Money Lessons Learned from Las Vegas

I went to Vegas over the weekend, and it was my first time. I wasn’t too impressed with the Las Vegas strip itself, but some of the casinos and resorts are just unbelievable. I would like to know what the square footage is for the Venetian or Caesar’s Palace. The fountain in front of the Bellagio is definitely one of the highlights of the strip. So, let me tell you how I left Las Vegas without any winnings but still kept my shirt.

First, I came with a budget. I only had about $400 to spend on food and gambling. The good news is that I won $112 on poker the first night, so that allowed me to play much more poker on sunday and monday. But, of course, I lost all of those winnings, and then started getting in the red in terms of what I played with and what I won. I did win $20 on the Steelers covering the spread, and I won $30 dollars screwing around on a video poker machine trying to kill some time.

Second, the house always wins. This cliche really is true. Las Vegas casinos know what they are doing. They’re going to do whatever they can to get you to stay as long as possible, because they know if you keep playing, you’ll eventually start losing and spinning into a frenzy of continuing to pump money out to try to recover what you lost. Once you start trying to put more money in to get back what you already lost, Vegas has you exactly where they want you. Luckily for me, I didn’t have any credit cards use or any money in my main bank account, so when I was done, I was done. I used the money that I came with, and that was it. Now, I could have won $132 from the Steelers and poker and called it a weekend, but that wouldn’t have been any fun. I came to Vegas for the experience, and not gambling would have taken away from that. Plus, the shows are REALLY expensive. You can apply this lesson to anything in life. The more you play with fire, the more money you will lose. The more crazy investments that you invest in such as hedge funds, day-trading, and other high-risk, no-winning-history investments.

Third, you’ve got to know when to cash out. This money lesson is the opposite of the lesson to learn about investing. Investing is all about going in for the long term and riding out the waves. You can’t do that in Vegas, or else you’ll just keep losing tons of money. Poker is a little different, because you have some control over how you play, but if you aren’t getting the cards, you won’t win no matter how good of a player you are.

Lastly, Vegas will test your will power. It will separate those who are strong and those who are weak. If you are a weak person, you might leave with a second mortgage on your house or an eviction notice on your door. But for those who have strong will power to know when to stop, they will walk away from Vegas enjoying themselves even if they lost $1,000 that was budgeted out.

I’m not a big gambler, but I wanted to check out Vegas and get the experience. I don’t think it’s a bad thing to visit Vegas and bring a modest, budgeted amount of money with you to gamble. The problem is that the city is so tempting and alluring that it causes people to lose their mind and spend much more money then they wanted to. If you don’t have much will power, Vegas might not be the place you want to visit for vacation. Don’t ever gamble with your money. You can gamble with your money without ever stepping foot in Nevada, an Indian Reservation, or any other gambling town. Investing in real estate without any money, investing in unproven stock investments, leveraging personal debt, and investing in a friend’s start-up company without doing research are all aways to gamble with your money. Make calculated investments with your money, and you will find yourself a very wealthy person at the end of your working career.

  • FinanceAndFat

    Sounds like you did Vegas the right way.

    I had a blast the first time I went there, but it got old for me after that. I think maybe I’m too old for it now. :)

    Like you said, nothing wrong with a little gambling if you plan ahead and know your limits.

  • author

    Yeah, it probably seems weird for a personal finance site to be talking about gambling. But like I said, gambling for recreation once or twice a year is nothing to be ashamed about. You just need to make sure that you have a spending limit that is part of your vacationing budget and is well within your means to afford without affecting anything else financially in your life.

  • Mac

    I’ll be going to Vegas for the just 2nd time in a month for business, and so will (fortunately) have limited time to give my money away to the casinos. However, I’m not much of a gambler anyways and when/if I do play, I’ll probably stick to the nickel, or penny slots just to get a few cheap drinks out of it.

    Saying that, there are deals to be had in Vegas. Just have to know where to look for them.