Written by Ross Gariepy
(Editor’s Note: This is Part One of a Two-Part Series on Vegas. Check in later for Part Two.)
If you’re reading this post expecting a genius idea on how to take down Vegas, you’ve come to the wrong place. The blueprint isn’t a get-rich-quick scheme. As a matter of fact, you’re almost guaranteed to lose money if you follow it. If you’re looking to make money in Vegas, go read Bringing Down the House or something, jerk.
The blueprint also isn’t for anyone who goes to Vegas planning to spend a lot of money. It’s not for people who enjoy the dance clubs or going outdoors at any point. This blueprint is not something you should follow if you’re in Vegas with your wife because SHE WILL DIVORCE YOU.
This blueprint is for people who go to Vegas looking to have an incredible weekend while only enduring a slow bleed of their money. It’s for people who have no interest in buying expensive drinks or eating fancy dinners (actually one nice dinner is acceptable).
Let’s cut to the chase: this blueprint is specifically for anyone who comes to Vegas for the first weekend of March Madness and wants to hang out with my group of friends. Because honestly, I’m not sure any other type of person can endure this schedule.
Let’s jump into it:
To withdraw just enough money on the Tuesday before the trip (known as Transaction Tuesday) to be able to gamble for four days, pay for everything you eat and drink with cash, basically not use a credit or debit card at any point, and return to your home city with just enough money to pay for the cab from the airport to your apartment (and by the way, if you get to your home airport with an absurd amount of one dollar bills because you didn’t “make it rain” in the strip club as much as you thought you would on Saturday night, be sure to use those on the cab ride…nothing sets off a spouse’s suspicions quite like a wallet full of one’s).
The Daily Schedule
Let’s say you’re like me and you arrive in Vegas on Wednesday evening. You’re also taking the first flight out of Vegas on Sunday morning; yes, that would be the 6am “everyone looks like a Zombie” flight.
This is your only day without basketball so you want to maximize your gambling with the casino games (Poker, BlackJack, Craps, Casino War, etc). This is also the “calm before the storm” time. Just 24 hours from now, Vegas will be overrun with middle-aged men who have more money to blow than you, meaning all of the casino games will be out of your price range. Take advantage of the “cheap” tables tonight.
Plan to meet up with your group as soon as you arrive, poll everyone on their plans for the rest of the night and then play some poker (especially if you have to log a certain amount of poker hours over the weekend to get your discounted room rate – more on this later). This first poker stint should go well because it’s the first thing you’re doing in Vegas…you always win during those first few hours, and then Vegas has you right where it wants you. When you finally leave the table, you’ll be surprised that it’s already 10:30pm. At this point, your only food option is the food court in whatever hotel you’re in. That’s fine. Take a 20-minute break and grab a sandwich with your friends. Gambling over these four days is grueling; you need your energy. Once dinner is finished, some genius in your group will suggest playing Paigow Poker because “it’s a game where you constantly push your bet (that means you tie against the casino and don’t lose your money) and you’re basically just getting free drinks for as long as you play.” Go ahead and follow this guy’s lead. When you’re 30 minutes into playing Paigow, check out his stack of chips. While the rest of your table has actually pushed most of their bets like he promised, his money will be close to gone. That’s just how it works.
Now it’s past midnight and you’ve got a solid six to eight drinks in you (which, by the way is the least amount of alcohol you’re gonna have in you for the rest of this trip), and you’re wondering what to do next. After six years of getting this part wrong, I finally have the right advice: GO TO BED. I know: it’s Vegas, your first night, the partying is just beginning for many visitors, you’ve got an erection because you’re up $300 for the trip already. Trust me. Get a solid night’s sleep on this first night. You want to be fresh for the next three days of non-stop basketball and the disgusting amount of drinking that goes with it.
Before we move on to Thursday, there’s one more thing. Sometime on Wednesday evening, take a close look at the first couple basketball games that tip off on Thursday morning. The first game begins at 9:15am, and unfortunately every person in Vegas feels the need to bet on the opening game. That means if you save your bet for Thursday morning, you’ll be fighting a line of 500 other people who had the same idea as you, and chances are you won’t get the bet down in time. Make your bets on the first two or three games on Wednesday night and then laugh at all the idiots who are standing in line for over two hours the next day. You will kiss me for this one piece of advice.
