to cruise.
M Life has some of the most robust players club partnerships that you’ll find in Las Vegas. M Life is currently partnered with Hyatt Hotels, Southwest Airlines, Royal Caribbean Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, Avis, Pinnacle Entertainment (casinos), Cirque Du Soleil and more. You can find more information on these and other partnerships on the M Life website.
M Life isn’t the only Las Vegas players club with outside partnerships. Here’s a quick look at some other partnerships:
- Caesars Entertainment (Total Rewards) – Hawaiian Airlines, Starwood Hotels, Norwegian Cruise Line, 1-800-Flowers and more. You can find more details here.
- Cosmopolitan – Marriott Hotels
- SLS – Hilton Hhonors and other sbe venues across the country.
- Tropicana/M Resort (Penn National) – Carnival Cruises
- Venetian/Palazzo (Grazie) – Intercontinental Hotel Group (IHG)
- Wynn (Red Card) – Southwest Airlines
Generally the larger the Las Vegas players club the better the chances are that they have rewards partners aligned with their hotel and/or players clubs. These partnerships may or may not offer you casino players club points but they will offer you savings that you wouldn’t otherwise have access to.
Casino-resort operators are constantly looking to expand their marketing reach so you should expect to see more partnerships between Las Vegas casino-resorts and non-Vegas businesses in the future. While the big names may be leading the way you will find some partnerships with smaller properties in Las Vegas.
Right now Best Western and Casino Royale may have the most surprisingly useful partnership on the Vegas Strip. Many people stay at Best Western hotels across the country while traveling for business. Earning loyalty club points from work to use on a hotel for vacation right in the center of the Vegas Strip is a pretty sweet.
Years ago I stayed at Planet Hollywood for the first time because of their partnership with Starwood. Planet Hollywood became my go-to hotel in Las Vegas for a few years after that visit.
These partnerships allow you to try new hotels, airlines, cruise lines and more for free or at a discount just because of your love for Las Vegas. The world might be a better place if all things we loved were so giving.
Playing low limits in the casino is great but if you’re not playing the right games you’re not really creating a good value for yourself. Often times lower limit games can cost you money. On the surface penny slots sound like cheap gambling. When you dig deeper you see that A) the maximum wager can be almost $10 and B) the house edge is one of the largest you’ll find in the casino. Penny slots are fun but they aren’t cheap and the house edge means that you’ll lose over 10% of what you play over time.
Having said that knowing the right games to play can extend your bankroll and even allow you a better opportunity to win. Some games in the casino involve skill and some don’t. When there’s a game that involves a skill, you’re going to need to learn correct strategy in order to receive the maximize returns. Here are some of the best bets in the casino.
Unless you know how to count cards the casino will have a house edge on you. Even if you can count you may be asked to stop playing blackjack. Las Vegas casinos now offer blackjack games with a variety of rules that can sway the house edge from as low as 0.20% to as much as 2.3%. Obviously you want to look for games with the best rules (like 3:2 on blackjack) and snag that tiny house advantage. In order to obtain the lowest house edge you’ll have to play perfect basic strategy. You can use a strategy card at the table so feel free to buy one online or in the casino.
Craps isn’t only the most fun casino game to play in the casino but it offers a few different bets with a small house edge. The house edge on the most basic wager, the pass line, is only 1.41%. If you lay “free” odds (actual odds with no house edge) you can bring the house edge down to as low as 0.00099% in Las Vegas depending on which casino you’re playing at. There are other wagers you can make with a similarly low house edge but it’s easiest to keep it simple in the beginning.
Baccarat used to be the game of ultra rich but that’s slowly been changing in Las Vegas casinos over the years. Baccarat is now offered in a few different size games but it still offers a very small house edge. Play the banker and there’s only a house edge of 1.06%, play the player hand and the house edge is just 1.24%. Don’t play the tie (14% house edge) and you’re all set.
Sports betting has a house edge for the casino of 4.5%. The thing about this house edge is that it’s not a hard 4.5%. It’s not easy but you can beat the house in sports betting. It can be done if you have great sports handicapping skills. If you can pick winners approximately 53% of the time you’ll become a winning sports bettor. That sounds easy but you should realize that most sports bettors aren’t this good. Skill is what will make wagering on sports profitable.
