Paul and I were very fortunate this year to have the chance to spend a month in Las Vegas while the WSOP was in full swing. We arrived on October 1st and played The Reunion the very next day. Paul played the WSOP Senior Tournament on the 27th, and we were back on the road a few days later. In that month, we played no fewer than fifteen tournaments, some at the Rio and many elsewhere in town. We went on hikes in Red Rocks, visited museums and attractions, and ate some wonderful food. Will we visit Las Vegas again? Definitely. But will we do it during the WSOP? Not so sure.
This is the big one, right? You can go to Las Vegas any time of year. And while the weather was pure perfection in October, the WSOP has already announced that the tournament series is returning to June/July next year, an absolutely abysmal time to exist in Vegas. To make things worse, the WSOP is moving from the Rio to Paris/Bally’s right in the heart of the overwhelming Las Vegas Strip. So is it really worth it to spend your time in Las Vegas during the WSOP? Or should you pick a more sedate time of year?
If you have never attended the World Series of Poker, we would say, yes. Go while it’s in full swing. There is nothing else like it. The excitement of seeing your favorite poker celebrities walking down the hall, the rush of entering a tournament with seven thousand other souls, the dream of playing it out to bring home a bracelet; these things just cannot be beaten. Additionally, there are big series all over town that coordinate with the timing of the WSOP. The Orleans, the Wynn, the Golden Nugget, and the Aria are just a few of the venues that offer bigger stakes tournaments during the running of the WSOP. If you’ve never been and you have the money for big buy-ins, definitely consider Vegas in June.
On the other hand, if you have had the WSOP experience, perhaps there are better times to visit Las Vegas. WSOP tournaments are generally expensive, huge, and with a very shallow payout structure. Paul and I played one bracelet event with 6,600 runners. He made it to about 310 (around 1:30 in the morning) and he barely made both of our money back. The lines to register for tournaments can be hours long, as can the lines to cash out. Moving in the halls feels like a lemming migration, and good luck if you actually have to pee on break. Additionally, many daily tournaments around the city are on pause while the aforementioned series (with larger buy-ins) are running. Everyone should experience the WSOP at least once, but unless you are a pro or have a huge bankroll, there may be better times to play poker in Las Vegas.
Experiencing Las Vegas
Once you step out of the poker room, Las Vegas has so much to offer. The city has great attractions, hundreds of shows, thousands of restaurants, and physical beauty all around. We could visit Las Vegas ten times and still not see and experience everything that we would like to (this was number six, and we still have a pretty long list). But the WSOP (especially in the hot, hot summer) is not the best time to do so. So many people are in town, that it is hard to get reservations, some experiences are more expensive, and lines are long to do much of anything. Additionally, in the summer months, the city can reach 110 degrees. Not the ideal time for a long hike at Red Rocks or a visit to the Grand Canyon.
Las Vegas is never a cheap city. But during the WSOP, prices can really ramp up. For every ridiculously cheap room on offer at the Rio (trust us, just don’t), there is an Air BnB going for twice its regular rate. Unless you pounce early, the cheap flights go fast. And car rentals can become extortionate. Visiting Las Vegas at a slower time of year (say early spring before the craziness of March Madness) will offer the same experience for a fraction of the money.
Visit the WSOP at least once in your life. Take the big swing. Play some Daily Deepstacks, take a shot at a bracelet event, and just soak up the madness of it all. Then go back to Las Vegas and experience the city at a slower pace. Eat at Tacotarian, visit the Neon Museum (preferably at dusk), see some Cirque de Soleil, and take a hike.
You’ll thank us for it.