Never been to Las Vegas before? The city sometimes dubbed the “Adult Disneyland” has so much going on, it can seem like an overwhelming prospect. And while there, it’s likely you’re going to want to gamble. But if you’re trying to be a smarter gambler, Las Vegas is one of the easiest places to lose that discipline.
But for those who wish to try to be smarter and more strategic about their gambling spend and time in Vegas much as they would at home, here are a few do’s and don’ts to consider.
DO: See if Your Favorite Local Casinos is Connected to a Las Vegas Property or Properties
If you gamble close to home, you’ve built up some sort of history with your local casino. If your local casino is part of any of the following casino players clubs, they will be connected to properties in Vegas:
- mLife: Borgata, MGM Springfield, MGM National Harbor, MGM Detroit and more are connected to the MGM-owned casinos in Vegas and use the same players club.
- Caesars Rewards: Various Harrah’s, Caesars, Bally’s and Horseshoe casinos, among others, are part of Caesars Rewards (formerly Total Rewards). At the time of writing this there are nine Caesars Rewards-affiliated casinos in Las Vegas.
- mychoice: Hollywood Casinos, Ameristar, and L’Auberge are among the casinos owned by Penn National Gaming, whose mychoice rewards (and formerly Marquee Rewards) are affiliated with Tropicana and M Resort in Las Vegas.
- Golden Nugget: Landry’s Golden Nugget casinos in Atlantic City, Biloxi and Laughlin are among the casinos affiliated with the Golden Nugget in downtown Las Vegas.
- B Connected: Boyd Gaming properties such as Sam’s Town, Par-A-Dice and Blue Chip are linked to their numerous Las Vegas properties such as the Orleans, Sam’s Town and downtown properties Fremont and Main Street Station.
- Wynn Red Card: Encore Boston Harbor, now open in Everett, Mass., is affiliated with the Wynn and Encore properties in Las Vegas.
- Marriott Bonvoy: The left field affiliation is The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas and its connection to Marriott – Bonvoy (formerly Marriott Rewards) points can be earned and redeemed here.
- True Rewards: Arizona Charlie’s, Aquarius and Gold Town casinos are owned by the same company, Golden Entertainment, that owns the Stratosphere.
The reason these affiliations matter is that when you are looking at options for travel to Vegas, you may already have earned your first Vegas comps and not even realized it. Many times these companies will give you teaser offers to check out a sister property for the first time. These cross-marketing opportunities usually come in the form of room discounts or comps, and may include other extras such as freeplay or food and beverage.
DON’T: Pay full price for a Las Vegas room
If none of the first batch of affiliations apply to you, there’s a ton of other ways to save on hotel rooms in Las Vegas.
If your local casino isn’t directly a part of these programs, they may still periodically run a marketing offer that gets you a special deal or offer as part of their partnership with a casino in Las Vegas.
You can also consider simply registering for mLife or Caesars Rewards online – just being a member gives you access to a discount, not unlike a Marriott Bonvoy member having access to special rates just for being in the program.
If you are part of a hotel chain loyalty program and have points that can be redeemed for a hotel stay, there’s likely other options you can leverage as well for a first time visit.
Finally, there’s constantly fare sales going on for various Las Vegas properties, as well as offers on Groupon, etc. Las Vegas is a highly competitive market and as such there’s always promotions and offers that you can take advantage of.
DO: Concentrate some play at a place you like
If it’s your first visit to Vegas, it’s safe to assume you’ll probably come back at some point. So when you do decide to gamble, think about where you’d like to stay next year.
- If it’s a property owned by MGM, make sure you play at their casinos enough that you’ll show up on their radar for a come-back offer.
- Similarly, if you’re interested in the Caesars-owned properties, playing at Caesars Rewards properties like Flamingo, Rio or Cromwell all pool into the offers you’ll get for coming back to their properties.
For either of the above choices, playing at any of their properties should open up offers for just about all of their casinos, but note that to get more than a discount at some of the high-end properties like Aria (for MGM) or Caesars Palace (for Caesars Rewards), you’ll need a lot more play than if you’re aiming for, say, Luxor or Flamingo. If you’re a low roller, be realistic.
The same goes when venturing away from the two big casino owners. Trying to earn comps at Wynn/Encore, The Cosmopolitan or Venetian/Palazzo will be more challenging than Hooters Hotel & Casino. If your casino offers at home are small, taking that same budget to Vegas won’t likely yield different results. But remember the larger chains have more hotels to fill, and a broader array of players they cater to, so you might find as a low roller still getting taken care of at the smaller properties.
