BY RUSS SCOTT
RELEASE: TUESDAY, MARCH 9, 2010
Recession in Vegas Has a Silver Lining for Poker-Playing Tourists
If you haven’t been to Las Vegas for a while, or ever, now might be a good time to go. You can thank the recession.
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority recently reported a 3.4 percent drop in all visitors through November 2009 versus the first 11 months of 2008, and a decline in gaming revenues over that period from $9 billion to $8 billion in Clark County.
Yet there are plenty of reasons why the Vegas downturn is good news for poker players and vacationers in general.
During a visit just before Super Bowl weekend, I was surprised by the city’s transformation from huge crowds and crazy bustle everywhere into something less frantic.
The first sign things were different came at McCarran International Airport. My poker buddy Scott and I stepped outside and found virtually nobody waiting in line for a taxi. Where was everybody?
Our cabbie confirmed that his business was off and the town was hurting. Mid-afternoon traffic, chaotic in years past, was relatively light for our short ride to the Orleans Hotel a mile or two west of the Las Vegas Strip.
On previous Vegas trips, standing in long lines for a cab, a restaurant table, or a poker game was commonplace.
This time, the large Orleans poker room was active, but certainly not jammed like I’ve seen it before. The longest I waited to play limit hold’em was less than 10 minutes, and twice there was a seat open when I was ready to play.
The same scene played out when we transferred to the Bellagio a few days later – fast check-in, short lines for coffee (perhaps because a cup of regular was $3.95!), and just a smattering of poker tables in action.
We stayed at two hotels because we had comps from both for free rooms – another sign that Vegas is scratching for tourists. Even with taxes, phone charges and other built-in fees, a week’s stay in Vegas cost less than $50 each.
The Bellagio VIP package included two-for-one tickets to see “Love,” the amazing and popular Cirque du Soliel show at the Mirage featuring eye-popping presentations set to glorious Beatles music.
Even there, the recession’s effects were obvious. Our perfect third-row seats in Section 101 were up close to the stage and we practically had the entire 50-seat section to ourselves. We saw many open seats around the theater.
I did have to stand in a crowded line in the lobby for our diet sodas at $7 each – but hey, at least they came in souvenir plastic cups.
The city’s comparatively subdued pace was evident on the golf course, too. Good friends Jim and Charles, both of whom live in Vegas, joined me for a leisurely round at Primm Valley, a fine Tom Fazio layout about 40 minutes from the Strip. We barely were aware of other players around us.
The greens fee for residents was a mere $25, which included an electric cart equipped with hole-by-hole GPS. I paid more as a non-resident, but it still was a good deal – except for the $50 fee for a rather beat-up set of rental clubs.
There always have been bargains in Vegas, but even in hard times you still have to look for them.
For example, before the trip a friend gave me $20 to bet on his beloved Chicago Cubs to win the World Series this year. (Hope springs eternal for Cubs fans, you know.)
A Bellagio sportsbook teller said they were offering only 6-1 odds on the Cubs because a lot of Chicago-area high-rollers frequent the upscale hotel and bet huge amounts on the team each year, driving down the odds. So, I walked a mile or so to the equally fancy Venetian and placed the bet at 16-1.
Poker players can find similar good deals, such as the lucrative bad-beat jackpots at the Orleans and the very playable deep-stack tournaments at the Venetian.
If you decide to visit Vegas, don’t worry about diminished action in the card rooms because of the poor economy. Chances are the larger rooms will be spreading the game you want — and you won’t have to wait forever to get a seat!
E-mail your poker questions and comments to email@example.com for use in future columns. To find out more about Russ Scott and read previous LuckyDog Poker columns, visit www.creators.com or www.luckydogpoker.com.
COPYRIGHT 2010 RUSS SCOTT
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