Playing Like Tourists, Living Like Locals

Yesterday, I was talking on the phone with an old friend from Atlanta who I haven't spoken to in a number of years. As we were catching up, he mentioned that he didn't know that I had moved to Las Vegas and wanted to know how we were liking it here. What can I say, I waxed a bit enthusiastic.

Most of our friends and family know that we're absolutely loving just about everything here in the Desert Southwest. Except for the desert. Oh, and except for the summer heat. But really, those are small prices to pay for the really great experiences we've had since moving here.

Anyone following us on Facebook knows that we're really taking advantage of our time here in Las Vegas. There's so much to see and do, and our last five years has shown us that we never actually know how long we'll be in any given location! As a result, we're playing like tourists here. We're seeing lots of shows, eating at a lot of the celebrity chef restaurants, and generally having a heck of a time here. Many locals stear clear of The Strip; we try to get down there as often as possible. Now that the weather is nicer, we'll be spending at least one day per week exploring one of the big luxury resorts on Las Vegas Blvd. There's so much free stuff to see and do that we estimate it would take about four years to exhaust all the possibilities.

As for living like locals, many of the restaurants, shows and other attractions in the area have some sort of locals discount. Many of the shows offer two-for-one tickets to locals, and we've been to a restaurant that gave us 20% off the bill for showing a Nevada driver's license! We've also signed up for a number of programs that offer or advise us of free tickets or other discounts. Here's a quick rundown of the things we do.

House Seats

I cannot say enough about this service. House seats is a subscription-based ticket clearing house. Anyone who's been to any kind of live show knows that the performance is generally better if there is a larger crowd. Producers of shows want "butts in the seats" not only to generate the awesome energy of a larger crowd, but to enhance the word-of-mouth advertising. Word-of-mouth is actually the best advertising any show can get in a town like this. So, as these producers get closer to a given show, they'll recognize that they may have some number of unsold tickets. In order to get the maximum number of people into the show, they make those extra unsold tickets available to companies like House Seats. Here in Las Vegas, House Seats offers two subscription models. For $89, you get a one year, two-ticket membership. This allows you to get up to two tickets for any show available on their website for one year. For $169, you can get a four-ticket membership. Since we have lots of friends and family visit us, we chose the four-ticket membership. Here's a quick list of the shows we've seen since we got our membership last July:

· Kevin Burke-Fitz of Laughter

· Defending the Caveman

· Barry Manilow (4 tickets that would have otherwise cost a total of $1000)

· Marriage Can Be Murder

· Country Superstars Tribute

· Gordie Brown

· Body & Soul Starring Rick Faugno

· The Magic & Tigers of Rick Thomas

· Jubilee!

· The Lord of the Rings in Concert

· The Osmonds at the Orleans (the brothers...not Donny and Marie)

· Greg London: Impressions that Rock!

· Riviera Comedy Club

· Jabbawockeez

· Blue Man Group

· Recycled Percussion-Americas Got Talent Finalists

· The Price is Right Live!

· Mike Hammers Comedy Magic Show

· Jonathan Clark (go see him if you're in Vegas...he's awesome!)

· America's Soul Music

Adding up all the tickets that we would have purchased, even a locals prices, these tickets come up to nearly $3000; we paid $169, and the year isn't up yet! A good number of those shows were for four tickets because we took friends or family who were visiting. All in all, I'd say it's money darn well spent!

Valet Parking

Unlike most locals, we go to The Strip quite often. With very few exceptions, I'll use the valet service offered at most places. It's free, it allows you to get to where you want to be much faster, and it takes a LOT of frustration out of life! The general accepted tip is at least $2.00 to the attendant who returns your car. I tend to tip a bit better because those folks run their butts off. Plus, $2.00 or $3.00 up front tends to give them incentive to park your car a bit closer so you get it quicker on the return. If you think about it, $5.00 is a cheap price to pay for this convenience, especially since I've paid upwards of $20.00 to park my car MYSELF for one evening out in Seattle!

Player's Cards

Every resort or casino we visit, we sign up for their players card. In addition to gaining points towards potential comps, most of the properties offer various discounts on buffets and other things with a players card and a local driver's licence. Once you're on their mailing lists, most of the properties will send out occasional mailing with special offers. For instance, we each generally get a two-for-one buffet coupon from our preferred casino every month. That's twice per month we can both eat quite well for under $20. Not a bad deal at all.

