May 13, 2014
A First Timer's Guide to a Free Vegas Vacation
Quit filling out sweepstakes drawings, (you probably won't win), stop sharing your E-Mail address with on-line agencies who will undoubtedly inundate you with Spam and don't worry about filling out the drawing slips in the grocery store (Unless, of course, you're related to one of the managers, then maybe you have a chance).
If you want to take a free trip to Vegas, or anywhere, really (but Vegas is your best shot) the easiest way to do it is simply to go to Vegas!!!
Maybe I'm getting ahead of myself, so let me explain:
Vegas, as most people know, has casinos, lots of them. The existence of so many casinos fosters stiff competition (especially during slow periods) and stiff competition means excellent offers and values, but not just for gamblers, but people who might gamble, as well.
This article is going to do more than explain, step-by-step, how to go about getting a free Vegas Vacation, I also want to get into the heart of my experience, “Casino-hopping,” which is basically jumping from place to place in an effort to use as many offers as practical.
Okay, I suppose this will be as good of a time as any for a few disclaimers:
- The experiences casino-hopping are, in fact, comprised entirely of things that I actually did on my most recent trip to Vegas, HOWEVER, in this article, I am going to advocate for spending as little money on room, food, and drinks as possible, which was not the case on my most recent Vegas trip. I splurged, I took taxis, I gambled, and gambled, and gambled and gambled some more. I recommend none of these things for the purposes of a free trip, but I basically did this for the purpose of writing this article and demonstrating that it could be done.
- This plan is not for everybody. There is a ton of walking involved, so I would suggest that, if you don't have much stamina, to plan accordingly with respect to how much you intend to do in one day. In terms of Free Play & Match Play offers, I did the entire Strip in one day and the area surrounding the Strip. I'm not going to lie, most people couldn't do that in one day, but I've always enjoyed walking and can walk long distances with little difficulty.
Okay, now that we have those disclaimers out of the way, I realize that not everyone reading this article has gambled extensively, so I am going to be using a few terms relatively common to gamblers that not every layman would know. I would like to define these terms at this point:
Expected Value (or EV) & Expected Return -- These two terms mean exactly the same thing, except Expected Value is commonly used when referring to Table Games bets or Sports Bets and Expected Return tends to refer to machine games. This is the theoretical return of a game, i.e. what should happen in the long run.
EXAMPLE: The game of Craps has a House Edge of 1.41% on a Pass Line bet, which means that a player betting $5 and using a $5 Match Play (Total Effective bet of $10) has a .4929 chance of profiting $10 and a .5071 chance of losing $5. The result of this is (10 * .4929) - (5 * .5071) = $2.3935, which means the Expected Profit is $2.3935 for every such Match Play used.
It's important to realize that this does not actually happen on an individual play, on an individual play, you will either lose $5 or win $10.
Advantage Play :- This is a gambling event in which the player has a mathematical edge (read: expected profit) over the casino. Using a Match Play coupon is an advantage play, whether or not you are a professional. In fact, we will only be discussing advantage plays.
Actual Return :- For the purposes of this article, this just means what actually happened on any one individual play or overall in terms of win/loss.
Match Play :- A Match Play is usually in the form of a coupon in which the casino matches (hence the name) the amount that the player bets on a specific result. These usually come in the form of a coupon that the player places under his/her bet.
Free Play :- Free Play is slot play that the casino gives a potential player without him playing. These are usually offers for new Player's Club Members at a given casino, or can come in the form of a coupon.
(Conditional) Free Play :- This is a term I use to describe a Free Play offer in which a player must satisfy a specific requirement in order to get the Free Play. Typically, the requirement is simply gambling a specified amount, or earning a specific number of slot points, which is effectively the same as gambling a specified amount.
CAN WE PLEASE GET TO THE FUN STUFF NOW!?
The first thing that we have to do is prepare for our vacation, which is going to entail getting to Vegas. There's nothing I can do to help you with travel costs, other than to recommend you explore all of your options and go with driving if that is cheapest (and still time-efficient) and flying if that would be cheaper. Coming from Ohio, I obviously had no choice but to fly.
I should also advise that, depending on where you are flying from, you'll almost definitely not make up your vacation in EV if you include flight costs. Further, you should also travel alone if you are flying (if practical) because you will likely not make up the cost of a plane ticket in EV. You may check the EV chart at the bottom of this page and determine whether two people are more profitable than one.
If you are driving, the more the merrier!!! Making up your food costs and room costs should be easy, and the more people you have playing (if you want to do a shared pool) the more likely you are to approach the Expected Value of all of these coupons!
