Playing Poker on a Budget During the WSOP

4 min read

Can’t wait for summer – but your wallet can? You’re not alone. Poker in Las Vegas during the World Series of Poker is a true thrill, yet the price tag can be deflating. 

the orleans
It’s not as new or fancy as the casinos you’ll find on the Strip, but the Orleans is the place to play tournament poker if you’re looking for great value during the WSOP. (Image: Vegas Means Business)

Here are some recommendations for a budget-friendly experience.

Orleans is the best value in town

Hands down, the Orleans has the best tournament options for the value-conscious player. They’ve truly hit that sweet spot of meaningful, life-changing events without breaking the bank. How does a $300 Mystery Bounty with a $250,000 guarantee sound? (Or the same $300 event for a $250,000 guarantee if bounties aren’t your thing? They have both.) Not to mention their $150-$200 events with prize pools that regularly reach around $30,000 (some a little more, some a little less).

When most non-professional players plan on entering a poker tournament, this is exactly what they have in mind. What can $300 – give or take one-hundred bucks – get me? If this sounds like you, then the Orleans 2022 Summer Open is the way to go.

That said, the “locals spot” located a few blocks off the Strip on Tropicana doesn’t have the same ritzy ambiance you’ll find playing at the Wynn or Venetian, nor the name recognition of playing at the WSOP. Let’s just say the aroma leaves something to be desired. But, if you’re looking for events in the $150-$400 price range, anything at the Orleans is a safe bet.

Just be aware that you’re not going to get the same glitz and glam you’ll find a couple of blocks to the East.

Head downtown for wallet-friendly poker at Golden Nugget

Similar to the Orleans, the Golden Nugget runs a more affordable tournament series than you’ll find at the WSOP. While it is quite a ways off the Strip, the change of scenery you’ll find in “old” Vegas can be refreshing.

Golden Nugget
The gem of downtown Las Vegas, the Golden Nugget provides a comprehensive tournament series at reasonable buy-ins. (Image: Las Vegas Weekly)

Also if you bust, all of their cash games play uncapped – a truly worthwhile experience if you find a good game. Their weekend $5/5 has stacks of $10K and even $50K.

The Golden Nugget hotel itself is also quite nice. At the end of last year’s WSOP, it quickly became one of my favorite cash game venues of choice. The floor staff is exceptional and the amount of energy in downtown Vegas is definitely worth the trek.

Not to mention their more reasonably priced tourneys as well.

Planning for WSOP events

If you’re looking to play the fabled WSOP itself, you’re in luck. Just don’t conflate the lowest buy-in with the highest value.

Located in the heart of the Strip, Bally’s is the new home of the WSOP. (Image: Trip Advisor)

Also, before even considering the event costs, non-Vegas residents need to consider the hotel costs, which spike drastically on weekends. If you’re looking to spend smarter, you need to avoid the Friday and Saturday rate increases. For this reason, an event like the $1,000 Mini Main over July 4 weekend could be pricier to your bottom line than the one-day $1,500 Super Turbo Bounty freezeout, which falls on a Wednesday. Flight fares home also peak on Sundays and Mondays.

Funnily enough, if maximizing the bang for your buck is your number one priority, I would actually start by selecting weekday events before any other value discernments.

That said, if you’re looking for specific tournament recommendations, the Tag Team event is great because you can split the $1K buy-in with your teammate (my father and I took third place in this event last year). We each earned $24,756 and had $500 invested). The $1K Million-Dollar Mystery Bounty is also sure to be a hit. There are a few sub-$1,000 events on the schedule, such as the $500 Reunion but again, non-Vegas residents be warned: this is a six-day event, so make sure to factor-in housing expenses for the week.

Overall, the WSOP is a favorite time of year, not just for the excitement it provides, but because just about any event you play has excellent potential. So, don’t stress too much about whether any individual event is the “perfect one” — start with what makes sense logistically and work from there.

And don’t overlook the other casino tourneys: they’re just footsteps away.

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