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Top 10 things I learned from my first trip to Las Vegas

11 May 2020

At this very moment, I should be in Las Vegas.

For the second year in a row, my friends and I planned a spring trip to Sin City, but due to COVID-19, those plans had to be postponed until (hopefully) this summer.

This got me thinking about my first Las Vegas experience last May and what I took away from that trip. As I reminisce, here are some things I learned and can advise you on if you plan on heading to Las Vegas when it finally reopens.

Get out and explore as much as possible.

Get out and explore as much as possible. (photo by Flickr)

10. Explore
Going to Las Vegas for the first time, I had hopes of getting to see as much as I possibly could. Staying at The Mirage for four nights seemed like it would give me plenty of time to go all over The Strip and check out everything. Well, I was wrong.

When you are in Vegas, you tend to find yourself watching a game that you placed a wager on, sitting at a blackjack table or relaxing by the pool. Those tend to take up some time and left me with not as much time as I had originally thought.

With that being said, I was still able to take in some fun sights along The Strip, including The Mirage Volcano and The Bellagio Fountains. I’d recommend getting out and exploring as much as possible to take in what is offered. My hope for the upcoming trip is to go out and see more than what I did during trip number one.

9. Be ready for the heat
Even in May, I was still caught off-guard by how intense the Las Vegas summer heat can be and I wasn’t even there in the hottest time of the summer.

While just sitting on a chair by the pool I was able to feel how hot it gets and going into the pool wasn’t just for enjoyment, it was a necessity to cool off from baking in the sun.

Exploring during the day can be interrupted by this heat depending on when you go, which is why I utilized the great weather and coolness at night. The temperatures dropped into the 70s which made it great to walk around in and not feel like you are cooking.

8. Budget
When gambling or planning to sit at a table for a while, what helped me the most was knowing what I was ready to lose during a given session. If you aren’t willing to lose the amount you buy-in for then you shouldn’t be putting that much up on the table.

Budgeting is key and can avoid players from digging themselves into a hole that they don’t want to have to climb out of. Sure, you may go on a hot streak and not have to worry about what your buy-in was but you really can’t bank on that happening, pun intended.

My advice would be to set an amount you want to risk in a day at the very least. If you want to get more specific then plan out what you want to bet at each session, whether it is from sports betting, slots or table games.

7. Know when to get up and leave
Following the idea of budgeting, another important thing to consider when stepping up to the tables is knowing when it’s time to call it quits.

Self-control is a main factor of being able to pull yourself away from a table when you know it may be hard to do so.

For example, if you put down $200 at a blackjack table, only use that $200. If you run out of that $200 don’t put anything else down. There is no need to dig yourself a deeper hole when the cards simply aren’t hitting for you.

There is also a time to get up when you are on the winning side as well. When I was in Las Vegas playing at The Mirage, I was able to go on a solid run at a blackjack table. Once I was up $100, I put my originally $200 away so I was only playing with house money. If I lost that $100, I would’ve walked away even at the very least.

Luckily my run continued and I kept winning. However, once my winning streak ended and I lost three hands in a row it was time to take my winnings and go rather than be greedy and get them even higher. So, the key is to realize you are in a good position and up a few units, don’t take too many risks when you begin to lose again.

6. Be aware of your drinks on the table
People say when you are drinking while playing table games, you need to keep your wits about you before you lose control of your thought process and of your bankroll. While that is not where I am going with this, it is always good to point out.

That being said, be aware of where your drink is if you place it on the table at any time. During a session at Caesars Palace, a player at one of my tables was not very aware of his surroundings and when he went to stand up from his seat and knocked over his drink all over the felt.

If you have been to Caesars Palace at night you know that it isn’t easy to find a spot at a reasonable limit blackjack table. Because of the drink spilt all over the table, it was shut down for at least 30 minutes unfortunately. I am not sure how long it remained closed because I lost interest in waiting. Don’t be the person to ruin someone’s session by spilling a drink or doing anything to disrupt the play.

Find a good time to gamble on The Strip.

Find a good time to gamble on The Strip. (photo by Wikimedia Commons)

5. Find good times to gamble
If you are newer to table games and live action gambling, then the best way to get your feet wet is to play at times when tables won’t be completely filled at first.

I noticed that morning hours were a good time to go play and have a more relaxed and calmer scene to learn. There are some players at the tables but they are not full and usually you can find a table without intense players. My recommendation would be to play at these times in the early stages of your gambling career to gain a sense of etiquette, rules and strategy before moving to more popular times.

At night you will find very serious players, at higher minimum tables. At these times and spots, beginners are not typically received very well by early beginner players since they may not know basic strategies yet.

4. Don’t interrupt a good streak
Going back to my streak at The Mirage, one of the reasons it ended was because it was disrupted by another player.

When you are walking around looking for a table that fits your desired minimum, check out who is playing and how they are doing before inserting yourself into the game. You may watch a few hands and see that the players are in a tough spot and losing, which makes it a good time for you to jump in and change up the cards.

