Vegas is a marketing machine and its single biggest asset is you – the hopeful winner. You are a person who believes that they are going to beat the house because, golly, you heard about this fella who put $20 in a slot machine and took out $5000.
Of course you’re hopeful.
Of course those stories have made their way to you. Who the hell would want or care to hear about the other 99.95% of who took $500 and lost it all on the first night? We’re losers… and you are a big winner.
Of course you’re not.
Even if you happen to get on the plane with leftover benjamins and you’ve convinced yourself that these precious dollars are your winnings, you’ve only repressed the debt you’re in from the plane flight, hotel… and, oh yeah, those two late night walks of shame to the ATM which cost you $200 a pop.
Sorry for the buzz kill, but it’s important to maintain a healthy attitude about the reality distortion field which surrounds Vegas. Why are you going? To get rich? Hah. No. You are going to hang with friends… get a little crazy on hooch… and create your own reality distortion field regarding your finances “Feeling Up”.
Feeling Up and actually Being Up for a Vegas trip are two vastly different scenarios. Being Up is actually having more money in your wallet than you had before you stepped on the plane to Vegas AND also covering your hotel and plane flight. It rarely happens to me.
Feeling Up is blissfully free of such requirements. Feeling Up can be one of many delusions… Do you have more money in your wallet than when you started in this particular casino? Are you up for the day? Are you just so drunk that you forgot about that beating you took at craps? Who the hell cares? Feeling Up gives you the brief impression that you are the BIG WINNER.
This column will give you some tips and tricks on how to Feel Up in Vegas. This column will not discuss odds of individual games nor give you any type of gambling strategy that is guaranteed to win you big bucks. You will bleed money in Vegas and this column will help you control that bleeding.
The first thing you must remember is that Vegas is designed; from the second you walk off the plane, to liberate you of your money. Don’t try to over think this. Vegas is smarter than you and Vegas is a predator. The sooner you acknowledge this, the happier you will be.
To avoid the predator, you’ll need to do some fairly childish things in order to keep from being eaten alive:
1) Never ever leave the hotel room with all your money. While it might seem convenient, it is simply stupid. You + a lot of money + booze + gambling + lack of sleep = losing combination. It doesn’t take much of a fuck-up to be down $500 at craps table by 4am with no clue that you’ve blown your wad. The simple act of tucking $300 in your underwear drawer assures you that must physically get away from the casino in order to continue gambling and there is nothing more sobering than stumbling down a long hotel hallway with an empty wallet.
For an average night using the Rands Vegas Systen, I recommend $200 a night given a $500 budget over two nights. This does not mean you’re done when you’ve blown this money; this simply gives you a gambling check point where you can assess whether you’re are either spinning out of control or just having a great time.
2) Leave your credit cards at home. Do not go into debt in Vegas. This is tremendously stupid unless you’re using them to collect miles and planning on paying them off immediately upon returning home. If you’re considering using a credit card to finance your trip then you clearly are not ready for a trip. Vegas is the home for your disposable income, not your food money.
3) Keep track of where you’re at. If your goal is have enough money to be gambling the entire vacation, then you’ll need to stay aware of where you’re at relative to your budget. This does not mean count your pocket change after every hand of Blackjack; it just means stay cognizant of your money situation. I usually reassess during the frequent casino crawls.
4) Know your ATM cycles. If you’re not a fan of leaving money back in the room, why not just leave it in the ATM? It’s safe and has the built in safeguard of a daily limit. This is particularly useful for you impulsive types who are incapable of staying within a budget.
Remember, MIDNIGHT MEANS MORE MONEY. Your bank resets the daily limit at midnight, so, in a pinch, if you have a daily limit of $300, you have reasonably easy access to $600 at midnight unless, of course, you already tried this trick the prior night and forgot in the drunken haze that is Las Vegas.
5) Play games that fleece you at a reasonable rate. This is really the most important rule to remember in Vegas and, thusly, I’ll talk the most about it. For all games in Vegas, the rules are set such that the house is going to win. Yes, there are those who get lucky and beat the odds, and WON’T SHUT UP ABOUT IT. Convienently, these are the same people who come back EVEN MORE OFTEN after they won $10,000 and proceed to dump it all WITH INTEREST. Vegas doesn’t work if the casinos don’t win. Remember that.
So, you are going to lose, the key is how do you lose? Do you throw you the money on BLACK on the roulette table and pray? No, you spread it out.
