Vegas or Bust: How to Survive in Sin City

By Fraser Lockerbie

Bottoming out in Sin City can happen fast. Learn a few tricks to keep you ahead of the house.

It’s Thanksgiving and what better time to blow off your family and fly out to Vegas for the long weekend. The Vegas Vacation has pretty much become a rite of passage for any guy over 21 with a few dollars to spare. And while many step down in Sin City with dreams of making it big, more than a few leave with empty bank accounts and maxed-out credit cards. Vegas can be a death trap for anyone with a penchant for gambling, but the smart money is on those who know what their getting into before they’re into it. It’s what’s called a safe bet, and it’s why we’ve assembled some sage advice to beat the house without breaking the bank.

Put the Plastic Away

Most people assume hotel safes are there to protect you from others but in truth there to protect you from yourself. Make a daily budget and put any credit or debit cards safely out of your reach. Do not, under any circumstances, withdraw more money. If you thought the odds of roulette were bad, the odds of you winning back your losses are much worse. If you bust, you’re done for the day.

Get Paid to Play

Walking around with wads of cash sticking out of your pockets is inadvisable in just about any city, but it’s a particularly bad decision in Vegas because sooner or later you’ll be missing out on more than just your life savings. Picking up a Player’s Club Card will go a long way to getting you free stuff; putting money on your card and using it at all the games allows the casino to track your play and reward you for going completely broke.

Hey Hunter Thompson, Put the Drink Down

Remember that bar bet you made with your buddy after knocking back ten tequila shots? You lost right? You know that alcohol impairs your judgement and so does Vegas so the drinks are usually free of charge so long as you order from a server and tip reasonably well. But, odds are if you can’t tell a king from a jack or think you’re holding ten cards in five card stud then you’re not going to win too many bets. Limit yourself to one drink an hour at most and if the roulette wheel is giving you the spins, call it a day and go find the buffet table.

Look Away from the Light

Human psychology is funny in that, despite our inflated sense-of-self, we do not process numbers very effectively. Losing $200 on a bad poker hand will be too much for the average person to handle, but dropping $500 in quarters into the slots will barely process. We know that eventually the thing will pay-out so no one wants to walk away from a machine they’ve been playing all day which is why these things should be avoided altogether. Drop a coin into one or two at random but don’t sit there like 13-year old kid with an Xbox.

Stick with the Crowd

The reason the House always wins is because Vegas is a fast-paced society; they can afford to pay-out because for every winner there are 100 losers. Don’t get caught trying to cover your losses by gambling faster. If you’ve got the choice between sitting at a crowded Blackjack table and an empty one, stick with the crowd; the action will be slower but your odds are better and your losses fewer.

Money in the Bank

So you walk onto the floor with $200, double up playing blackjack and are looking to ride the hot streak. Remember that safe you put all your credit cards in? Go put that $200 you just won in there too. You just covered your daily budget and anything else is gravy.

Don’t Praise the Machine

One of the newest attractions in Vegas are eDecks, portable iPad type devices that allow you to place sports bets from anywhere on the floor. It’s like a mobile bookie that can’t break your legs, but it will clean you out.  If you want to place some sports bets, ante up at the counter and go watch the game; it’ll keep you off the floor for a few hours and if you know your stuff, it could be the biggest payout you’ll see.

Betting the Ponies

In all honesty, what do you know about horse racing? Nothing. But, you are in Vegas and you are gambling and in games of luck and chance, sometimes your gut can be a lot more helpful than your brain. Did you grow up on Woodland Row? Is there a horse running at 8-1 by the same name? Put a bet down on that but don’t try to decipher some kind of system from the numbers unless you know a thing or two about the track.

Wheeling and Dealing

If you know anything about cards, try and stick to the tables over games like roulette. Hitting a number straight up can be a huge payday but most likely you’ll end up chasing it and have to spend the rest of the day watching some washed-up has-been put on a sub-par performance. Blackjack, baccarat and craps will give you the best odds of winning, while double zero roulette and Keno will rob you blind.

This, That and the Other Thing

Vegas will pretty much give you odds on everything, from the over/under on a congressional vote to how many DUIs Charlie Sheen will rack up this year. There are some pretty safe bets to be made but some of the long shots can be major, and a definite change to what you’re used to. If you’re with a girl that knows a thing or two about pop culture, don’t shy away from betting plus or minus two years on the Kardashian/Odom marriage.

Off and Out of the Strip

If this isn’t National Lampoon’s Vegas Vacation and you’re looking to make some serious coin, get off the strip. Casinos off the main drag offer better odds to anyone willing to wander away from the tourist trap. While you’re at it, stay out of the strip clubs; naked in Vegas is no different from naked anywhere else and neither are the prices.


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