As my articles are finding their way to more mainstream media, and my blog begins to focus more on Las Vegas, I have been getting asked the same question more and more through my blog, by email, and discussions that I participate in. “I play poker at (insert random city’s poker room)” or “I am a winning sports bettor at (insert random online sports book)” and “I am thinking about taking a shot. Should I move to Las Vegas?”
If you have to ask, you probably are not ready for such a big move. I will however try my best to answer the question anyway with general observations and information. Almost every time I get asked these types of questions, I do not get much in the way of details. Even after asking for more info, I get very little in the way of information that might help me give useful advice.
“Can I Get a Job in Las Vegas?”
The most important thing to consider is that Las Vegas is nothing like any other city. This is a tough town. There are few jobs here. Most potential employers want to know that you can survive a full year in Las Vegas before committing to you. That is because many people cannot make it here a year because their vices destroy them. Some people cannot handle the heat. Others have poor bankroll management. If you are going to move here, you should take into consideration that you will likely not find a job quickly, or if you do find one it will be part time, low paying, or not what you want to do. This advice goes more towards men. Woman are going to have a much easier time finding a job. That is just how it is here.
“Can I Make a Living Playing Poker in Las Vegas?”
Chances are that you are playing in small poker room if you are asking this. You have gotten to know most of the players that play your game, and know what to expect when you sit down. Poker rooms in smaller casino cities tend to be looser games. When combining that with how you will know your opponents, it is safe to assume that the games that you are playing back home are softer. You should be absolutely killing your hometown games to even consider moving to Las Vegas.
Once you have established that you are capable of crushing the games in your hometown casinos, I suggest visiting Las Vegas for at least two weeks and preferably in the summer after the World Series of Poker. The reason that I suggest doing this after the WSOP is that it will be the hottest part of the summer, and you will get a better idea of what the regular poker games are like. Make sure that you drive here or rent a car. Drive as much of the city as possible so that you can see the parts of Las Vegas that are desirable to live in, and the parts of Las Vegas that not somewhere you would want to be carrying a lot of cash. Talk to apartment leasing agents, real estate agents, and players at the poker table that live here. They will be full of good advice on where to live.
While you are visiting, play as much poker as possible. Play during the day, during prime time, graveyard, and early in the morning. You are likely to find the games to be softer between 9pm-5am Thursday through Saturday. Can you handle that lifestyle? If not, how much worse were the games at other hours? Can you adjust to playing with a bunch of nitty rocks? Some games during the day are full of players just grinding out hands between jackpots.
Once you have established whether you can beat the games or not, whether you can stand the summer heat, and what part of town you live in, it is time to look for somewhere to live.
If you do not have kids, check out some of the highrises on Las Vegas Blvd. They will be more expensive than living further out, but then you will not have to drive as much. That can even itself out. Every time I drive to The Strip from Summerlin I burn about $5 in gas. That equals $150/month before I figure in the other costs associated with operating a car.
The convenience of living on The Strip can be enormous for a poker player. You will not have to worry about driving around the city in the middle of the night, which can be dangerous due to the drunks. You can also walk to the game of choice if you choose your apartment’s location well.
If you have children, then your choices will be limited to the outskirts. I live in Summerlin, but there are plenty of decent areas that are family friendly in Henderson, Southern Highlands, the far southwest, and the far north and northwest parts. You can pick a nice area and still be 15 minutes from The Las Vegas Strip during off peak travel times. The schools are better than you would think in those areas. The closer you get to Las Vegas Blvd, the worse the schools and crime get so keep that in mind.
“Can I Live in Las Vegas Without a Car?”
The short answer here is no. If you can live on The Strip, and only ever want to play at poker rooms that you can walk to from your apartment, then you can probably pull it off. The problem is that over time you will get sick of the same people in those poker rooms, both staff and players. Eventually there will be a poor floor ruling, or a guy you always end up seated next to that never showers, and your opinion of that room will change. If you are on one end of The Strip, you will grow tired of the long walks in the middle of the night to and from the other side of The Strip. There will also be games that are off strip that you will be unable to play in.
If you plan on living off the Las Vegas Strip, you must have a car. The rest of the Las Vegas metro area is one giant suburb. The city blocks are wide, and there are few crosswalks, so walking is not really an option either. The city is not pedestrian friendly in the slightest bit once you leave Las Vegas Blvd. You may think that you can take the bus and be fine, but imagine waiting for the bus in 105 degree heat every day multiple times. The bus system is also not convenient for getting to and from The Strip in a timely manner.
“I am moving to Las Vegas anyway”
The first thing to do is research how much it will cost to move to Las Vegas. Price how much a Uhaul is and how much gas you will need to get it here. You will also need to set aside money to get your new apartment ready. That may include renting or buying furniture, but will also include all of the standard household staples. Be prepared for Nevada’s most unfair tax too. The tag for your car will run about 2-3% of its value every year. If you have a newer car, your license plate will cost you at least $500 each year. My two six year old cars each run about $300 a year.
I also have some bankroll suggestions. First, leave $5000 in a bank outside of Las Vegas. Keep it there in case of emergencies. If you fail, you will have that money to fall back on where you take your next step in life. If you go completely bust, you can have some of it wired to a casino cage for pick up so you can get moved back home. This may seem harsh, but what kind of plan do you think the panhandlers here had to fall back on when they went bust? You need to have the ability to get out of town if things do not go well for you.
You should also stash living expenses for at least one year. You will probably have to put up about 25% of that in deposits, maybe more if your only income is your aspiring Las Vegas poker career. You will also need about $10,000 in cash in addition to this. That gives you over 30 buyins to 1/2 NL. That means that you should not move here to play poker or bet on sports for a living if you do not have $20,000 or more in cash plus backup cash to move if you flop.
I am not trying to discourage anyone from visiting Las Vegas and having fun. Moving to Las Vegas is an entirely different story though. Make sure that you are well bankrolled for such a move. You are not going to move here and win $25,000 playing blackjack your first week. Living in Las Vegas takes discipline. It also takes incredible bankroll and life management skills.
Good luck in your move if you decide to ever do it. I cannot imagine living anywhere else. Just keep in mind that this is a tough city to make a living in right now.