Poker is a game of skill and one of the best bets in a casino. The casino actually has no house edge in poker. They take a small commission, called the rake, from each hand but that’s all. The rake in Las Vegas is usually 10% of the pot with a limit of $4 or $5 depending on the casino. You can overcome the rake and become a winning casino poker player by learning how to play the game and the math behind it.
You’ll be hearing these words a lot over the next couple of months in Las Vegas and beyond. The 46th annual World Series of Poker (WSOP) begins this week! The action kicked off Wednesday, May 27 at noon with the annual Casino Employees Event – a unique poker event bringing all Las Vegas employees together under one roof.
The action really picks up over the first weekend when a new tournament hits the WSOP. On Friday and Saturday (May 29-30), huge crowds of poker players will descend on Rio for a $565 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em tournament called Colossus that guarantees $5,000,000 in prize money. This event will have four starting flights – two each day — one at 10:00 a.m., the other at 6:00 p.m. Colossus is expected to be the largest live poker tournament ever held.
Colossus is expected to be bigger than the Main Event at the WSOP and that’s no small feat.
The Main Even is the big $10,000 buy in tournament made famous on ESPN. The winner of last year’s WSOP Main Event, Martin Jacobson, bested 6,683 players and took home the grand prize of $10 million. This year’s Main Event is expected to have slightly less competitors and a slightly smaller grand prize of $8 million.
This year the Main Event gets underway on July 5 and ends on July 14. Professionals and amateur hopefuls from more than 100 countries around the globe will participate in this year’s WSOP. In 2014, 82,360 entered and $227 million in prize money was awarded to players from 110 different countries.
This year, eleven new events will debut at the WSOP. Here are the details:
May 29-30: $565 Colossus No-Limit Hold’em with a $5,000,000 guaranteed prize pool.
May 31: $1,000 Hyper No-Limit Hold’em with a fast, two-day structure.
June 20: $1,500 Extended Play No-Limit Hold’em featuring longer, 90-minute levels.
June 21: $1,000 Super Seniors No-Limit Hold’em. (Must be age 65+ to enter.)
June 26: $5,000 Turbo No-Limit Hold’em, two-day structure with a high buy-in.
June 27: $1,500 DraftKings 50/50 No-Limit Hold’em. Half the field to be paid.
June 29: $25,000 High Roller 8-handed Pot-Limit Omaha. 4-day event.
July 1: $1,500 Bounty No-Limit Hold’em. Every player is a bounty. Each is worth $500.
July 3: $777 Lucky 7’s No-Limit Hold’em, featuring a first-ever $777 price point.
July 3: $10,000 Dealers Choice, featuring 19 variants – the most ever played in a single WSOP event.
Here’s a little known secret – you can watch World Series of Poker in person at the Rio for free. The entire World Series of Poker is a spectacle but the great people watching kicks into high gear once the Main Event which begins on July 5. This is a one-of-a-kind “only in Vegas” experience that’s free for anyone to enjoy. It’s also a good excuse to visit Rio and the other casinos in the area.
If you’re not able to watch the action in person in Las Vegas you can watch the WSOP streaming on WSOP.com or on ESPN if you prefer television. You can find details for both at WSOP.com.
Casino players clubs are a great way to earn discounts and freebies when you visit Las Vegas. Players clubs were introduced as a way to entice gamblers to return to a casino to gamble. They used to only reward those gamblers. That’s no longer the case as many larger players clubs act more like traditional loyalty clubs for any kind of business.
The larger and more forward thinking casino players clubs are offering points and rewards for all money spent on property. Cash spending rewards often offering points for spending on dining, hotel rooms, spa treatments and shopping. Here’s an overview of which casino players club offer points for money spent outside of the casino.
Total Rewards (Bally’s, Caesar Palace, The Cromwell, Flamingo, Harrah’s, The Linq Hotel, Paris, Planet Hollywood, Rio) – Earn 1 Reward Credit for each dollar spent on dining, shopping, hotel rooms and amenities (i.e. pools, golf). Note that some off-property and leased businesses may not participate offering points. Check with each business when making a reservation or when making a purchase.