I've collected about 18 player's cards; it's too many to keep in my wallet, so I have a special "Vegas" wallet for my out-and-about evenings. This wallet contains all of my player's cards, and I keep a supply of $1.00 bills in there for the valet parking I mentioned a little while ago. August has her own wallet and supply of $1.00 bills, that she uses to tip ushers at general admission shows. A buck or two per ticket goes a long way to a great seat!


This advice actually works for any city. Sign up for Groupon and check out Restaurant.com in your local area. While there are often deals on Groupon that having nothing to do with dining or entertainment, we've actually discovered some new favorite restaurants there. Restaurant.com is a deal that has to be seen to be believed. The normal "rate" for a Restaurant.com dining certificate is $10 for a $25 coupon. That in itself is a really good value, but August waits until they have an 80% off sale. That way, she'll pick up a $25 dining certificate for TWO BUCKS! Yes, you read that right. We current have a $100 certificate for the Top of the World Restaurant that August paid $8.00 for.

As I'll mention in a few moments, we also get coupons mailed to us from the various resorts we visit. August has a really nifty plastic zipper envelope that we keep in my car. It has all of the various coupons, dining certificates, etc that we've accumulated. We leave it in the car in case we're out and about and have a sudden hankering to get something to eat. A quick glance through that envelope gives us ideas on where to go and discounts just waiting for us to get there! This, by the way, is another really great tip no matter where you live. Keep those coupons in the car you normally drive. That way, they're available on the spur of the moment.

Pick a Favorite Casino

You may not be into gambling at all; that's just fine. There's plenty to do here in Las Vegas that has nothing to do with slot machines or card tables! However, if you decide that you want to play some video poker or try your hand at some two-deck Blackjack, my advice is to find a favorite casino and stick with it. At the very least, stick with the same casino group. For instance, our favorite (and closest) casino is Green Valley Ranch. GVR is about 10 minutes away by the back roads, and is a beautiful property in the Station Casinos group. Although we spend much of our entertainment budget at GVR, if we feel like going elsewhere, we'll usually stick with another Station Casino. They have 18 of them, so there's never a problem with variety!

Some of the casino groups are as follows:

  • MGM Resorts: MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay, Luxor, Excalibur, Bellagio, Mirage, Vdara, Aria, Monte Carlo, The Mirage, Circus Circus.
  • Caesar's Entertainment: Caesar's Palace, Planet Hollywood, Paris, Flamingo, Rio, Harrah's, Bally's, Imperial Palace, O'Shea's, Bill's. (Bill's actually has its own card...but it's part of the Caesar's Total Rewards group.)
  • Station Casinos: Green Valley Ranch, Red Rock Resort, Texas Station, Boulder Station, Santa Fe Station, Sunset Station, Aliante Station, Fiesta Henderson, Fiesta Rancho, and many more!
  • Boyd Group: Sam's Town, The Orleans.
  • American Casino & Entertainment Properties: The Stratosphere, Arizona Charlies.

There are lots of other casinos that aren't part of a larger player's group as well. The M Resort, Southpoint and Cosmopolitan are a few examples of these. Wherever you decide to play, it's in your best interest to stay in that one place, or at least with the same player's group. This way, you can maximize the number of points you get on your player's card account, accelerating your ability to receive various and sundry comps from the property.

Ask for Comps

When you're playing at a casino, it's in their best interest to keep you in the building and keep you coming back. Whevener we sit for an evening of Blackjack, we always ask for a couple of comps at the end of the night. For instance, August will ask for a two-buffet comp and I'll ask for a $15 dollar comp at a burger joint that's at Green Valley Ranch (Fatburger...yum!). This way, we'll have something to eat at the end of the night, and we'll have a free dinner the next day. The worst that can happen is the pit boss will say they can't help you...but if you've been playing for any length of time at all...especially if it looks like you've lost some money, they'll usually help you out.

Well, that's a lot more than I thought I'd be writing, so I'll close this post out. In a future post, August will give you some great tips for playing the comps angle, and probably some wicked Blackjack strategy!


Fonda said...

Wow! That is a lot of organizational tips!! Thanks!!

It sure was good to see your post...it has been too long.

Fonda said...

Well, no House Seats available in Houston! Sad!!! But they are moving closer...San Antonio and Austin anyone?