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Seven Ways to do Vegas Without Breaking the Bank

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by Katie Thompson (subscribe)
University of York Graduate, aspiring to be a journalist with dreams of one day publishing my own novel. Blog: Published work can be seen at and
Published August 21st 2012
You don't have to be James Bond to do Vegas

The City of Sin can be very alluring to the untrained eye with all its glamor and sparkle. Whether you're there for pleasure or have been reluctantly dragged along on a debauched stag weekend, there are ways to indulge your temptations without entering the ninth circle of gambling debts.

1) Bet small
It may sound obvious, but don't be tempted to saunter in to the $25 minimum bet gambling tables. Generally speaking, if you want to play on the tables, roulette tables have cheaper minimum starting bets, with $10 typically being the lowest. The dealer is considerably more favored in roulette however- if you want a statistically higher chance of winning, play blackjack (though nothing is guaranteed!)

2) Work the machines
Throwing dollar after dollar away in a slot machine may sound tedious, but it's a budget-friendly way of passing the time and can be rewarding when the machines are feeling like paying up. My personal favorites are the poker machines. I found them most likely to pay out, often earning $3 or $4 in return for a $1 bet. It may seem small, but when you think of it in %, it's a great investment.

3) Budget with tickets
When you win on a machine, you can opt to 'cash out'. The machine will then print you a ticket to the value of your winnings. I found this particularly useful when playing poker, for example I would bet a dollar, win a three dollar voucher, print it off, and bet another dollar. If I lose the next dollar, I've still made a profit of $1, if I win, I have two winning tickets! You can also feed your ticket back into the machine to play with it, but it's easier to keep on top of your spending if you hold onto your winning tickets, which can then be exchanged at any change machine for real moola.

4) Watch out for weekends
If you can, try to get the time off to go to Vegas during the week. Casinos will typically have higher starting bets on tables and higher drink prices at the weekends, so make the most of the quieter periods. This also applies if you fancy gambling at some ungodly hours. Tables have been known to reduce their minimum bets at certain times, if you're willing to play at 5am.

5) Make the most of memberships
You can earn all sorts of discounts relative to your gambling spending if you sign up to membership schemes. For example, at the MGM Grand, you can sign up to the MGM Life scheme for free, for which you are presented with a membership card that you can insert into any machine while playing. The more you spend, the more you earn so these points can be converted into discounts off food, drinks and shows for example. Even better, when you check out you can present them with this card and claim the monetary value of your points off your final hotel bill.

6) Drink for a dollar
It's quite simple; the casino owners are keen for you to bet, and if they have to liquor you up in the process in order to do this, then so be it. Play small on the slot machines and a waitress should approach you. You can order whatever drink you like, and she'll come back with it sans bill. Just make sure you tip her $1 and she'll make sure you never go thirsty throughout the evening. Not bad considering a cocktail at the bar could set you back a cool $10.

7) Eat salad
Eating in Vegas is often the most costly of all pleasures. It may sound boring, but I would strongly advise opting for salads at restaurants when you can. They're normally in the region of $10 - $15, and because this is America, they're certainly not small! Cobb salad for example comes practically by the bucketful and you can fill up on its bacony goodness. There's the health benefit too, which is always a plus. For other cheap culinary delights try chain restaurants instead of dining in hotels. Denny's, for example, will only set you back a modest $6 for a hamburger and fries (and it's certainly worth the long queues!)

These tips may be helpful for those on a budget but the one mantra I can't stress enough is know your limits. It's good to think of gambling as only spending what you can afford to lose. If the odds to turn out to be in your favor, that's just a bonus. Happy gambling!
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Why? To have the Vegas experience without getting into debt!
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