M Life (Aria, Bellagio, Excalibur, Luxor, Mandalay Bay, MGM Grand, The Mirage, Monte Carlo, New York-New York) – Earn 25 M Life Tier Credits for every dollar you spend on hotel, dining, entertainment, or spa in Las Vegas per dollar spent. MGM/M Life hotels in other locations offer different ratios.
Grazie (Palazzo and Venetian) – Grazie offers different amounts of point rewards for cash spending based on your status in the club. Grazie level receives 5 Status Points per dollar spent. Gold and Platinum earn 20 Status points $1 dollar spent. All spending must be charged to your hotel room. You may want to charge everything to your room at Palazzo and Venetian.
Red Card (Encore and Wynn) – Spending is rewarded differently at Encore and Wynn than other Las Vegas hotels. You should charge everything you spend to your hotel room. At the end of your visit a host will let you know if you’ve spent enough to receive any complimentary items or discounts. The ambiguity isn’t meant to be sketchy, it’s a way for the hotel staff to create a better one on one relationship with their customers.
Identity (Cosmopolitan) – The Cosmo probably has the most aggressive players club regarding cash spending. You earn 5 Identity points for every dollar spent on hotel, dining, spa and shopping. Additionally you earn $5 in resort credit for every $100 spent.
The idea of rewarding casino customers for spending outside of the casino and in the rest of the hotel is only a few years old and still growing. Like the original players club rewards in the casino these new rewards are aimed at keeping you loyal to the particular brands.
Not every casino operator has moved to this model yet but some of these companies are already looking ahead at ways to extend their brand to you beyond Las Vegas. Total Rewards and M Life have started to offer players club rewards outside of Las Vegas and even in your house. Casino operators are always looking for new ways to attract customers today so expect more outreach.
Las Vegas players clubs have changed a lot in the past few years. In many casino resorts you can now earn rewards from all money you spend at a property and not just from gambling. In addition to earning points everywhere on property some casino players clubs have also changed by adding outside partners where you can earn and use casino players club points from other businesses and even games. These are great ways to use your rewards but, more importantly, you can now earn rewards without ever stepping foot into a casino.
Caesars’ Total Rewards and MGM’s M Life have taken players club partnerships to a whole other level by adding partners where you can not only use your rewards but you can earn rewards. Earning extra comp points at home or when traveling for work is a great way to save money on your personal vacation in Las Vegas. Let’s take a look at the their partners where you can earn reward credits from before ever you get to Las Vegas. Note that these are reward credits and usually won’t apply to your tier status.
Caesars Casino – Play the Caesars Casino game on Facebook for free and you can enjoy the game for fun. You can earn reward credits for coin purchases. The more you spend on coins for the game the higher your reward credit bonus.
$20 = 20 Reward Credits
$50 = 60 Reward Credits
$100 = 150 Reward Credits
$200 = 400 Reward Credits
Total Rewards Visa – This might be the easiest way to earn reward credits without going into a casino. You can earn up to 10,000 reward credits as a bonus when you spend $750 outside of Total Rewards destinations in the first 90 days of having a credit card. You can also earn up to 5X reward credits for every $1 spent at Total Rewards destinations, 2X reward credits for every $1 spent on gas, groceries & airlines, and 1 reward credit for every $1 spent everywhere else Visa is accepted.
Starwood Hotels – Platinum, Diamond and Seven Stars Total Rewards members earn both Tier Credits and Reward Credits on eligible room rates and folio spend in addition to earning Starpoints. This isn’t available to Gold Total Rewards members.
TR Marketplace – You can earn reward credits at hundreds of Total Rewards retail, dining and entertainment partners like – Apple, Best Buy, Gap and Target. You can also earn reward credits by purchasing gift cards from the TR Marketplace.
1800-Flowers – You can earn up to 15X Total Rewards credits when ordering with 1800-Flowers.
M Life only has a couple of partnerships where you can earn rewards without visiting Las Vegas. The majority of their partnerships are more outward, meaning M Life will get you a discount elsewhere.
