The World Series of Poker has returned! For many years, the WSOP has taken place at the Rio All Suites Hotel and Casino, which is off-Strip in Las Vegas. If you are staying on the Vegas Strip, this can be more of a challenge than you might imagine. There are a number of issues and WSOP logistics to grapple with in order to maximize your play and your stay. Finding meals between (and during) poker tournaments, traveling from your hotel to the Rio and back, and managing the hordes of players at the World Series of Poker all present challenges.
This year will be our third time attending the WSOP, and we believe that any hassle is worth it to participate in the poker world’s biggest party. The WSOP is great fun. However, you need to know how to navigate a number of WSOP logistics before you go that will help enhance.
Where to Stay
Your first task in terms of WSOP logistics is figuring out where to stay. If you’re reading this now for the 2021 WSOP, your options are limited. However, if you plan ahead in future years there are generally a lot of options. Two years ago, we stayed in an Airbnb apartment in a complex right across West Flamingo Road from the Rio (entrance on S Valley View Blvd). It was just few hundred yards from our front door to the Rio. literally a five minute walk. The apartment was small but nice and surprisingly quiet despite being near the highway.
This year, we’re staying in another Airbnb apartment on West Flamingo Road (just past The Palms). We booked it immediately after the WSOP was announced. The two bedroom apartment rented for about $2,500 for the month of October. We really benefitted by booking early. Just a couple of weeks later, AirBnB prices skyrocketed.
Of course, the are three hotels right at the WSOP site. You can stay at the Rio itself, which is obviously your most convenient option if you are planning to spend all of your time at the WSOP. Prices are often deeply discounted during the series, but many complain about the hotel’s infrastructure which is showing its age. Within a very short walk you will find the Gold Coast next door and the Palms just down the street.
Where to Eat Before, During, and After you Play
The Rio itself has about 10 different restaurants to choose from. There is a high-end steak house, Voodoo Steak, which may be a fun place to celebrate that win, but is not a great option for those with limited time. There are a number of casual fare options, such as the All-American Bar and Grille, and various ethnic options such as Indian, Dim Sum, and Vietnamese. The WSOP also hosts a pop up grab and go café for those who only have 15 minutes to eat, pee (more on that later) and be back in their seats. However, our favorite is Guy Fieri’s El Burro Borracho Restaurant, which provides both a sit-down option and window takeout. When you only have a quick tournament dinner break, El Burro really comes in handy. Go grab three street tacos and some chips with guacamole and have a very quick tasty dinner.
How to Get Around Town
If you don’t cross the Strip, driving in Las Vegas is not terrible. You can expect traffic jams at busy times of day, but the streets are straight and easy to navigate. But during the WSOP, any travel around the Strip becomes a challenge. Of course, taxis are everywhere along with the rideshare services you all know. However, if you plan for a day traveling up and down the Strip, then the Monorail that runs 3.9 miles from the MGM Grand (south) to the Sahara (north) is a convenient and great deal. Each ride is $5, and a day pass is only $13. There is also The Deuce, which is the Vegas bus system, is quite cheap. On the west side of the strip, there are three short trams that run between various casinos which are free to ride.
And what would Vegas be without the fascinating curiosity of cars driving underground below the new Convention Center? An Elon Musk brainchild (that word seems created with Musk in mind), the LCCC Loop, looks like as much an entertainment stop as a convenience. At the moment it may be restricted to convention attendees, but may be worth trying to sneak in.
Personally, we enjoy travelling out of, as well as around Las Vegas when we visit. There are a number drives within two hours of Vegas that are worth the time. We have enjoyed visiting the Hoover Dam/Lake Mead area and Red Rocks, and we plan to make a day of visiting the Grand Canyon this year. So renting a car if you can park for free is not terrible idea. Again, this year car rental may be a challenge, but in normal years rental cars are cheap and plentiful.
Walking from the Strip to Rio
Simply…don’t do it.
The walk from the Strip to the Rio looks short when you are standing on the Strip, but it’s not. It’s a solid mile. And it’s not a pleasant walk. It is full-on concrete and fast-moving cars and crossing on-ramps at your peril. OK, if it’s a cool day and you have some zip in your step when you need to dodge cars, maybe you can try it. But, in general, avoid walking to the Rio if you can.
Shuttles from the Rio to the Strip
You can avoid the walk by taking a taxi or ride share service of course. But there are free options also. Unfortunately, the Rio stopped their shuttle to the Strip back in 2017. However, right next door at the Gold Coast, you can catch a shuttle every half hour or so that runs between the Strip, the Orleans (great poker room there by the way), and the Rio. Although they may not check, you should get a free B Connected players card at the Gold Coast before you ride, as the shuttle is supposed to be for hotel guests or B Connected members.
