Hacks For a First-Time Vegas Vacation
Anyone coming to Las Vegas for the first time is going to be overwhelmed. There are so many bars, restaurants and casinos to enjoy, so many sights to see, so many experiences to savour that for the first-time visitor to Vegas it can be too much.
It’s a city built around its nightlife, but it still manages to pulsate 24 hours day; it’s a place where you can see the whole world in replica, but is a dynamic destination in its own right; the town where anything is possible, if you have the dreams and the desire.
With so much to do – and so many demands on you purse – anything you can do to shift the House Edge in your favour, even just a little, is worth it. These Las Vegas hacks can help you to make the most of your time in the City of Sin, and stretch your bankroll that little bit further.
The $20 Hack
Twenty bucks generally doesn’t buy you much in this day and age, but it’s surprising just what a crisp $20 bill can do for you in Vegas. When you check into your hotel, for instance, and hand over your credit card to the clerk, slide a twenty their way as well and ask if there are any upgrades available. It’ll come back to you if they can’t help you out, but if they do manage to find you something it’s a pretty sound investment.
The same is true for valet parking lots at casinos showing a ‘Full’ sign – a polite enquiry accompanied by $20 will often mean that a free space miraculously appears. You might also get a spot closer to the front of the lot, meaning less waiting time when you come to collect your car.
In fact, tipping in advance can do wonders for the service you receive all over Vegas – from getting a table at a restaurant, to having the cocktail waitress or bartender look after you in a crowded club, to promoters who can get you the past the velvet rope at a nightspot – it’s amazing how far Andrew Jackson can take you.
The Free Drinks Hack
Alcohol is probably more expensive in Vegas than anywhere else in the country (as are so many things!), yet at the same time they give it away for free all over the place. The casinos work on the basis that if they keep the booze flowing your way, you’ll keep the bets going theirs, so as long as you’re playing, the drinks are on the House.
You don’t have to be playing on the main gaming floors to take advantage of this either. You’ll find video poker games in most casino bars, so as long you’re playing regular hands, the bartender will keep setting them up for you, while the cocktail waitresses will look after you as you play slots too. If you’ve come to Vegas to gamble, and most of your time is spent playing, you shouldn’t have to put your hand in your pocket for drinks too often the whole time you're there.
The Gambling Hack
For many people, their first trip to Vegas is also their first real experience of gambling, outside perhaps of a gentle game with friends or the odd flutter on a lottery. For the newbie, the bright lights of the casino can be daunting enough, but when combined with the speed, language, and rules of many of the games, it can all be a bit much.
Although nothing quite compares to the electricity of the gaming floor, you can at least get to know the rules and some tips on gameplay before you hit Vegas by taking some gambling classes with a tutor, or trying games out online. Whether it’s classic casino games like blackjack, roulette or baccarat, video poker, or something more out of the ordinary like Sic Bo, informative casino websites like BCC sites like have a huge selection of articles to help you prepare, at most of the casinos listed on the site you can sample games for free in practice mode without even opening an account.
If you haven't ever played casino games before, or you just want to sharpen up your wagering strategies, take advantage of the chance to practice before you head to Vegas, so that when you hit the floor for the first time, you’ll know which games you like, have some knowledge of the rules and, hopefully, have developed some strategies for keeping your bankroll intact.
The Taxi Hack
According to a recent audit, taxis in Las Vegas overcharge tourists to around the tune of $15 million every year. There are, however, a couple of simple hacks that you can use so that you don’t add to the total (the same hack should be used whenever you arrive in a city or country that you don’t know and are at the mercy of cab drivers).
Take a few minutes to find the directions to your hotel from the airport on Google Maps, and then print the route and map out so that you have it with you. Show the driver the route you want to go when you set off, and follow it yourself as you go so that the cabbie knows you’re on his case. This is no guarantee of course, and a driver without too many scruples can always invent an excuse to go the long way, but in most cases this should prevent you being ripped off too egregiously.
If you’re going to be in Vegas more than a couple of days, and you want to get out and see the sights beyond the poker room, look into alternative forms of transport – like The Deuce double-decker bus, or the monorail – as cabs can be ruinously expensive and regular rides will quickly chew up your cash.
The Poker Hack
You’ve watched the WSOP on TV, you have a regular game going with the guys at work, and you’ve played a little online, so you’re feeling pretty confident that you could handle yourself in a Vegas poker room. Without wanting to put a dampener on things, you might want to think again before you get too carried away.
Of course, everyone has to start somewhere, and there are plenty of low stakes games around, like $2/$4 limit Hold’em. The buy in will be relatively low, pot sizes are limited and, in all likelihood, you’re not going to be playing against anyone who is significantly better than you are – if they were, they’d be playing for higher stakes.
Small tournaments are also a good way to find your feet and to get used to the experience of Vegas poker. Again, these mean that your potential losses are limited to the buy-in amount (which is usually between $40-$60), and it gives the chance to loosen up in your play a bit as well, because the chips on the table aren’t ‘real’ money.
However, don’t forget that a lot of people in Vegas make their livings playing poker, and you don’t want to be the fish at the table by getting yourself in too deep too quickly. Take your time, build your confidence, and don’t be in a rush to graduate to a bigger game.
The Nightclub Hack
It can sometimes seem you like spend your whole Vegas vacation queuing. Clubs can be the worst places for standing on line, and it doesn’t seem make a difference what day of the week it is. However, there are a couple of hacks you can use to minimise your time just standing around.
Be early is the best tip. As the night goes on the lines get longer, so being amongst the first to show up and you’ll be amongst the first to get in (don’t forget to have your ID with you). Being courteous to the door staff doesn’t do you any harm, either (although the $20 trick probably won’t score you any favours here).
Alternatively, you might want to consider getting the help of a promoter to get you in without waiting, or going down the VIP package route – although these will come with a cost. There are some good apps that you can use that can get you on a guest list too.
The Airport Hack
Arriving at McCarran International Airport doesn’t mean your journey has come to an end, and the queues for a taxi can sometimes be longer than the flight. However, for $20 (Jackson again!) you can get a Skycap to handle your luggage, with the added advantage that they can go right to the front of the taxi queue. If you’re prepared to spend more to get out of waiting on line, then hiring a town car or limo will get you out of the airport and into your hotel a lot faster too. There are bus shuttles too, which are very cheap but, depending on where you’re staying, it can take you a long time to get to your destination as they drop off at all the hotels along the way.
The ATM Hack
Whenever you can, avoid using the ATMs in casinos as most charge a fee of between $4-$7 a transaction. It’s much better idea to use machines in shopping malls or anywhere else that has bank-operated ATMs, as these don’t charge you any fees, although doing this will probably need some planning ahead.
The Free Stuff Hack
Despite all we've said above, not everything costs in Vegas, and there’s plenty of free stuff that you can take advantage of too. Galleries and museums, like The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas and CityCenter campus, generally don’t charge, while there are plenty of landmarks and Instagram moments that don’t cost you a dime to see and have your picture taken next to.
Some of the most popular free sights include the legendary Welcome to Las Vegas sign, the Fountains of Bellagio, the Wildlife Habitat at The Flamingo and the volcano at The Mirage; all famous Vegas landmarks that everyone should take in. So even when you’re watching the pennies, you’re never short on great places to visit and fun stuff to do in Vegas, even away from the gaming floors.