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Don’t Lose Your Shirt in Las Vegas

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Las Vegas Survival Guide

Las Vegas Survival Guide

If you were wondering why I haven't posted very much this week, it's because I spent the weekend in Las Vegas. It was my first trip there in about ten years. It's a little hard to say which changed more, Vegas or me. It's probably pretty close.

We went for a friends' military promotion ceremony, but it certainly didn't hurt that it was Vegas. As usual, we didn't want to break the bank, so we looked for ways to get by on the cheap. Here are just my early impressions on the short amount of time we were there.

Best Las Vegas Hotel Value

I'm going to give this a tie to two hotels, even though we only stayed at one. I did look at the Trip Advisor reviews of the second and it looks like the place we'd choose next time. I'm giving this award with great attention to "cheap" rather typical "value." The reason for that is because in Las Vegas, most people are typically only looking for a place to crash for a few hours anyway.

  • Super 8 - We stayed at the Super 8 a little off the strip. While that may sound like a bad location, when we get to best value casino it earns a lot of points. It was around $42 a night including taxes. This isn't a place to impress the ladies. While there may have been a drug deal going down and some ladies likely "practicing the oldest profession", my theory is that it just adds to the flavor. Little known fact: At over 300 rooms, it's the largest Super 8 in the world.
  • Bill's Gamblin' Hall & Saloon - We stopped here briefly because we had a little time to kill before dinner one night and this was the only place we found with a craps table open. I was also curious of the food specials posted outside (more on that later). It's got a better location than the Super 8 as it's on the strip across from the Bally's. I'm told you can view the famous Bellagio water show from time to time there. It seems like the pricing is competitive with the Super 8, so it's worth considering.

Best Las Vegas Housing Value

It's not a hotel, so I couldn't include it above, but some friends of friends decided to rent a house. We stopped by a couple of times and it was an amazing place. It had to be about 4000 square feet. It had a two pools... one for swimming (with a hot tub) and one better known as billiards. The place was in great condition with exceptional appliances, flooring, counters, etc. It's five bedrooms easily could sleep ten (and you could stretch that if you put people on couches. All this for $269 a night. If you have 4 or 5 couples, you could live in the lap of luxury for around $30 a night per person. You'd even save more on groceries as you have a full kitchen. The downside is that the strip and airport was about a 10 minute car ride away, so some of that savings is going to go to a rental car or cab.

Best Las Vegas Casino Value

The Ellis Island Casino & Brewery wins hands down in this category. While there are other casinos with all the bling, this is my kind of place. This was right next to us at the Super 8 (one of the reasons we stayed at the Super 8.) It has a $5 craps table... I can play twice as long to lose on the increasingly standard $10 minimum craps tables in most casinos. (Yes, I think of it in terms of how much I can play before losing. I think that's fair to set the expectations low when the house has an advantage on you.) That's enough for a good casino, but it's the extra's that make Ellis Island my favorite. Cocktail waitresses come by quite often and when you ask for a beer, they bring 20 ounces from their own brewery. In life you usually get to choose two out of three of the following: free, quality, and quantity. While I'm stretching the "free" here (as I was gambling), you can fork over $1.50 in cash for the same beer if you aren't gambling. Beyond that Ellis Island has Metro Pizza, voted 4 years in a row the best pizza in Vegas (I concur with the decision) and the best food special you'll find (more on that later).

While on the topic of craps, I should mention two things. 1) I'm extremely conservative so the house typically has less than a 3% advantage on me. I left Las Vegas with about $75 in total winnings. Know when to talk walk away, right?

Best Las Vegas Food & Drink Specials

  • Ellis Island Casino & Brewery - The $6.99 steak special is one of the best deals you'll find anywhere. It is a 10 ounce filet cut that would easily sell out at $20 any other restaurant. I've paid more than $30 for a steak that wasn't as good. With potatoes and green beans it is a full meal. It's available 24 hours a day, and it's worth going out of your way for. I've already mentioned the beer special above, so for less than $9 you could really be celebrating in style (if you forget that it is a hole-in-the-wall casino.)
  • Bill's Gamblin' Hall & Saloon - Yep, I'm going back here. They get an honorable mention for a steak (rib-eye) and eggs special for $5.99 available from midnight to 6AM. Sadly due to the timing of that special, we didn't partake. I also noticed that they had $5 pitchers of Miller Lite, which is up there with the Ellis Island beer special.