The following is a prioritized list of games that I play. The loose criteria I’ve used to prioritize are:
- Low fleece rate (Translation: As much gambling with as little loss as possible… this also has the added benefit of getting you more booze per dollar played)
- Easy to learn (Translation: You can play it drunk)
- Fun to play (Translation: Not Keno)
Poker used to scare the hell out of me. I’d walk by poker rooms at my favorite casinos and see grizzled old men snapping at each other. Sure, I’d play poker with pals for nickles and dimes, but Vegas was “big time” and I was “scared shitless”.
The recent Texas Hold ‘Em craze changed all that. After many hours of online play, I recently ventured into my first poker room at the Flamingo and, thusly, Poker immediately moved to the top the list.
Hold ‘Em is, by far, the most complex game to play on this list. This would appear to contradict my three prioritization criteria, but it doesn’t… Yes, it’s a tough game to master, but with minimal skill you can a) not lose money that fast and b) have a helluva lot of fun.
My suggestion if you’re considering a Poker move is to first play a bunch online… get a feel for the basic rules. Take that rudimentary knowledge to a 2/4 Hold ‘Em table at one of the less well known casinos (Flamingo or Monte Carlo) and give it a whirl.
Other than the required beatings you’ll take the first few times you play, the other downside of Poker is the waiting and the lack of “buddy hangout time”. Unlike every other game in Vegas, there is usually a waiting line in poker rooms. This means there’s no guarantee that you’ll be playing anywhere near your Vegas buddies and that kind’a blows.
(Best table: 2/4 Limit Hold ‘Em)
Pai Gow is the hidden gambling gem in Las Vegas. If you’ve been to casinos before, you’ve seen Pai Gow and walked right by these tables because the name Pai Gow means nothing to you. That’s ok, because one of the beautiful aspects of Pai Gow is that the tables aren’t that crowded, even at 11pm on a Friday night.
Pai Gow is a dumbed-down version of poker. It’s a single deck game where everyone is dealt seven cards. From those seven cards, you need to make two hands according to poker rules, one with two cards, and one with five cards where the five card hand is HIGHER (again, according to poker rules) than the two card hand. Confused, yet? No big deal, once you’ve read the rest of this section, you’ll be significantly incented to stand behind someone and watch them play. When you finally get the nerve to sit down at a table, the dealer, who must play their hand according to house rules, will be more than happy to help you with your hand, simply show them your cards.
In order to win, both of your hands must beat both of the dealers’ hands. If only one beats the dealer, it’s a push. If BOTH lose to the dealer, you lose your bet. The end result is the single most attractive aspect of the game: there is a lot of pushing which means you’re not losing money, you’re gambling, and you’re getting free drinks. Related to the pushing is the fact that Pai Gow is a single deck game where they shuffle between each hand. Shuffling takes time and this is time when you’re not losing money and possibly getting more booze.
We love Pai Gow.
Another benefit of Pai Gow is the low twit factor. As the game appears foreign and confusing, most folks are apt to avoid it. This means the average IQ of Pai Gow players is slightly higher than the Joe Blow Kentucky over at the Blackjack tables that has a lot of fun splitting 10s.
The combination of all of these aspects means that you can sit down at $5 Pai Gow table with $50 bucks and essentially stay there all night. If you’ve got buddies in tow, you can own a table, drink, and gamble all night… for $50. That’s sweet and that’s cheap.
(Best table: $5 mininum)
PUKE ON YOUR SHOES NOTE #3: Any and all of these games will eat you alive if you choose to play them whilst significantly drunk. If you’re really hammered, go back to your room. You’ll look like a fucking idiot when you spill your booze on the table.
#3 SPORTS BOOK
The mysticism that surrounds the Sports Book is significant. What are all those people doing in that big dark room full of massive televisions? Probably, they’re betting on horse races and chain smoking. Sounds like fun.
Explaining horse betting is beyond the scope of this column, but suffice to say, I’d recommend finding someone who has gone to the track a few times. He/She will be able to explain the difference between an exacta and a trifecta. If you don’t have access to one of these people, I’d avoid the Sports Book unless you’re in post-tough-night-hangover phase where watching round ball floats your boat.
Like Keno (see below), betting on the ponies is nice and slow. There is no flurry of betting craziness that will suddenly relieve you have two hundred bucks in three minutes. Plus, depending on the casino, if you’ve got an active betting slip sitting on the table, then you’ll qualify for free booze. Hell, sometimes they’ll comp you booze even with an old slip. We’ve had particular success with this at Monte Carlo, but the MGM was a total screw me.
#4 VIDEO POKER
Just a step ahead of slot machines, video poker is best played at a bar where they’ll kick back a quick drink when you slide $10 into a quarter machine. Unlike the slots, there is some strategy to be had at video poker, but it’s still just a means to fill the time between serious Pai Gow sessions.