Parking at the Rio
One of the easiest features of WSOP logistics is actually parking. The Rio has plenty of parking so finding a space, even during the WSOP, is not a problem. If you are entering the Rio from the front (W Flamingo Road side), you’ll immediately see a massive parking garage and be tempted to pull in. Nothing wrong with that, but know that the WSOP largely takes place in the convention center building in the back, not in the main casino. If you keep driving past the garage you’ll see vast parking lots in the back. You can also access these lots directly from W. Twain Ave., which is what we tended to do.
The lots in the back are uncovered, so if it is very hot out the garage has some advantages. But the back lots are much closer to the WSOP action.
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The WSOP Logistics of Buying-in
There are a number of ways to register for WSOP events. The traditional, stand in line and walk up to a teller to buy-in is available in the main hall. Be warned however, that these lines can be extremely long. New this year is the opportunity for online registration through Bravo Poker Live, but be aware that fees are attached when using this system with most payment methods.
In 2019 the WSOP established the ability to set up a WSOP Tournament Account. So if you plan to enter several events, you can wire/deposit money into an account when you arrive and complete set-up at the cage. Afterwards, you can register online before each tournament, and print out your seat card at a kiosk. This system saved a lot of wait time for players in 2019, so it may be worth trying if you’re going to play multiple events.
Given the struggles poker rooms are experiencing across the country this year successfully staffing up their dealers, the WSOP may face similar obstacles. We strongly suggest that you buy in to your event as early as possible to assure yourself a seat.
Obviously, you’ll need to figure out what events to buy into. You can check out the Bracelet or the lower cost Daily Deepstack events. If you want to play a Daily Deepstack, the 1pm event provides the best balance of cost, payouts, structures, and finishing a tournament before the wee hours. If you’re 50 or over, the weekly Wednesday 9am Senior Deepstack event is also a good one to play.
Navigating Crowds and Finding Your Seat
Another key feature of WSOP logistics is finding where you are going to play your event. As far as finding your seat, you’ll first need to figure out what room is holding your event. It is not a bad idea to study and maybe print out the Rio property map. Certainly, go over the Convention Way and orient yourself to where things are compared to the main Pavilion. Given that the area is basically situated around a single corridor, you’d think it would be easy, but it can be disorienting navigating with all the vendors and people milling about. Some rooms have the numbers above tables, making them fairly easy to spot. In others you’ll have to look on the table or ask a floor for assistance. Some of the rooms can get cold, so definitely bring a jacket or sweatshirt with you.
You’ll also want to familiarize yourself with the location of the restrooms, and which ones tend to be less busy. Note that tournament breaks are the worst time to try to use the restroom. You will be much better off taking a couple of hands off out of position before break than waiting in the bathroom lines and likely getting back late to your table. The good news for women is that the WSOP is one of the rare places in life that women’s rooms are easier access than men’s.
One final note: heads up in the hallways! There will be several people with motorized scooters zipping through the hallways. You will need to move quick to avoid them. One of my brushes with greatness/death at WSOP two years ago occurred when pro Mike Matusow nearly ran me down as he flew past the WSOP swag shop at high speed while talking on his phone.Going to the WSOP next month? Here are the WSOP logistics you need to know in order to maximize your play and your stay.Click To Tweet
Where Else to Play Poker in Las Vegas During the WSOP
While the landscape has changed, with casinos like the Mirage and Planet Hollywood closing their poker rooms, there are still plenty of other great casinos offering special events and/or live tournaments. We particularly love to play poker at the Orleans, which is just a couple of minutes from the Rio, but make sure to visit other Vegas venues as well. As far as other poker series occurring during the WSOP, the ones we’re looking at this year are:
As you’ll see, the Golden Nugget offers lower buy-in events, as does the Orleans, while the Wynn tends to cater to the high rollers. The Venetian offers a range of buy-ins in-between. The other room we’d suggest checking out is the Aria, which has a high roller series of $10K event as well as daily events.
WSOP Logistics: COVID Protocols
Hopefully, 2021 is the only year we have to cover this, but here’s the COVID protocol. You need to be vaccinated and prove your vaccination history using the CLEAR app. Participants who successfully verify their full vaccination status through CLEAR may go directly to the registration cage. Those who have not completed registration through CLEAR will need to check in onsite. Recently the WSOP changed its direction on masking and decided that it will no longer be requiring players to wear masks. Full details and procedures can be found on the WSOP vaccine webpage.
If you’re a poker player and you don’t have fun during the WSOP, at the Rio and beyond, something has gone terribly wrong. While the size and scope of WSOP logistics may overwhelm some, if you take the time to get oriented and be planful in your play, transportation, dining and bathroom stops, you should have the time of your life.
Finally, and most importantly, whatever you do, ENJOY your trip to the WSOP!
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