Before you even worry about transportation, though, you have to get some free food, and maybe even free rooms, sorted out. You would start by creating a Facebook account and playing the free game brought to you by MLife called, “MyVegas.” This is a game in which you collect chips and use them to play games which earn Loyalty Points that can be spent on Free Rooms, Free Food, Free Shows, and other things. Before you get too obsessed, keep in mind that you would be limited to three rewards, per person, per month, so just worry about collecting what you need for the three desired rewards. Again, if you have two people doing this and rooming together, optimal use would probably be to get your rooms all comped and pay for food.
Secondly, you should go to the Eastside Cannery website and sign up for WebPass, which is similar to MyVegas, except it takes less time and the rewards are slightly more limited (no free shows.) Fortunately, you can use as many rewards at one time as you like, but remember, they're only good for one week after being printed, so print them off the day before you leave.
Third, you should go to AdvantagePlayer.com and see what New Member promotions are taking place during your trip. I would strongly recommend calling the more distant casinos (cough, thanks LVH, cough) and making sure the promos are still taking place before going all the way there.
Finally, it is absolutely essential that you purchase the American Casino Guide as well as a membership to Las Vegas Advisor. This book usually runs right around $15 and contains many times that in coupons, most importantly those for Match Play and Free Play. The Las Vegas Advisor Membership is $40.50 for the on-line Membership including mailing of the coupon book which will more than pay for itself. In sum, you're going to be out around $55, in total.
Personally, I would have completed my objective for this trip in two days, but if you've never seen Vegas before (you know, if you're in the target market for this article) then I would at least stretch it out to three or four days. It's a fun city, it can be fun just to look around different casinos and hit some of the free attractions even if you're not gambling, riding on the upper level of The Deuce bus is pretty fun, as well, especially if you get close to the front.
Again, I strongly recommend using the MyVegas and staying on the Strip (I prefer Downtown) if you're only going to stay for three days, or will be staying longer, but are sharing a room with someone else. You can get all of your hotel rooms 100% free with enough advance playing on MyVegas.
If you are coming alone and staying for longer than three days, then you'll often find the best hotel deals Downtown. The cheapest deal was a deal for Four Queens by which a person staying would pay for two nights (at $32 + Tax each) and get a third night free. I stayed one night at Four Queens, so I would instead recommend using the Las Vegas Advisor coupon at Golden Gate for $32 weekdays and $42 weekends and just paying for the extra night. I've not stayed at Golden Gate before, but I've stayed at Four Queens, which is enough to know I'd rather stay at Golden Gate!!!
The best deals (regardless of what the third-party websites will claim) will often come as a result of direct booking, so whatever days you are planning, I would visit every individual casino's website to see what kind of rates and/or packages they have available for your desired dates of stay.
Speaking of the best deals, don't stay on the weekends. Everyone goes to Vegas on the weekends which drives up room rates, the laws of Supply & Demand do not suspend themselves for Las Vegas, besides, everything is also busier which means you will have to wait in more lines at buffets and Player's Clubs and such things. During my six-day and five night Vegas stay, I never encountered a line of more than five people anywhere!!!
If you're willing to do a fair share of walking, then you can get everywhere for free, except from the airport to your hotel (depending on where you stay) and from your hotel back to the airport. For this, take The Deuce, which is a city bus, and only costs $2.00 per person, per trip.
Aside from that, the only thing you need to know about is the excellent BConnected shuttle system, which is punctual, free and has attractive shuttle buses. From the Strip, you can take the BConnected Shuttle from Harrah's to Boulder Highway, and you can go Downtown from either or back to Harrah's from Downtown. The Boulder Highway stop is Sam's Town, the Downtown stops are The California and Fremont, the Strip stop is Harrah's, and the stops near the Strip are Orleans and Gold Coast.
I suggest walking from these points to all other casinos, and using the Map on WizardofVegas.com to figure out where you are going. It is simple, accurate, and only includes the relevant streets. It's quite easy to find your way around in Vegas.
I would personally do Downtown one day, The Strip one day, and Boulder Highway and the near-Strip casinos on the third day, but you can plan your destinations however you deem appropriate.
Mission146's Top Ten Free Trip Tips
- Plan Ahead — Just like you would plan for any other vacation, except this is going to take more time because you are trying to maximize value and limit your expenses. Book your rooms, and always be checking for a better deal or package right up until the day you are going to leave. If you can save $1, save $1. For example, a room at $35/night with a $15 food credit is better than a room for $32/night if you are going to eat there.
- Don't Gamble — Again, I gambled while I was there, but my main objective was just to demonstrate that a free trip is possible, not necessarily to actually make my trip free. Unless you are skilled enough to gamble when you are at an advantage only in other ways, most games have a negative expectation, which is going to eat into the positive Expected Value you will derive from following the plan.