I think that covers most of the deals that we found in Vegas. As for the rest, it wasn't a deal going to ESPN Zone for the USA-Canada hockey game, but it was fun. It wasn't a deal (and not particularly fun) going to the new hotel Aria for drinks. We were slightly positive at RumJungle in Mandalay Bay (I remember it being a lot better 10 years ago).

I would like to try to spend a week in Vegas spending as little as possible. You could stay at Super 8 for about $300 (weekend is more expensive) and eat for around $150 ($20 a day). Our flight from Northern California was around $100 round trip (Virgin America, which I highly recommend). So two people (sharing a room) could plan a whole week for about $800. If you join all the casino's players clubs and used the free money they give out, you might even break even for the week.

Then again, a week of the Vegas lifestyle may just kill you. The weekend alone was quite a bit for me.

Last updated on August 1, 2011.

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12 Responses to “Don’t Lose Your Shirt in Las Vegas”

  1. Thanks for the post. My wife is heading to vegas next week for a conference. I was like, uh-oh- vegas on a budget? Good luck. Sounds like it is possible!

  2. Dennis says:

    Hi there!
    I’m pretty new to your blog, but am enjoying what I have read so far. This post particularly caught my attention as my wife and I are going to Vegas for a few days in a couple months.

    I got us a room at the MGM Grand for $55 per night, and it came with a few bonuses… A couple free buffets, a couple free drinks, and a couple free club passes. I don’t even know if we will use the club passes, but if my wife has anything to say about it I’m sure we will. I was happy to get the buffet passes; we went to Vegas last year and stayed at MGM and ate their buffet, it was pretty good, so having it free will help with our food budget.

    Anyway, I am interested to know what your craps strategy is, I usually play blackjack, but I am trying to learn craps, care to share?

    Thanks!

    • Lazy Man says:

      Craps “strategy”: If you are new, this might sound like gibberish. I bet on the pass line and then do Come bets until I’m typically on three numbers. It’s considered very unusual. Most people will tell you to take the odds and I can’t mathematically argue against that except that I like to be on spread on a few numbers to increase my chances of hitting one. The reason I use the Come bet instead of the 6 and 8 like most people do, is to hedge against a 7 getting rolled once the point is established. If that happens right away, I often break even and “live another day.” This strategy can keep you playing for a while without having to start with a huge bankroll (necessary for putting odds on a lot of numbers.

      Hope that is useful…

  3. jim says:

    For cheap hotels in Vegas I like the Sahara or Imperial Palace. Rooms run $25 and up. You could book the Imperial Mar 12-19 for about $410. Both are on the strip with monorail access. Nothing fancy but not a crime scene.

  4. Len Penzo says:

    Don’t be so hard on the Super 8!

    Let’s face it: In Las Vegas there are ladies practicing the world’s oldest profession at even the very best hotels – they just wear nicer clothes.

    In fact, I’ll bet they also take credit cards – the ones at the high-end hotels, that is. (Let the record show that this is pure conjecture on my part.)

    I better go now. I was always told that when I found myself in a ditch, to stop digging. ;-)

    Best,

    Len
    Len Penzo dot Com

  5. I saw a documentary called “Vegas Vacation” several years ago. It showed several alternative games to play in Vegas.

  6. Harm says:

    A good source for Vegas info, as well as being
    just a hilarious read, is cheapovegas.com….

  7. kmwvma says:

    Thank you for the post – I’m heading out there next weekend – will check out metro pizza and the other food deals.

  8. Cos says:

    That’s hilarious that you mention Ellis Island, that little dive is one of my favorite places to hit the tables when visiting Vegas (which I do 1 or 2 times a year, mostly for the nightlife .. not a big gambler). My wife was finishing out there and won her last hand, turning $5 into $10. I told her to leave it, she won again up to $20. Leave it! $40. LEAVE IT! $80. Good times … I’d totally recommend this place when seeking something off the Strip.

  9. Jim Juber says:

    I went to Vegas for the first time last year. Funny that you mention Bill’s Gamble Hall and Salon. Bill’s was about 2 blocks from our hotel (Platinum, off the Stip). After a LATE night of clubbing, we actually went there for the steak and eggs. The 5.99 price was great considering that it came with hash browns and toast. Total bill walking out the door was 10 bucks including tip (we did drink water considering we had consumed a ton of liquor.)

  10. kmwvma says:

    If your interested in craps strategy, or anything else to do with odds and gambling, the best web site I know is http://www.wizardofodds.com and its sister site http://www.wizardofvegas.com. Great info.

  11. What a great idea. Renting a house instead of going to a hotel can save a lot of money. Although I’ve haven’t been to Vegas yet, but whenever I do, I’ll definitely what you’ve done.

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