In past years, I’ve always reported about the WSOP after the fact. This year, I’ve decided to write about the preparation and anticipation of going to the WSOP instead.
Make Hotel and Flight Reservations Early
There is no reason to wait to the last minute to make your reservations. The longer you wait, the more likely the prices will go up.
Although the Rio is literally falling apart, it is cheaper than many of the upscale new properties in Vegas, and most importantly, it will save you a ton of time getting to the venue. You can literally go from your room to the poker area in 7 minutes. I’ve timed it. You can also go up to your room during the break and not have to stand in the long lines for the bathrooms. Unfortunately, as of 2 years ago, room service ends at 11am and doesn’t start again until 5pm. Since you need the food already waiting for you for dinner break, you can no longer order food for your break. This is the dumbest change that the Rio has made. But the room does have a small refrigerator so you can keep food there.
This year, some of the smaller events like the “Big 50” start at 10am. I don’t know about other players, but for me, if I can get an extra 30 minutes of sleep, I’ll take it, even though the rooms are disgusting.
If cost is very important, try Airbnb for the lowest rates you will find in Vegas.
As for your flights, if you are coming from Los Angeles or Oakland, I highly recommend JetSuiteX. They no longer fly out of Santa Monica Airport but flying out of Burbank is still better than the traffic and long lines at LAX. In case you’re not familiar with the service, it’s basically a small private jet that costs about the same as the regular airlines. But not only do you avoid the lines, there is literally no TSA, so you don’t have to arrive an hour in advance. Also, they have AC power outlets and WiFi (a little slow) on board.
And finally, the rows are setup as follows: 1 seat, the isle, then 2 seats. So if you are traveling alone, you can sit by yourself with nobody sitting next to you. Same thing if you are traveling as a couple.
With the advent of Uber and Lyft, there is no reason to get a rental car. When you arrive at the JetSuiteX area in Las Vegas, you will have to get an Uber to get to your hotel, so if you don’t use those apps, download them and be ready.
Make a Travel List
There’s nothing worse than forgetting to bring something important on your trip. For the WSOP, there are a few things that I need that I don’t normally need, but here is my list (minus stuff that I need for personal reasons).
- Itinerary (including hotel confirmation numbers)
- Caesars Rewards Loyalty card (aka Total Rewards card, needed to register for the tournaments)
- Other casino reward cards (in case you want to play cash games)
- Phone and charger cables
- Portable phone charger (more on this later)
- Toilet paper (only if you stay at the Rio. It’s that bad)
- Poker sunglasses
- Hand sanitizer (those chips are dirty as hell)
- Cough drops (so you don’t have to leave the table if you start coughing)
- Zzzquil (in case you can’t sleep)
#2 on the list is the Caesars Rewards Loyalty card, which used to be called the Total Rewards card. You must have one, along with your ID, in order to register for any of the tournaments.
If you don’t have an account, you can create one online here:
You might also want to download the Caesars Rewards app by texting “MOBILE” to 227466 to get a link to the correct app store. This will help you book rooms, check your rewards points, and check-in and check-out from your room. Although I have the app, I’ve never really used it for anything but I’m going to try checking in using the app on this trip.
#5 on the list is a portable phone charger so that you don’t have to worry about running out of juice in the middle of the tournament. I’ve had several over the years and recently tried a wireless one which turned out to be a mistake. If you have it on the poker table, sometimes it will shift and not charge. If you put it in your pocket, you simply don’t know if it’s charging. It’s not good.
So I went back to a charger that has physical cables and I needed one with a USB-C because I’m using a Samsung Galaxy S10+ (same with S9+). The one I got was from Amazon called the iWALK portable charger.
This charger has both the iPhone and USB-C physical cables imbedded on the side, and an LCD display that shows how much power is left as a percentage. It’s about the size of an iPhone and attractive looking. Even after storing it in my car for months, the battery did not die like the other ones I’ve had with power leakage.
Pre-Register For The WSOP
You can register for your tournaments after you arrive but you will be waiting in some long lines. To reduce the wait, as of 2016, you can register online via Bravo Poker. To do this, see the instructions here:
That PDF file will show you step-by-step, how to register on Bravo, then to register for the WSOP tournaments.
After you have created your Bravo account, you can do the actual WSOP registrations here:
Registering online does have an extra fee ($3 + 2.95%) so if you want to save money, but don’t mind standing in line, it’s cheaper to register in person.
Be Ready Before You Sit Down
If you’ve never been to the WSOP at Rio, first take a look at where the Rio is located because it’s not in the main part of the strip. To see a map of the Vegas Strip at the Rio, see this page:
Next, click on “Property Map” on that page, you will get a map of the Rio (direct link to PDF below). Specifically, note where #31 (Pavilion), #35 (Amazon) and #42 (Brasilia) are located because these are the rooms that you will be playing in for the tournament.
This is the only tournament I’ve ever entered that takes place in multiple rooms that are massive. When I say massive, I mean larger than any other poker room you have ever been in. In fact, one year, I had to take a bathroom break after being moved to a new table and I forgot to note the new table and could not find it after the break.
Whenever you are moved to a new table, take a picture of the table number (above the table) and also note what room you are in. Sounds silly but it will save you a big headache.
Eating during the tournament can get tricky. Here are some suggestions to ponder.
The WSOP has set-up their own WSOP Café in the Mirada ballroom, very close to the tournament rooms. This area offers small stations with a wide variety of options, and seating to eat. During the normal breaks, this place is packed so either arrive early or go there when it’s not break time. You can also grab items and return to your tournament seat to eat. Personally, I like this option the best.
There are also a bunch of restaurants inside the Rio, including the All-American Bar & Grill, Sports Deli, Pho Da Nang, Smashburger (upstairs), and several upscale and too slow to use places (like VooDoo Steak and AYCE Carnival World Buffet). What used to be the closet sit down restaurant is now Hash House and closes at 1pm during the week so it cannot be used for dinner breaks. Over the years, I have tried all restaurants in the Rio. Some have closed down and new ones have opened. This option is a hit or miss so be careful of your choices.
If you into healthy food, or doing dozens of WSOP tournaments, American Dave has meal plans starting at $300 that will allow you to text them orders which they will bring to your table. Alternatively, you can go to his food truck parked in back where the porta-potties are, and order in person. But if you are not on a meal plan, expect to wait a while for your healthy food.
In my experience, trying to get something to eat outside of the Rio during your dinner break is not a good idea. It’s a mad-house to get an Uber so unless you have your own car, don’t even consider it. Then when you get there, it might be packed and you may not be able to eat and return in time. I do not recommend this option.
If you are staying at the Rio, you used to be able to have in room dining delivered your dinner to your room but now they stop service between 11am and 5pm so this is no longer an option.
However, you can load up on groceries and food at the Smith’s Food and Drug not too far way from the Rio. Before Uber, it was difficult to go there using a taxi and have to call another taxi to return. But with Uber, this is a great option to use. Even if you don’t use it for your dinner break, it’s always a great idea to have food options in your room.
It’s great to be prepared for any tournament, especially the WSOP. There are also great learning tools for tournament play, as well as poker in general. Of course, you want to win and make money. But there are millions of other ways to make money. Poker is a game. That’s what makes it different. You’re in Vegas. Don’t forget to have some fun.