- (Free) Play Small — In other words, you want your bets to reflect a fairly small percentage of your Free Play so that you have a greater likelihood of coming close to the Expected Value. It's true that you can win $4,000 if you are playing most $1.00 denomination Video Poker games and make one bet of $5.00, but that probably isn't going to happen. You have a very good chance of losing all of your $5.00 in Free Play that way. At the largest, I would select something at the $0.05 denomination and playing $0.25 per hand, or perhaps a game like Super Times Pay at the $0.05 denomination and playing one hand for $0.30 for a chance at a sizable win. Either way, you're quite unlikely to end up with nothing from the play, the more you play, the more likely you are to approach the mean, which is the Expected Return.
- Eat Well, But Cheap — There are many great restaurants and deals in Vegas that can be had for cheap, for some examples, check the Las Vegas Advisor's Top 10 Vegas Deals page. One such deal I had was the Burger and Beer at El Cortez, for $5.00, you get a half-pound burger with all the fixings, chips and a Tenaya Creek Ale, definitely a sufficient meal. You can also use WebPass for a free buffet at Eastside Cannery, food comp dollars or use your MyVegas points (which I did) for free buffets.
- If you Want to Drink, Get Paid for It — The concept of slow-playing is one in which a person just makes an occasional bet, whether it be at a machine or a table game. This is most effective at a machine. After you load your Free Play, just make a play every once in a while and the cocktail waitress will bring you drinks. She has no way of knowing whether it is your own cash or Free Play, and probably wouldn't care anyway.
- (It Pains me to Say) Don't Tip — I'm an excellent tipper, always have been, always will be. That having been said, you're not really getting much for your tips other than a bigger smile. Technically, if you are trying to spend as little money as possible, the most effective way is to not tip anyone, anywhere. I'd never actually do that, but I suppose there are people who can and not feel too badly about it. If you cannot help yourself from tipping, keep it within reason, a buck to a cocktail waitress every second round, while still not standard, at least shows you appreciate her.
- Bring Your Tennis Shoes — Vegas is a very walkable town, but you want to stay near the casinos Downtown and on the main drag of the Strip at night. In my opinion, anywhere near any of the casinos surrounding the Strip should be fine during the day. However, I would not walk down Boulder Highway again, just stay within the confines of Sam's Club, Eastside Cannery and Longhorn Casino if you are there.
- Don't Buy The Water — The conveniently placed person selling water out of a cooler on a warm day on the Strip seems too good to be true, especially since she only wants a $1.00 for it, which would be reasonable anywhere...this is because she is too good to be true. If you pull out your wallet to hand her a dollar, you're going to have beggars, people that claimed to be in movies and want to sell you, “A collection of their works,” people claiming just to need bus fare and people wanting to sell you any other manner of things on you like a pack of wolves on a three-legged deer. It's not worth it, get water from a proper store and carry it with you. These people will even follow you for a few steps and talk your ear off about how you desperately need one of their $5 glow necklaces.
- Find Free Entertainment — Many casinos offer quality musical entertainment for free in their lounges or on the main casino floor. Many of these performers are extremely good. This is another reason I recommend staying Downtown, there is what amounts to a free concert on both ends of the Fremont Street Experience every single night, and many of these bands are nothing short of outstanding!
- Relax! — Don't forget you're on vacation! Feel free to splurge on something that you think will be fun if you are running well, and if you do end up spending a few bucks overall, who cares? This is still going to be (probably) the cheapest vacation you'll ever take, and there's something for everybody in Vegas! Don't go if you're not planning on having a great time!
Chart of Mission146's Locations, Expected Values and Actual Returns
DISCLAIMER: I'm not including everywhere I went because I ultimately consider a few of the locations unessential or inadvisable for reasons of safety, walking distance, or both.
Golden Nugget has an ACG coupon by which a player receives $60 in Poker Chips for buying in for $50. Whether or not this is an advantage play depends on whether or not you know anything at all about how to play poker, you're expected to play for about an hour, so the blinds could very well eat that bonus $10, as well.
A few different casinos have New Member loss rebate offers in which a player can lose up to a certain amount of money and reclaim it in designated periods or on designated dates. I'll leave it for individual players to research that and make the decision as to whether or not they want the risk. I will say, there is better EV in a loss rebate than any single coupon listed in the chart below, when played correctly, but entire volumes could be written on the best ways to do that.