There are two sides to this story though, when you are watching a couple of hands before sitting down, if you see that they are on a big streak, I would recommend waiting for a loss or two before jumping in and becoming not the most popular person at that table.

During my win streak at The Mirage, we had one open seat at our table. I had won my last seven hands with the last four being dealer busts so the table had won as well on those last four. But then someone jumped into the table and immediately received a few looks from other players. That seventh win in a row was my last as I lost the next three hands and it was time to get up and walk away.
Who knows how long that winning streak could have kept going for, but because a player hopped in, we will never know. My advice to players is to scope out the tables for a minute or so before inserting yourself into the game because you may be putting a wrench into someone’s hot streak.

3. Know basic strategy
In order to be able to go on a hot streak, players need to have a knowledge of basic strategy when it comes to blackjack. Before my trip to Las Vegas I had gone to Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut a few times. I wasn’t very experienced in basic strategy so I was more playing off the hip which led me to not very positive results. However, prior to me heading to Sin City, I made sure to have a firm grasp of basic strategy.

This knowledge made my gambling experience much better. Not only did I see better results, but because I knew basic strategy, I wasn’t messing up anyone else’s hands, which led to a more social and fun table.

While in Vegas, I did experience something I hadn’t seen at a blackjack table ever. While playing blackjack, two women sat down at our table claiming the remaining two seats. I had been at that table for about 30 minutes and was up roughly $75.

In her first hand, one of the women had a hard 18 with the dealer showing a five. I immediately looked past her hand to the player on her left until I heard, “Hit me.” My attention quickly rushed back to the woman’s hand and up to her face thinking she made a mistake. Even the dealer was taken back, but repeated, “Hit me.”

I, along with the other players, were in shock that someone would do this. The dealer flipped her next card, which was a face card, and busted her. The other players acted on their hands and when it got to the dealer, he flipped his down card which was a nine. By hitting, the woman took the dealer’s bust card and cost everyone a table win. I was sitting on a hard 17 so I was not thrilled by this play. The dealer flipped his next card, which was a six giving the dealer 20. That decision cost me and other players and it made me decide to color up and get out of there before losing more money.

Know basic strategy so you don’t jump into a game and get yourself into a situation where you really don’t want to be.

2. Be respectful in the sportsbook
Everyone loves to get into sports games that they have placed a wager on, even me. It’s fun to have your emotions going when a team who bet on hits a homerun, or scores a goal. However, there is a line that doesn’t need to be crossed.

One of the nights during my stay, I was at a sportsbook watching the Boston Celtics play the Milwaukee Bucks in the NBA playoffs. It was a crowded book that night since the NHL and NBA playoffs were off and running. While I was watching my Celtics take a tough loss, I heard some yelling from the other side of the book. It was two groups of guys screaming back and forth about an NHL playoff game. There were some serious insults thrown back and forth which changed the mood of the sportsbook for everyone and ended up having both groups told to leave.

This brings me to my point of being respectful. It’s one thing to find people who have the same bet as you to cheer and have some fun together with a sense of comradery. It is another thing to go after people who have placed a wager on the opposing team. It’s unnecessary and just plain rude.
The respect goes beyond than the book as well, this goes to the tables as well. If someone makes a mistake you can either point it out in a relaxed manner or just let it slide. Don’t get aggressive and embarrass them because that helps nobody.

The 2019 Kentucky Derby at The Mirage Sportsbook was a crazy experience for me.

The 2019 Kentucky Derby at The Mirage Sportsbook was a crazy experience for me. (photo by Wikimedia Commons)

1. Never throw away a ticket until final results
The 145th Kentucky Derby was one to remember. I was lucky enough to be in Las Vegas at The Mirage Sportsbook for the action.

Some of you may recall that thee was a big controversy in this race. Maximum Security (9-to-2) was disqualified for interference which led to Country House (30-to-1) taking home first place. It wasn’t determined several minutes after the race had ended.

People saw Maximum Security cross the line first and people who didn’t place a wager on that horse began to throw away their tickets. Moments later, when the official announcement came out announcing Country House as the winner, you could see the panic in people. They were searching for tickets that they had just thrown out to try and claim their winnings.

Make sure the results are official before getting rid of your tickets. I know that the 2019 Kentucky Derby results were a rare occasion but it can happen in any race.
Dan Ippolito

As Casino City's associate editor, Dan produces and edits all of our weekly newsletters, and writes about the gaming industry for our websites and the GPWA Times Magazine. Dan graduated from Marist College in 2017 with a degree in Communications and a concentration in Sports. Email him at, or follow him at @casinocity_dan on Twitter.
Dan Ippolito
As Casino City's associate editor, Dan produces and edits all of our weekly newsletters, and writes about the gaming industry for our websites and the GPWA Times Magazine. Dan graduated from Marist College in 2017 with a degree in Communications and a concentration in Sports. Email him at, or follow him at @casinocity_dan on Twitter.