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The Main Event

This year, because circumstances allow, I will be playing in the WSOP Main Event a the Rio in Las Vegas. Registration is paid and the flights, hotel etc are all booked.

The $10,000 registration fee had to be sent by wire transfer to the Rio Casino, and I managed to pick the low point of the Aus dollar for the last year on the day I sent the money, costing a bit over AUS$11,000. The bank took a $30 fee for their trouble and I thought all was done. Until I got an email from the WSOP event office to tell me that only $9,975 had arrived in their account, and could I please sent the remaining $25. The turns out some intermediary bank had also taken a fee from the transfer.

So, the cost to sent the shortfall would work out to $30 for my bank, plus $25 for the other bank - $55, to pay $25. The solution I arrived at was to transfer another $1,000 - which dilutes the fees down to an acceptable percentage, and then what is left over I can pick up in chips at the cashiers cage at the Rio when I get there.

Another unwelcome surprise was the cost of airfares. Last time I went to Vegas - in 2010, I flew Air New Zealand business class (a fantastic service) for $3,800 return to Los Angeles. This time, the best fare I could get on any airline combination was $6,800, with some really horrible (9, 15, 19 hour) stops and plane changes. Then, another $400 to get from LAX to Las Vegas.

During the search for a better fare, I hit upon Alpha Flight Guru, who came up with a deal for $5,500 with the main legs being first class fares!. Wow, first class to LA from Sydney is usually $15,000+.

I got the email offer late at night, and was just about to tell the guy to go ahead an book it, but then decided to sleep on it until morning. Just because the deal was so good, it seemed too good to be true. So next morning I did a couple of google searches, and sure enough, come across some warnings. Plenty of people also said they had had no problems, but then I saw that some post had been deleted on Trip Advisor because they were found to be from Alpha Flight employees pretending to be customers.

From what I could gather, one way AFG gets such low prices is by buying unused frequent flyer points and then using those points to book travel. Since most airlines have a policy that forbids the transfer of points to unknown 3rd parties, the airline is within their rights to cancel the tickets without notice, if they find out that has happened. In most cases, the risk of this happening is probably very low, but what a huge hassle if it did happen. So good as the deal was, I let it go.

In the end, I went with Thai Airways. The price was $6,800 Perth to LA return, plus I can use some of my existing FF points with them to upgrade to first class if I feel like it, but even so, the fit out for the Boeing 777 business class cabin looks ok, with fully flat bed seating.

That just left the LAX to Las Vegas leg. Anyone who has been through LAX knows how horrendous that airport is. Particularly on holiday long weekends - the Main event being on the 4th of July weekend. And particularly of you are flying coach. When the ticket says 'check in 4 hours prior to flight', it really means that. If you try it with only 3 hours to spare a) you might not get through check in in time, the queues are that long, b) you might get bumped from the flight because of the overbooking policies of US domestic airlines, and c) you might find yourself re-routed to Atlanta or Chicago with 8 hours of flying to make the 1 hour trip. All these things have happened to me in the past. So the rule is; unless you can avoid it, do not fly coach in the US, fly first class, because, even though you will pay three times as much, you will be treated a little better.

Resigning myself to pay the extra, I did one more search for best fares and found the site. The hotel I had planned to stay at was going to cost $1,800 for the 10 days, plus $425 airfare... well, not too bad. Looking up the deals for flights and accommodation, I found the same hotel, including the first class airfare, for $1,800 total, plus, two show tickets to a choice of shows. That one at least was a no-brainer.

I fly out on the 3rd and should arrive in Vegas about 7pm on the 4th, with 2 days to get over jet lag before my 'day 1' on the Sunday. My objective at this stage is to just make it though day 1. I have no false allusions, it will be tough.


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