Finally, The D has an ACG coupon for a Match Play for New Members up to $25, for free trip purposes, that may be too much risk for some. It's a great value and I would have done it if not already a Player's Club Member, but that is optional. Similarly, Golden Gate has a 2:1 Blackjack Payoff coupon for New Members up to a $25 bet, but one might avoid this for the same reasons, only there's even more risk than with a one-time Match Play.
- S=The Strip
- BH=Boulder Highway
- LVA=Las Vegas Advisor Coupon
- ACG=American Casino Guide Coupon
|Mission146's Locations, Expected Values and Actual Returns|
|Location||Offer Type||Expected Value||Actual Return|
|The D-DT||Internal-Free Play||~$3||$5.00|
|Downtown Grand||Free Play-Internal||~$5||$4.50|
|El Cortez-DT||ACG-Free Play||~$10||$7.50|
|El Cortez-DT||LVA-Free Play||~$10||$10.00|
|Four Queens-DT||LVA-Free Play||~$10||$12.50|
|Four Queens-DT||Free Play-Internal||~$10||$10.00|
|Golden Nugget-DT||ACG-Free Play||~$10||$8.00|
|Las Vegas Club-DT||LVA-Free Play||~$5||$5.00|
|Las Vegas Club-DT||ACG-Free Play||~$5||$6.00|
|Las Vegas Club||ACG-Match Play||~$2.39||-$5.00|
|Las Vegas Club||LVA-Match Play||~$2.39||$10.00|
|The Plaza-DT||ACG-Free Play||~$5||$4.25|
|The Plaza-DT||LVA Free Play||~$5||$6.00|
|The Plaza-DT||LVA Match Play||~$4.78||-$10.00|
|Eastside Cannery-BH||Internal-Free Play||~$10||$50.00|
|Eastside Cannery||Internal-Free Play||~$10||$8.00|
|Eastside Cannery||Internal-Match Play||~$2.50||$15.00|
|Longhorn Casino-BH||ACG-Match Play||~$2.50||-$10 (Double-Down)|
|Sam's Town-BH||LVA-Slot Match||~$9.80||$4.25|
|Ellis Island-NS||Internal Free Play||~$10||$7.50|
|Ellis Island-NS||LVA Free Play||~$10||$15.00|
|Ellis Island-NS||ACG-Free Play||~$10||$15.00|
|Ellis Island-NS||ACG-Match Play||~$2.39||-$5.00|
|Hooters-NS||Internal Match Play||~$2.39||-$5.00|
|Gold Coast-NS||ACG Free Play||~$5||$5.00|
|Gold Coast-NS||ACG Match Play||~$2.39||$10.00|
|Gold Coast-NS||LVA Slot Match||~$10||$10.00|
|Orleans-NS||ACG Match Play||~$4.78||-$10.00|
|Orleans-NS||ACG Slot Match||~$10||$2.50|
|Orleans-NS||LVA Match Play||~$2.39||-$5.00|
|Orleans-NS||LVA Slot Match||~$10||$11.00|
|Palms-NS||ACG Match Play||~$4.78||$20.00|
|Riviera-S||LVA Match Play||~$4.78||$20.00|
|Wynn-S||Internal Free Play||~$10||$14.00|
|OTHER COUPONS & DEALS USED|
|WebPass||Two Free Drinks||Eastside Cannery|
|WebPass||One Free Drink||Eastside Cannery|
|WebPass||Free Buffet||Eastside Cannery|
|WebPass||$10 Off Food||Eastside Cannery|
|MyVegas||Free Buffet||Monte Carlo|
|MyVegas||Free Buffet||Mandalay Bay|
|LVA||Three Free Drinks||Ellis Island|
|Would This Have Been a Success?|
|Coupon Winnings||Coupon Winnings||$296.50|
|American Casino Guide||$15.00||$279.50|
|Las Vegas Advisor||$40.00||$239.50|
|Hotel (Golden Gate)*||$140.00||$99.50|
|Food (El Cortez)||$5.00||$94.50|
|Bottled Water (ALL)||$5.00||$89.50|
|Food (The D Grill)||$13.00||$64.50|
*I did not actually stay at Golden Gate, mainly because I was also doing hotel reviews for The Wizard of Vegas website in Vegas on this trip AND I had hotel deals at The D which cannot be included as they are not available to everyone (Mailer).
As you can see, if we include only necessary expenses (with exception to travel) I would have personally finished $62.50 ahead for the trip and the Expected Value finishes +$36 for the entire trip. Again, I was travelling alone, but if you could get multiple people who are close enough to drive to Vegas, use the coupon books, and get the free hotel rooms via MyVegas, then it's very easy to imagine a trip with an overall net profit!
With careful planning and limited travel expenses, forget about a free trip, you can actually make money taking a Vegas Vacation!