The Frugal Poker Player: 6 Tricks to Reduce Costs while Playing Poker
Poker is a lot of fun (thus our grand plan to spend a year traveling the country playing poker). Poker can also be very expensive. Most players understand the importance of paying attention to your poker budget or bankroll to ensure that they are playing in games they can afford. However, many players overlook the importance of accounting for all of the other spending that goes along with playing poker. In order to maximize your poker opportunities, you need to reduce costs associated with playing, and travelling to play, poker. This is an area that you can not ignore. If you play your way to break even (or better) poker and do not account for these costs, you will quickly find yourself in the red.
So how do you reduce costs when playing poker? Here are 6 tricks to help you out:
Bring Your Own Snacks
While some rooms will cover beverage costs while you play poker (at least cash poker), very few offer free food. In fact, the only room we have encountered offering free food is the Playground Poker Room outside of Montreal. And you have to be playing a cash game to take advantage of this perk.
One surefire way to reduce costs while playing poker is to bring your own snacks. If you have a good run in a well-structured tournament, you could be there for nine or ten hours. You can run up a pretty big food tab in that time if you’re not careful. Instead, bring snacks from home, and you can reduce that food bill substantially. Trail mix, granola bars, peanut butter and crackers, and nuts will fill your stomach while providing the protein you need to optimize your play. You can also pack sandwiches and fruits or vegetables for a lunch or light dinner.
Of course, most poker rooms frown on bringing food in from the outside. At smaller venues, park close to the poker room entrance. Then at break, walk to your car to get some exercise along with your healthy (and cheap!) snack. At larger casinos, bring a small backpack with provisions, and head to the hallways or food court at break. Make sure to stock up on healthy snacks prior to your next poker outing, and use these shopping tips to reduce costs even more.
Find Cheap Gas
If you have a “local” card room that is still an hour or two away, travel costs can add up. If you are driving a distance to play, it’s worth considering the cost of gas as part of your expenditure. There are a number of ways to reduce your spending on gas. However, the quickest path to reduce costs is to drive a gas efficient car and seek out cheap gas stations.
There is a gas station near our favorite local tournament room which is often 20 to 30 cents a gallon cheaper than the stations near our house. We make sure we drive up with our tank near empty and fill up there. The money we save on the tank comes close to covering the cost of driving to play. Win-win!
Find Cheap Accommodations
If you are travelling out of town to play poker then you are looking at some serious extra costs. One of the best ways to save money on poker travel is to reduce costs on your accommodations. Hotel rooms can run you more than the cost of your buy in if you’re not careful, and these costs can turn you from a profitable player on paper, to a losing player overall.
For starters, don’t stay at an expensive casino hotel unless they are offering a fabulous poker rate. The convenience of staying in the casino is outweighed by the $400 a night you are losing on the room.The costs associated with playing poker are many and varied and a lot of players don't account for them when thinking about their poker profitability.Click To Tweet
Instead, use online travel sites with rewards programs to score a free room. We use Hotels.com for almost all of our hotel reservations. Their rewards program gives us a free night for every ten nights booked. We book all of our work and family travel through Hotels.com. Then when we need a hotel for a night to play poker, we can often book a room for free!
Sometimes you may not know in advance that you need to book a room. If you are travelling regionally, you may plan to drive home at the end of the day. When you run deep in your tournament or find yourself at a cash table so profitable you just can’t walk away, Hotels Tonight can save the day. Hotels Tonight is an app used by hotels to sell unused inventory at the last minute at a deep discount. You can often pick up a luxury room on the app for a budget hotel price. Be aware, however, that on holiday weekends and near a major resort destinations, Hotels Tonight may not have any rooms.
Airbnb and VRBO are also good places to look to find a room at a reduced price. Finally, if you are so inclined, casinos will often allow you to park your RV in their lots.
To Reduce Costs, Just Say No
Many players like to have a beer or cocktail at their side as they play poker. As much as we love a good IPA, drinking at the table will cost you twice. There is the cost of the alcohol itself (unless the card room comps drinks). But more importantly, there is the cost to your chip stack. Don’t put down $150 on a tournament – or $300 on a cash table – and then impair your decision-making abilities. Next time you play poker, skip the alcohol. At least until after you leave the table. Your budget, and your bankroll, will thank you.
Make Money to Save Money
This recommendation applies mainly to consultants, freelancers, and side hustlers who make at least some of their income on an hourly rate. If you find time in your poker day to work a few hours – either before the tournament starts, or once you knock out – you can often defray a chunk of your costs.
This trick is particularly useful if you travel and play poker with a partner. If one of you knocks out early from a tournament, you should spend a couple of hours doing work. There is usually a Panera, Starbucks, or other chain coffee shop nearby. For the price of a coffee, you can pull out your laptop and make a couple of hours of income. And if your partner makes it to the money? Bonus!
Don’t “Celebrate” Away Your Profits
This can be a poker player’s biggest leak. You have a profitable cash session, so you walk across the casino and take your winnings to the roulette wheel. Or you money in a tournament, so you treat yourself to a steak dinner and a $60 bottle of wine.
You can follow all of the tips above, but if you fall prey to “celebration” you will vaporize your profits. If you are a tourist on vacation and playing poker to have fun, celebrate away. However, if you are a regular player nursing a bankroll (or budget), the win itself should be your celebration. Rather than taking the money to the tables or the bar, think about the buy in that your profit will afford you down the road.
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