The World Series of Poker begins a week from today, as pros and amateurs alike converge on Las Vegas for what is by far the world's biggest poker tournament series.
I also leave a week from today, though I won't arrive in Vegas until next weekend. We're loading up the van and driving cross-country, seeing the sights along Interstate 40 as we slowly make our way to Vegas.
If you're a fan of the game of poker, I hope you'll be able to come as well. Never been? No time like the present to dip your toes in. But first, here's some friendly advice:
Make a plan of attack before you go. Before flying into McCarran Airport, learn all you can about the WSOP and other poker options in Las Vegas. Which WSOP events would you like to play? Can you afford them? Should you try to satellite your way in? How about the cash games? Consider dedicating some of your time to playing in some of the other tournament series taking place concurrently with the WSOP with lower buy-ins. I like to look at all of the tournament schedules and see which events work best for me on each day and make my own tentative playing schedule during my trip. My plans always change somewhat, but it gives me a good roadmap from which to start.
Pace yourself and your bankroll. First, make a budget and stick to it. If you have $5,000 to take to Vegas to play at the WSOP for two weeks don't blow through it and take out another $5,000 at the ATMs. Pace yourself and keep the game fun. If you hop off the plane, throw your bags on the hotel bed and head to the nearest $2-$5 NLHE table enjoy yourself, but if you lose $500 right off the bat go take a break. Don't lose a big chunk of your bankroll the first couple of days after you arrive or you may end up going broke during the middle of your trip if your luck doesn't turn. It might seem trite, but I've heard of, and tried in the past, an envelope system during short trips to Vegas. Take two envelopes for each day of the week of your stay. Mark two envelopes for each day (two with "Monday," two with "Tuesday," etc.), place money in one and seal it and leave the other one unsealed. Only open the envelope that represents the correct day of the week and place any money left over at the end of the day in the other envelope for that corresponding day. If you have the discipline to stick to this you can sometimes guarantee yourself a profit by the time the end of your trip draws near, as I did my first time in Vegas.
Avoid the dark side. By that I primarily mean the pit games. Many a poker player has lost a good portion of his or her bankroll at blackjack, craps, pai gow, etc. By all means enjoy yourself with a little table game or slot action, but don't blow a healthy percentage of your bankroll on the games where you are bucking impossible-to-beat house odds.
Don't get star struck. You'll see many of the poker stars that are regularly on TV and if you enter some bracelet events you may be pitted against some of them. Always remember, though, that you're still sitting at a standard-sized poker table and playing with the same standard 52-card deck. It's like the scene in "Hoosiers" when Coach Norman Dale has his players measure the height of the hoop in Indianapolis - still the standard 10 feet. The competition may seem greater, but the game is still the same.
Enjoy the city. Especially if this is your first trip to Vegas, please don't spend all your time at the poker tables. There is so much to see and do here that you should definitely soak it in rather than play cards all day and night. See a show, walk through some casinos and explore the desert.