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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.

Erik Folgate
Erik and his wife, Lindzee, live in Orlando, Florida with a baby boy on the way. Erik works as an account manager for a marketing company, and considers counseling friends, family and the readers of Money Crashers his personal ministry to others. Erik became passionate about personal finance and helping others make wise financial decisions after racking up over $20k in credit card and student loan debt within the first two years of college.

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