How To Do Las Vegas Without Being A Sucker

How To Do Las Vegas Without Being A Sucker

On your first, second, and even third trip to Vegas, you’re still just a wide-eyed “fish” with a pocket full of “greenys”. You land at McCarron Airport so eager for a YOLO weekend of Jager shots at a topless pool, you don’t even care that you’re basically what P.T. Barnum would call The Mark. You’re a sucker. A newbie. A “grinder”. But then, a few bachelor parties later, you start to learn your way around the city. Before you know it, you’re asking yourself, “Wait, why is the cab driver getting on the freeway?”

Don’t let the cab driver get on the freeway. It’s a classic cabbie fair hike technique. Every city’s taxi drivers do it. It’s a longer route, it’s more expensive. Stay off the freeway. But why are you taking a cab anyway? The airport shuttles like ASC, Bell Trans, Showtime, and SuperShuttle are fairly quick and convenient. They cost about $7 to a hotel on the strip and around $9 to downtown. But be prepared for the cultural enlightenment that comes with sharing a van with eight strangers from Maui, Wisconsin, and Tokyo.

As for getting around after you’ve checked into your hotel, there’s no shame in taking the Deuce. Every carpet joint George still takes the Deuce. It’s a great option if you don’t mind spending an hour getting from the Golden Nugget to Mandalay Bay. If you’re doing a lot of hotel-hopping, the $20 three-day pass is a bargain. But let’s say you want to see Hoover Dam. Be sure to check multiple websites for rental car rates because they vary greatly. Once you’ve located a decent daily rate, prepare yourself for a shock when you realize the taxes and fees associated with renting a car in Vegas are almost literally an arm and a leg.

Hang Your Hat
Any modern traveler knows you can drive yourself into lunacy juggling hotel rates on Travelocity, Expedia, Orbitz, Kayak, and a hotel’s own official site. Save yourself the stress. offers the lowest price and a price match guarantee. If you find a better price elsewhere for the same hotel, same dates of stay, and same room category on a publicly available website in the U.S., you can call 1- 877-861-4402 within 24 hours of making your booking and they’ll give you double the difference. (But don’t book your airfare on The site only partners with certain airlines so you’ll likely get the cheapest airfare by sticking with Southwest or your preferred carrier).

Vegas regulars tend to stick to a favorite hotel. Until you find yours, Circus Circus and El Cortez are often the cheapest. But keep in mind that Vegas is the Barefoot Contessa of hosting national conventions. In other words, if the Star Wars Convention, Consumer Electronics Show, Adult Movie Awards, Electric Daisy Carnival, Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekend, or any other obscure niche is holding their annual gathering of knuckleheads, steer clear of Vegas that weekend because all hotel rates will be hiked.

After finding a rate, keep in mind that many properties now charge an annoying “Resort Fee” that is not usually mentioned when the room rate is listed. It can often be over $20 per day. Call the hotel to inquire about the fee and when it’ll be applied. After paying a resort fee, I no longer feel guilty about holding onto a plastic key card after checkout in order to weasel into that hotel’s pool on a later trip. Another sneaky new fee to look out for is the skyrocketing cost of wifi, which can range from $10-$20 per day at most hotels. If your mobile plan doesn’t include your own hotspot, you can find sites that list free wifi around Vegas.

Know When to Hold ‘Em
When it comes to gambling, don’t make the rookie mistake of bypassing the signup for a player’s card because you don’t want to give out your precious email address. Let us learn from our elders. My mother doesn’t know how to operate her smartphone but dammit, she knows how to gamble. And she signs up for EVERY player’s card. They’re free to join and player’s cards equal comps. If you’re pumping your hard-earned dough into a frigid prude of a “Deuces Wild” machine, you might as well earn a comped dinner or a room or free play cash out of it.

Everything from buffets to tacky gifts are usually cheaper if you are a member of that property’s Player’s Club. And you get freebies like t-shirts and decks of cards just for signing up. If you’re reading an article on money-saving tips in Vegas, you’re probably well aware that slot machines have the worst odds and are therefore, the fastest pocket vacuum. Even penny and nickel slots aren’t worth a dime unless you just want someplace to park in order to score a few free, weak cocktails from the waitress, in which case, stay put for at least an hour. Then grab a $1 beer at O’Shea’s.

If you’re ready to ease into table play, there are plenty of helpful online resources to get you up to speed. Those who prefer tables to machines also know that Fremont Street is your best bet when getting accustomed to the rules of craps. Minimum table bets are as low as $3 at the casinos on Fremont Street. As for video poker, it’s important to read the payouts. A full-pay machine for Jacks or Better that pays 9 to 1 for a full house are rare but there are websites that help you locate these unicorns of machines.

Frequent Vegas travelers ultimately accumulate their own tips and tricks so until you’ve compiled your own, a quick way to make cash is to establish a rule with your travelling companions that they have to toss a dollar into the swear jar every time anyone utters the annoying cliche, “What happens in Vegas…!”


Tamra is a writer/comedian and the only person in L.A. who uses public transportation. She likes dive bars, mid-century Americana, and classic cars. She talks about them on her kitschy travel podcast called Down & Dirty Travel.

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