At the WSOP, big gambles and cheap eats

Once again, the chips are down. Through July 16, tens of thousands of poker players are descending on the Rio to compete for tens of millions of dollars in the annual World Series of Poker. If you haven’t been there, you should check it out. Walk into the big hall and you’ll be stunned by the enormity of it all. Even the sound is distinctive—a nonstop clicking of chips that sounds like an invasion of crickets. This is without question the most awe-inspiring single gambling event in the world, and it’s free to view.

With hundreds of tables in action at any given time, there’s certainly plenty of dealing going on. But what about deals? To be honest, the WSOP isn’t about loss leaders. The guys and girls who come here to put up $1,500, $5,000, $10,000 and more to enter an event aren’t exactly the types you lure with a buck-fifty hot dog. Accordingly, basic strategy if you want value is to take the short stroll out into the casino.

The key at the Rio is being a local. While most casinos these days work hard for local business, the Rio tries harder with its Local Rewards program. Show your Nevada ID and a Total Rewards card and you’ll get significant discounts on food and drinks property-wide—25 percent off food and 50 percent off drinks. The discount is a little less than advertised, because you pay full tax, but it’s close enough. The drink discount is good at all bars, except the bar in the poker area. So you can spend $5 for a domestic beer there, or walk to the casino and get the same thing for $2.68. The food discount is good everywhere except at two outside contractors—KJ Dim Sum & Seafood and the Whopper Bar—and it’s good for 50 percent off at the Carnival World buffet. Use it at the buffet or at the sportsbook food court for best value.

Whether you’re local or not, there’s one more good deal to be had. It’s the 777 happy hour in Buzio’s. From 5 to 7 p.m. daily, you can get seven appetizers and a selection of drinks for $7 each. You’re not allowed to “double-dip” using Local Rewards, meaning those drink prices aren’t anything to get excited about, but the appetizers are. Good choices are the calamari and the fish tacos. Best choice is the shrimp cocktail. It comes with four giant shrimp, garnished with cocktail sauce, horseradish and a lemon. These are the big boys that go for $3 apiece in most seafood joints, but they’re just $1.75 each on this deal.

A good day to check out this granddaddy of all gambling events might be this Sunday, Father’s Day, when you can take your dad and your own granddaddy, then spring for some big shrimp and calamari. They’ll love ya for it.

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