DON’T: Spread your play around too thinly
Since your first visit is exciting and there’s so many places to explore, you might find yourself wanting to go to every casino and sign up for every card. From a strategic advantage that could be a mistake. Instead of building up a solid offer in one casino or chain, you’re instead spending your budget across a bunch of properties to get tiny offers.
Casinos generally figure out your offers based on the average daily theoretical calculation (ADT), which calculates your average bet and how long you play to determine mathematically, based on the games you’re playing, what your expected loss would be if mathematically perfect (hence theoretical and not actual). There are days where you can’t catch a bonus to save your life, and there may be days when you get a handpay and come out well ahead. But over time, the math that determines how much the house will make eventually converges on the expected amount, so they’ll accept the ebbs and flows and rate you based on the expected loss.
If you go to five casinos and play with $100, you’ll have offers that factor in how much betting you got off that $100 in each. But if you play in one casino (or group of casinos in the case of mLife and Caesars Rewards) with $500, you’ll get credit for a lot more play. And that extra play will generally lead to much more generous offers, despite you using the exact same budget.
I’ve been to Vegas five times – the first year I signed up for cards with Wynn (where I was at for a work conference), mLife (I stayed at New York-New York for two nights after the conference), and Caesars Rewards (since I knew they had a link to Atlantic City). I went with a pretty small budget. Wynn offered me token room offers, but both mLife and Caesars were offering me a couple of nights free at some of their low- and mid-tier properties by year two.
The second year I got a players card at Treasure Island. The third year, I went downtown for the first time and got cards at a few of their properties. Last year I went to The Cosmopolitan for the first time. As I write this I’m about to return to Vegas, and will likely test a couple of new casinos for return offers I can potentially use for my next trip.
DO: Tier match if you have a higher card
If your local casino is in competition with a casino company that has Las Vegas properties, and you have a tier match opportunity to improve your level ahead of a trip, do so. While much of your benefit from earning a tier will be the actual gambling you did to obtain that tier, in particular being higher level at casino chains like MGM or Caesars may give you a leg up from many other players there, including:
- Cut the line privileges at the hotel front desk, cashiers, players club, buffets, etc.
- Higher discounts at certain shops owned by the casinos
- Higher discounts for hotel rooms, when comps aren’t available
- Increased earning rate of points and comp dollars (mLife increases the earning rate for each tier higher you achieve or match)
- Celebration rewards (Caesars gives a $100 dinner award when reaching Diamond or tier matching to it, for instance)
- Access to special offers such as free nights at Atlantis in the Bahamas and discounted or free cruises
- Access to private lounges (potentially for a small fee) that includes food and beverage access only for those in higher tier levels
- Waiving resort fees (Caesars Rewards perk and a huge benefit)
As you can see that’s still quite a bit of benefit. I find the higher tiers saves you a lot of time avoiding waiting in line, as the bulk of Las Vegas visitors are not the higher tiers. The tier matching from Caesars Diamond to mLife Gold has helped me already earn more perks and cut the line in Vegas on a number of occasions, and I’ll be matching back the other way on my upcoming trip.
DON’T: Play solely for comps
Although all of the above is designed to help you get the most out of your trip, do play within your entertainment budget and don’t chase losses or comps. Comps are always designed to offer you a percentage of what you’re expected to lose, but rarely is a promotion designed to give you too much (but when they do, we’ll talk about it here). Instead, make sure you’re making good decisions to get the most out of not only this trip, but the next one you eventually take.
BONUS: Vegas comps and deals are everywhere
In upcoming posts we’re going to get into this in much more detail, but there’s a lot of ways you can acquire comps or deals before you even get to Vegas:
- Coupon books: Las Vegas Advisor and American Casino Guide are the pair you should get ahold of if you’re willing to go to downtown casinos or drive around a bit – there’s enough offers to get well more than the cost of the book from them between offers for food, gambling, hotel, attraction, etc.
- Gaming apps: MyVegas/MyKonami/Pop Slots, Binion’s, Caesars Casino/Slotomania/House of Fun/etc. All offer links to various rewards opportunities. Buying virtual currency or playing games can earn you access to comps. See our article about it here.
- Discount sites: Vegas.com, Groupon and more have regular discounts and deals on a variety of entertainment, hotels, attractions and more!
What’s your favorite memory of your first trip to Vegas? Share in the comments below!