Hyatt hotels (including Park Hyatt, Andaz, Grand Hyatt, Hyatt, Hyatt Regency, Hyatt Place and Hyatt House) – M life members may present their M life card at check-in at participating Hyatt hotels and resorts to receive Tier Credits for their eligible spend. Membership in Hyatt Gold Passport is required.
Pinnacle Entertainment (locations all over the US, details here.) – M life members may receive gaming, food and hotel offers from Pinnacle Entertainment’s casino resorts.
M Life has partnerships where you can earn discounts and reward points with many other businesses including Southwest Air, Royal Caribbean and Avis. You can see a full list of M Life partners here.
Players clubs are continuing to expand their reach so this is just the launching point for earning rewards outside of a casino. Keep tab on your casinos partners and earn and use your rewards wherever it’s convenient.
Players clubs have been a part of casino culture in Las Vegas for years. If you’re staying or playing in a hotel-casino you’ll often sign up for the players club to get discounts or possibly complementary items from the property. If you’re a casino hopper you might do this everywhere you spend money. Why not?
Players clubs in the past were more concerned with spending in the casino but that’s no longer the case. Players clubs have changed a lot in recent years. They’re still concerned with spending in the casino but have evolved include all of your spending with the property (or “properties” in the case of Caesars and MGM Resorts). Casino players clubs are still different but much more similar to loyalty clubs for traditional businesses. This hybrid makes players clubs more valuable than ever before.
The annual Global Gaming Expo happens in Las Vegas around this time every year. The conference is more commonly known as G2E and is expo and conference for the casino industry by the casino industry. It’s the largest casino industry gathering of the year. There are panels discussing the business side of things that casino executives find useful but the expo is where it’s at for casino visitors. The expo side of G2E is where all casinos look to buy products for their respective casinos. There’s everything available from signage and food to casino games. Someone has to buy those chairs for the Diamond Lounge at Planet Hollywood, right?
Slot machines, of all the different casino games at the expo, are what end up getting the most press. Unlike most other casino games on display you’ll see many of the slot machines from the expo on casino floors soon. Some slot machines like the new Wonder Woman slot machines may already be on casino floors as you read this!
New slot machines are so popular at G2E because they’re not just available in Las Vegas. Even small casinos and racinos located all across the country will have some of these slot machines on their property soon. Here are some of the highlights of the new games we found at G2E.
Nearly half of casino visitors go with a gaming budget under $200. In fact, according to a survey by Las Vegas Convention and Visitor Authority 13% of visitors to Las Vegas budgeted under $100 for gaming on their visits last year. When hitting the casino with a limited budget you’re likely going to play low stakes. When you’re looking to maximize your money in the casino you’re going to want to make sure you’re playing the right games.
The casinos make a lot their money on low rollers so you’ll generally see that the lower limits games have the largest advantage for the casino. For example, casinos generally win about 10%-12% of money spent at penny slot machines. That’s the largest win percentage of any denomination of slot machine. You can cut their win percentage almost in half by playing nickel or quarter slot machines instead.
One of the most overlooked ways to save in Las Vegas is by having a casino players club card. Despite popular belief, casino players clubs offer discounts to everyone who signs up and it doesn’t matter whether or not you gamble. In fact you don’t even have to spend a penny to get savings from a casino players club. Unlike many other business loyalty clubs you will see greater discounts the more money you spend with a casino. Look at that as a bonus.
Most casino players clubs will offer base members small discounts for many different items purchased in their casinos. For example, with Caesars Entertainment’s Total Rewards you can save a dollar or two per food item at certain restaurants. You can also save 10% on all purchases at their gift shops.
The casino industry’s largest conventions, Global Gaming Expo (aka G2E), happens every year in late September (early October next year). The convention gives people that work in the industry a chance to discuss the state of business and share tips. Unless you’re a casino dork like me the convention is fairly mundane and probably like any other industry convention. Things change for the better when you walk into the expo itself.
The expo floor at G2E is where businesses offer their products for casinos to buy. Businesses hawking their products range from ATM manufacturers to food companies to slot machine and other gaming companies. While it’s interesting to see which brand of coffee may be served in the casinos next year it’s much more fun to see which games will be coming to casinos soon.
