The $5k Plan of Attack to Maximize Your 2024 WSOP Experience

One doesn’t need to fire in the Main Event to have an ultimate WSOP experience. A week at poker’s Summer Camp all over Las Vegas offers players of every level a wealth of tournaments that suit bankrolls at nearly every level.

Jeff Walsh
May 8, 2024
There are no shortage of events to enjoy during summertime in Las Vegas. (photo: Unsplash/Jordi Vich Navaro)

It’s safe to say that over the past decade or more, going to Las Vegas during the summer for the World Series of Poker has evolved into more than just the chase for a gold bracelet. As more and more properties and card rooms have looked to capture their share of the tidal wave of incoming poker players, going to the “World Series of Poker” means heading to Poker Summer Camp in Sin City where a bonanza of tournament poker, at nearly every buy-in level, awaits.

Amongst everyday poker players, the WSOP is synonymous with “The Main Event”, the $10K buy-in tournament that turns its winner into an instant poker legend. But you don’t need to save all year and take just one shot to have the ultimate WSOP experience. With so many properties all over town looking to lure you away from a single venue you can spend a week getting all the action you can handle for half that price – and here’s some examples of how and where you can do it.

Small Buy-in, Big Returns

Some say it’s a mistake to play your most important poker the moment you set foot in Las Vegas. That’s good advice. So, whether you play in your local dailies on the regular or this is your big yearly poker trip, it’s never a bad idea to get your Vegas legs underneath you before you fire your biggest shot. Recreational players may want to get a little of the early adrenaline out and shake off any potential cobwebs by hopping in an event with a more moderate buy-in that, if things go well, can still yield big-time returns.

For years, the WSOP Daily Deep Stack tournaments have offered just that. Running multiple times each day, with buy-ins ranging from $200 – $400, the WSOP Daily Deep Stacks bring out both local grinders and out-of-town casuals to create, at times, massive fields. Simply being in the same place as the big-time buy-ins makes it a great place to start to pick up some of the bracelet-chase vibes.

At least two other spots in town are vying for your business with similarly modest buy-ins. Both the Orleans Summer Poker Open (May 26-July 14) and the Golden Nugget’s The Grand (May 28 – July 1) also have an abundance of $200-$400 events. Like the WSOP Deep Stacks, both of these properties have multiple events per day, some with modest guarantees. What sets these properties apart from the WSOP Deep Stacks is both The Orleans and Golden Nugget have wider mixed game (non Hold’em) selections. Both are off the Strip (Golden Nugget is downtown, while Orleans is just west of Las Vegas Boulevard) but they are easy enough to get to via taxi or ride share, and each is a fine place to fire a couple early bullets.

Depending on the time and day, the low buy-ins sometimes bring out large fields which means that if you persevere and make a final table – some, if not all, of your week in Vegas will be covered right up front.

Step It Up

After a couple of lower stakes entries, you might want to step it up in terms of buy-in vs. reward, and, potentially, the caliber of player. The MGM Grand’s Summer Poker Festival (May 29 – July 8) is a good place to start. Many of their daily tournaments hover around the $300-$400 buy-in with bigger guaranteed prize pools. Their multi-flight events, which might be a little less attractive for someone who is in town for only a week, have six-figure guarantees and buy-ins at ~$500.

In years past, the Aria Poker room, arguably one of the nicest cash game spots in the city, would be one of the best places to play a mid-range lower-tier buy-in. Just a couple of years ago they reliably offered a solid slate of $400 tournaments. However over the past two years, they’ve been raising the bar and the buy-in, first from $400 to $600, and now $600 to $800. This is likely due to player demand in conjunction with space concerns. This year, the 2024 Aria Poker Classic (May 29 – July 13) has a near-daily offering of $800 No Limit Hold’em tournaments to hop in. That $400 to $800 jump will likely bring with it a level up in competition (as well as excitement).

Challenge Yourself

As we mentioned, as the buy-ins go up, so does the competition and there’s going to be plenty to play at both at The Venetian and The Wynn this summer.

The Venetian DeepStack Championship (May 20 – July 31) is one of the longest-running summer series in Vegas, and one of the first to really try to offer WSOP players an alternative to playing at the Rio/Horseshoe. Their one-day NLHE buy-ins average at $1,100 with an occasional $600-$800 thrown in. Like MGM Grand, the Venetian has a number of multi-flight events that have healthy six-figure guarantees and generate big-time prize pools.

The Wynn Poker Room, home of the WPT World Championship, is one of the nicest overall properties on the strip with an equally lauded poker room staff to match. At the same time the Aria was gradually increasing their buy-ins, the Wynn Summer Classic (May 22 – July 17) has done the same over the past couple of years. What used to be a multitude of $550 buy-ins have turned into near-daily $1,100s. That said, the tournaments are top notch and one might just encounter a higher percentage of well-funded recreational players at the Wynn, part-timers who are there to have a good time.

But make no mistake, both The Venetian and The Wynn will be a step up in competition. If there’s not an attractive bracelet event taking place at the WSOP, young pros, and non-mixed game wizards will be firing at both of these properties with regularity as the prize pools will often be incredibly attractive, so you never know who you might sit down with.

Time to Take The Shot

Finally, after a week of build up it’s time to take your shot at poker history. It’s back to the Horseshoe Las Vegas and Paris Las Vegas to play in a bona fide bracelet event. The targets are the big field No Limit Hold’em tournaments where, if lightning strikes, it will allow you to walk away with a sum that can seriously change your situation.

There are 20 open events with buy-ins of $1,000 or less that are sure to draw crowds. Plus a pair of events, in the $1,000 Mystery Millions and the $1,500 Millionaire Maker, which each promise someone will walk away a millionaire. Add to that the likes of the $1,500 Monster Stack, the $1,500 Shootout, the $1,000 Mini Main Event, or any of the one-off $800 or $1,500 bracelet events, and you quickly will regain that adrenaline that you got rid of when you first arrived in Vegas.