Away from the Felt: Living the High Life on a Tight Budget in Sin City


Going to Las Vegas only to play poker is sillier than spending an entire vacation in your hotel room. By all means, grind hard at the poker tables while you’re here. But step away from the felt one or two days to experience everything Sin City has to offer, from snazzy nightclubs and celebrity chef-owned restaurants to sightseeing and people watching.

Growing up in Iowa, we didn’t have much in the way of scenery and our idea of fun was to shoot off fireworks or ride our bikes up to the nearest convenient store. So, even after six years of living in Las Vegas, I still occasionally get awe struck over the bright lights, fancy buildings, and the fact you can get prime rib at 4 in the morning.

What to Do on a Tight Budget?

For most of us, money is a factor in planning any vacation, especially if poker, an expensive game, is going to be part of the trip. But even if your budget is tight, or you’re just a tightwad, you can still live it up in the greatest city in the world. Here’s a list of cheap or free activities in Las Vegas:

  • Sightseeing: It doesn’t cost anything to walk the Strip or Fremont Street. Like I said, I’ve lived in Vegas for six years and I’m still in awe over the bright lights and massive casinos. Start at one end of the Strip and walk to the other. Hotels you can’t miss include Bellagio, Aria, Wynn, Venetian, Caesars Palace, and MGM Grand.
  • Get a Hooker: I’m not one to judge. If you need to rub one off and have a few extra bucks, go have a blast. I can’t promise you won’t get an STD from the cheap ones, however, so don’t hold me accountable when it hurts to pee.
  • Get a Legal Hooker: Contrary to popular belief, it isn’t legal to pay for a blowjob in Las Vegas. Sort of. Not that it stops anyone on vacation here, but you can’t legally call up a woman and say, “I’ll pay you fifty bucks to give me head.” But you can always meet some random hottie at a bar, impress her so much with an expensive meal at Picasso (a French eatery at Bellagio) that makes her beg you to take her back to your hotel, which is basically the same thing as getting a hooker. It’s just legal this way.
  • Video Poker Bars for Free Drinks: A little secret that most don’t realize is you can get free drinks when gambling, even if you are betting small. Most casinos in Vegas have a bar, usually in the middle of the casino floor, with bunch of video poker machines. If you’re playing, you drink free. Put a $20 in a machine, play a quarter, socialize, and drink for free (plus tip). The higher end casinos will force you to bet bigger if you want a free drink at a video poker bar, but you can still place sit over in the penny slots and only bet a few pennies to get a drink.
  • Save Up Comps: When gambling at any casino, always present your player rewards card so that you rack up comps for free drinks and meals. You’d be surprised how quickly these comps add up. If you put in just 20 hours of poker at, say, Aria, that’s $40 ($2 per hour) in comps you can use towards a nice meal. You earn comps even faster playing slots and table games.
  • Leave the Strip: Restaurants and entertainment on the Strip is crazy expensive. But there are some cool and more affordable things to do and eat in Henderson and other areas around the Las Vegas valley. Downtown Summerlin, Green Valley District, and Fremont Street, each have tasty restaurants and fun places to drink, and you’ll pay a fraction of the cost of entertainment on the Strip.

There are some other fun things to do for free, including the Bellagio Fountains show, nightly live music on Fremont Street, and the Mirage Volcano show.