I’d estimate that 40% of the G2E expo floor is occupied by slot machine manufacturers showing off the brightest new games for casinos to purchase. Sneak previews are great but being able to play the cool new games is even better. Some of the more popular slot machine themes that were previewed included at G2E included games for Avatar, The Walking Dead and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
Some of the slot machines, like The Walking Dead, won’t be in Las Vegas casinos until 2014. Thankfully that’s not the case for all of the slot machines. The Avatar and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off are already in casinos. Some other games are also making their way to casinos in Las Vegas.
Last week we looked at playing games with the best odds to maximize your money spent at the casino. You might have to raise how much you wager per hand but you’ll be getting the best potential returns. While you may get better odds for your dollars by playing a higher denomination you may not want to have that much at risk at once. If that’s the case you can turn your head to the lower limits games. Lower limits gaming isn’t as easy to find as it once was but you can find it if you know where to go.
The lowest limit game that you’ll find anywhere in Las Vegas is at the Riviera. The Riviera recently introduced $1 blackjack. For the right to play $1 blackjack you’re giving away a some potential returns since this game only pays 6:5 on blackjack. In the short term this is $1.50 vs. $1.20 for each time you get blackjack. Over time that would add up but it probably isn’t much for a few hours at the table. Chances are that you’ll probably tip the cocktail waitress more on drinks than you’ll lose with the lesser odds.
The $1 blackjack at Riviera is always open. Even though it never closes the table will probably be busy on the weekends. The good news is that if you don’t feel like waiting for a seat to open up you can find other low limit games at the Riv.
Fine dining and great shows are big attraction to visiting Las Vegas but there is one constant that has always been a draw – the casino. Even though there is casino gaming in just about every state in the country today, Las Vegas is still seen as the gaming capital of the United States. Casino gambling was born in Las Vegas and there are few places where you can have luxury hotels, fine dining, 5 star spas to go along with the casino games.
We always want to get the most bang for our buck but that’s not always available when playing the least expensive casino games. You’ll usually have to risk more money in order to maximize your dollars spent. For example you can play $10 blackjack at many casinos on the Vegas Strip but you’ll be playing a game that’s much worse than if you played a $25 blackjack game.
Many of the $10 blackjack games will only pay 6:5 for blackjack ($6 for every $5 bet) while the $25 games will return 3:2 ($3 for every $2 bet) when you get blackjack. You can look at a blackjack calculator (like this one on Wizard of Odds) and see that the 3:2 blackjack game has a much lower house advantage.
Football is the most popular sport in the Vegas sportsbooks. There is more money wagered on pro and college football than all other sports combined. Beyond the casino fantasy football is a huge business. All of this helps the ratings on TV where football games are continually top of the ratings for all sports.
We’re almost at the halfway point in the college and professional football seasons but it’s not too late to get into the action. Between the rest of the regular seasons, playoffs and bowl games there are plenty of games remaining.
Technology is changing how we live our lives every day and casinos have realized this. We’re not gambling the way our grandparents did. We don’t want to be tied down to one thing. We’re constantly on the move and casino gambling wants to go with us wherever we may be.
Mobile sports wagering was introduced to Nevada a couple years ago and it has quickly caught on. It’s almost commonplace for a sports bettor to have a sports wagering account and app. Sure we can watch the games in the sportsbook but we never even have to walk into the counter to place a wager. We can also place the wagers while anywhere in the entire state and watch whenever we’re done with a show or zipline ride.
It’s not often that you can get something for nothing in Las Vegas but it is possible. For example, some of the off-strip hotels offer free shuttle services for you to explore their properties. On face value you’re getting a free ride to a different hotel with no strings attached. The ultimate goal for the hotel is to entice you to visit or stay at the property. Sounds like a fair exchange and a potential win-win for the customer and hotel.
The same can be said when you sign up for a casino players club. The casino uses the players club to offers discounts and complimentary items in exchange for adding your name for their marketing database and for the ability to track how and where you spend your money. This is very valuable information for the casinos. Some casino players clubs will lure you with deep discounts on hotel rooms meanwhile other properties have to add freebies to entice you to share your information.
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Planning a Las Vegas vacation
Las Vegas is known for
The Venetian (and The Palazzo)
Technically, Resorts World Las Vegas