Oh, hey there…good morning. Did you get a good night’s sleep? Feeling fresh, rested and ready to take on the world? You’re welcome. Are you ready for 12 straight hours of basketball? Because that’s exactly what you’re doing today (and Friday and Saturday). Every sports book is different as far as the layout, the seating options and the amount of people. No matter where you plan to watch the games, it’s great to have someone in your group who doesn’t drink and goes to bed early. This person becomes the guy who gets to the sports book by 7am each morning to reserve as many tables and chairs as he can. If you don’t have someone in your group like this, try recruiting one through craigslist or facebook. And then feel free to offer him beers all day long as a thank you for reserving the tables…he won’t take you up on it, and you get to feel like a nice person.
Even though there’s not much else to say in terms of your itinerary for this day, there is plenty of advice on how to maximize your fun during the games. You need to think about the flow of the games and how that’s going to affect the line you’ll stand in whenever you want to place a bet. It’s a good rule of thumb to always be placing bets on “the next three games” that are coming up. It’s obnoxious to stand in line all day, so don’t be the idiot who makes only one bet every time he goes to the cashier. I can’t advise you on how many bets to make or who to bet on, but I can advise you to keep the bets small. Personally, I’d rather have five $20 bets on five different games than have one $100 bet on a single game. That hundred dollars in the first scenario will provide you with six hours of entertainment. The other scenario gives you only two hours of entertainment, and is of course a lot more stressful. This is also a good time to point out one other gambling theory I have. A blackjack player who knows the rule book inside and out and is sitting at a $10 per hand table can still easily lose $200 in thirty minutes. A person who’s never heard of basketball can take that same $200, walk into the sports book and be entertained for 12 hours. And their odds of winning some of those bets are just as good as the blackjack player’s chances. How would you rather spend your day? As far as the group dynamic goes, you actually want a couple of loose cannons who can’t sit still as part of your crew. These are the guys who will make a bunch of basketball bets in the morning, then go sit at a poker table for seven hours, but then come hang out with you to watch the end of each game. You want these people because during commercials they’ll entertain you with fun stories like how they were bored with basketball, bored with their poker table, so they just spent 45 minutes jumping between roulette, blackjack and craps. These people literally have money spread out all over the casino so there’s bound to be some absurd stories (bonus points if these guys also like to start trouble at the poker table by asking the casino to “go to the video tapes” to review a move from an opponent that they thought was illegal).
The final thing to mention about this day is around alcohol consumption: do it. It wouldn’t be Vegas if you weren’t drinking from sunrise to sunset. The problem is that many of the casinos have started to make it unreasonably expensive to spend an entire day at the sports book and pay for alcohol. In the past, they’ve given out drink tickets when you go place a bet. This allows the people who are actually gambling to receive a complimentary drink or two, and it keeps the non-gamblers from getting freebee’s. It used to be a “$20 bet for every one drink ticket,” but this year they told us it was $500 bet for each ticket. Alternatively we could pay $6.50 per Bud Light and order them straight from the bar. Well to those options, I say, “no thank you, and fuck you.” Here’s what you do…buy your alcohol from the outside and bring it into the casino. In Vegas, you’re allowed to bring open drinks into any casino and continue to drink it. Directly outside the main entrance to the Venetian is a Walgreen’s. Within three minutes of discovering the casino’s policy on drink tickets this year, we had our first 20-pack of Bud Light hidden under our table at the sports book. We saved $90 for each 20-pack we bought compared with the price at the Venetian bar. That money was funneled right back into our betting for the weekend. And if your brain is as slow as ours was, it’ll take you until about 7pm that night to realize you can do the same thing with a bottle of liquor. Go to Walgreen’s, buy a $25 bottle of Jameson, a bunch of plastic cups and start pouring shots at your table while watching the games.
Now you’re asking, “what the hell am I gonna do after the games end and I’m borderline shitfaced?” Good question. This is one of several times over the weekend where you’ll be tempted to play blackjack at a $25 per hand minimum table just because those are the only tables close by. Force yourself to take the five minute walk over to Casino Royale where you can find $10 craps and blackjack. Bring the Jameson with you and drink it right out of the bottle while sitting at your table. That casino is seedy enough where you’ll just look like any other gambler. Call it a night when you start making a plan to steal one of the gondola’s and ride the Venetian’s canals at 2am.
(Part Two is coming soon. We’ll discuss Friday and Saturday, pulling an all-nighter, and a list of Do’s and Don’t’s for a successful Vegas trip. Stay tuned.)