Planning a casino gambling trip isn’t much different from planning any other kind of trip. I know people who travel by the seat of their pants, but I think you’ll have more fun if you put some time and effort into the planning aspect of your next sojourn.
Here’s how to plan a casino gambling trip.
My Mama Told Me, “You Better Shop Around”
In the age of the internet, it’s easier to shop around for travel deals than ever before. You could literally spend days just searching Bing and Google for travel deals. You can also call the hotels directly and ask them for unadvertised specials.
But, under no circumstances should you just go book the first hotel you think of, the first flight you see in the results at Expedia, or the first show tickets that come up on Ticketmaster.
I like to set a goal to keep my entire travel budget to 80% of what I can actually afford for the trip. The other 20% I can use for things like nicer dinners or more time at the gambling tables.
The Travel Section of the Los Angeles Times
Here’s a casino gambling trip planning tip you’re unlikely to see elsewhere:
Casino destinations like Las Vegas have traditionally wooed travelers from California for decades. The casinos have been advertising directly to that market in the travel section of the Los Angeles Times for decades.
Since they’re aggressively trying to recruit gamblers specifically from that destination, you can find advertisements for casino gambling trips at huge discounts compared to other places.
Besides that, the travel articles from that section of that paper are exceptionally well-written.
So, next time you’re trying to decide where to go and how much to spend on the trip, take a look at the Los Angeles Times.
You can thank me later.
Travel Sunday through Thursday for the Best Hotel Rates
I worked for Hotels.com for 10 years. Much of that time I spent booking reservations for travelers, and a big percentage of those reservations were for travelers visiting Vegas Casinos. And, while I haven’t worked there in over 15 years, one thing hasn’t changed:
The lowest room rates at the casinos are almost always on Sunday through Thursday night.
What many new travelers don’t understand about hotel reservations is that they’re aggressively trying to manage their revenue. A “room night” is a room for a specific night, and a casino’s inventory consists of room nights.
In a year, a casino with 100 rooms in it would have 365 X 100, or 36,500 room nights, they can sell.
If, for example, on May 15, they have 0 reservations, then their occupancy rate is 0%. They’ll charge low prices to anyone calling to reserve a room on May 15 because an empty room generates no money.
As those rooms get booked, though, the pressure to get someone to book those rooms lessens. It’s a supply and demand thing.
When a hotel has 95 out of 100 rooms booked for a night, they can afford to charge more for the other 5 rooms because they won’t lose much money if those rooms don’t get booked.
They also want to make the maximum amount of money for each date of the calendar year.
On Friday and Saturday nights, most of the major casinos have high occupancy rates, so they charger higher rates per night. The rest of the week, the casinos charge less per night. Some people are staggered by the difference.
You could book a room for Sunday and Monday night for $39 at a property, but that same room might cost $119 a night on Friday and Saturday.
And many casino hotels don’t take one-night bookings on Friday or Saturday, either – they usually have a 2-night minimum.
Prepare to Keep a Gambling Log for Tax Purposes
Any money you win when you’re gambling in a casino is considered taxable income. That applies to any money you win from gambling – that includes the lottery, horse races, and sports bet, among other gambling winnings.
Even if you win a car or a trip, you’ve won something worth money, and you’re required to report that income to the IRS and pay taxes on it.
The amounts that trigger a form W-2G vary from game to game. With a slot machine, if you win $1200 or more, the casino files a form. For keno, the amount is $1500. For a poker tournament, it’s $5000.
But here’s the catch:
If you gamble on a regular basis, you get to DEDUCT your losses for the year.
You can’t deduct more losses than you have winnings.
Here’s an example:
You’re a poker player, and you win $5000 in a tournament, so the casino issues a $5000 W-2G.
But you’ve kept records of your buy-ins to various poker tournaments throughout the calendar year, and this is the only time you’ve placed in the money. And you’ve spent $6000 in entry fees.
You didn’t profit at all. In fact, you lost a net amount of $1000. You do NOT get to deduct the other $1000, though.
You’re off the hook – but only if you have records.
The same is true for any kind of gambler. You just need to have records of your losses.
Learn How to Play the Games Before You Go
Most casino games are easy to play and can be learned in a few minutes.
But I still think you should spend some time learning how to play the games before sitting down in front of them.
You can find tutorials for any casino game you can imagine here on this site.
Don’t stop with reading a page on the internet about the game. Try some of the free, play-money games at the online casinos we’re promoting here on the site.
You can’t win money playing such games, but you also can’t lose money playing them.
The knowledge and skills you gain from playing the games online before hitting the real casino can help you avoid mistakes that will cost you money, too.
Here’s a quick pro tip, too:
The simpler the game is, the higher the mathematical edge is for the house.
Blackjack has a relatively complicated strategy to learn, but the house edge is only 0.5%.
Slot machines, on the other hand, are easy to play and understand, but the house edge is 6% or higher.
Budget Your Gambling Money
I had a boss who used to tell me to plan your work and work your plan. He was so right about that. But you should also plan your play and play your plan.
What does this mean?
You should know how much money you’re willing to lose when you visit the casino, and take that with you as your bankroll for the trip. Don’t lose more money than you’ve planned to – no matter what.
This is harder than you might think. Everything about the casino is designed to get you excited and make decisions you wouldn’t normally make.
But even if you deviate from your plan, you’ll do better than you would if you had no plan at all.
Many gambling writers are strong proponents of win goals and loss limits. You divide your bankroll into multiple “session bankrolls” so that you have a budget for each gambling session.
You then set a percentage of that as a goal for how much you’d like to win. If you win that amount, you quit and go do something else.
You also set a percentage of that session bankroll as a limit for how much you’re willing to lose. Once you’ve lost your limit, you leave the table.
When I play roulette, I use a variation of this strategy. My goal is to win 2 single-number bets in one session, but I’m also not willing to lose more than about 40 bets. If I’m playing at a $5 minimum table, the most I can lose is $200.
If I win one of my single number bets, I’m almost even for the session, and since there’s a 1/38 probability that I will hit that, I’ll probably only lose a little money.
Once in a while, I will hit the single number twice – depending on how long that takes, I show a healthy profit. You can come up with your own plans for how you’re going to gamble in the casino.
Learning how to plan a casino trip isn’t hard, but it is important that you spend some time planning and thinking about how you want your casino trip to go.
The most important advice on this page is to plan how much gambling you want to do. You’ll lose more money from unintended gambling consequences than you might think.
You can definitely lose more money on casino games than you’ll lose by not shopping around for the best hotel rate.
Michael Stevens has been researching and writing topics involving the gambling industry for well over a decade now and is considered an expert on all things casino and sports betting. Michael has been writing for GamblingSites.org since early 2016. …