(Best game: $.25 w/ maximum bet of $1.00)
Roulette is totally mindless and there is no strategy to be had, but sometimes it’s that level of non-commitment that you need in order to relax in Vegas.
The only fact you need to be aware of regarding Roulette is what the minimum bet is per spin. Don’t get jumpy when you buy-in at that $.50 table for $20. Sure, you’ll be grinning when they slide that immense pile of colored chips over… but you didn’t see that the minimum bet was $5.00… did you? Yeah. Don’t get too attached to those tall stacks.
The odds at Roulette are horrible because it is so easy to play. You will lose money, but it’s a moderately slow game and it’s fun to bet on your birthday, your girlfriends birthday, and other random numbers. Have a ball; don’t stay for more than $20.
(Best table: $.50 chips with $1 minimum bet)
NOTE TO WHEEL OF FORTUNE ENTHUSIASTS: I’m not going to talk about Wheel of Fortune here because it’s essentially the white trash version of Roulette, and I hear the odds are even worse. Don’t play it. People will laugh at you.
For me, slots are basically the place where my spare change goes to die. Whenever you are walking from HERE to THERE, you’re likely to encounter slot machines and the best way to deal with them is just throw in the occasionally dollar and see what happens.
I realize that the lack of an intimidating dealer is attractive to folks who are just getting started in Vegas, but slots are dull, inane, and even if you win, it just means you’ve got a massive bucket of quarters to lug around the casino.
GET OVER IT — SLOTS ARE FOR FUCKING TWEAKERS. IT’S A GAME WHERE THE ONLY STRATEGY YOU USE IS THE QUESTION ‘SHOULD I STOP NOW?’
The sooner you get over your fear of dealers, the sooner you’ll improve those shaky social skills and enjoy life in Vegas more.
(Best slot: $.25)
NOTE TO DOLLAR SLOT ENTHUSIASTS: There is this magical line folks like to try to draw between quarter slots and dollar slots. The idea being that the fact you are betting more somehow makes slots more interesting. Wrong. Same dumb game. Same losing ways. Let’s move on…
The last two games on the list are an odd pair because they are two of my favorite games. The reason they’re sitting here at the bottom of the list is because they have such money sucking potential.
Both games are fast. Meaning that whatever bet is sitting on the table has the potential of vanishing in an instant. This effect immediately destroys any benefit of sitting down at a low minimum table.
Yes, you can win at both of these games and, yes, there are strategies which do improve your odds, but the fact of the matter is the games move so fast that you’ve got to stay very aware of what the hell is going on in order to keep that advantage. Problem is, they’re serving you booze which means that you’re unlikely to keep your wits about you and THUS BEGIN THE BEATINGS. DOLLAR ON THE HARDWAYS — DOLLAR FOR THE DEALERS! SURE! I’D LOVE TO DOUBLE DOWN!
What keeps both of these games interesting is the fact that you can have lengthy betting stints with them… As long as you’re not a fool, it is possible to sit at a Blackjack or Craps table for many hours and that is the gambling experience you’re looking for. In fact, compelling experiences at Blackjack and Craps table served as the model for the proper way to gamble in Vegas, which lead to our discovery of Pai Gow.
(Best table: Blackjack, $5.00 minimum, Craps, $1.00 minimum w/ 100x odds)
Ok, Keno rates high in the low fleece and easy to learn categories, but it misses the mark completely in the fun to play area. Keno is essentially lotto. You pick a set of numbers on a little sheet of paper and hope and pray that they hit. They almost never do, but you get the illusion of gambling and it’s something like fifteen minutes between rounds. (read: booze)
I mostly play Keno while eating within a casino. You’ll see Keno boards all over the place (including restaurants) and runners wander about between games collecting your bets… they’re easy to pick out… they’re the waitresses that look like strippers. There is also a Keno pit somewhere in the casino where, I’m assuming, you can sit and play and get free booze, but it’s only slightly more interesting than watching grass grow.
I did a bit of research on Baccarat before I started this column and it appears to share some of the winning characteristics with Pai Gow… but with less thinking… which is hard to imagine.
Looking at how I’ve prioritized the games in Vegas, you can quickly discern where I head when I walk in a casino… straight to the Pai Gow table. The rate at which Pai Gow fleeces me is low, I never spin badly out of control like at Craps table.
Your job in Vegas is to find the set of games that keep you under the illusion of a steady state of Feeling Up. A place where you can easily be losing money, but are within a reality distortion field which keeps you content. Good luck.
… And if you win big bucks, I don’t want to hear about it.