Image: Lake Las Vegas Resort
© 2006 Lake Las Vegas Resort
Your choices for house rentals range from $500 a week in downtown, for that charming "old Vegas" ambience, to $5,000 a week for a luxury castle on a world-class golf course. The good news: Your $10,000 gets you two whole weeks and enough room for your entourage to share the jacuzzi, pool, and media room, without having to resort to bunk beds and sleeping bags.
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updated 7/11/2007 12:50:59 PM ET 2007-07-11T16:50:59

You've spent the last seven weeks ping-ponging from a noisy, over-crowded conference hall on the Vegas Strip to a luxury mansion near a championship golf course. You've paid handsomely for the privilege in both cases. If you're good (world-class good) and you're lucky (astronomically lucky), you'll be rewarded with one final grueling day of work, and a $10 million bonus (give or take a few mil) waiting for you if you make it to quitting time.

Welcome to the World Series of Poker.

Last year, tens of thousands of poker players waded through the 110-degree summer heat of Las Vegas to take a crack at cashing in. Almost 9,000 played in the main event alone. That means showing up and putting down $10,000 for a seat card and a very long shot at glory.

This year, despite a downturn in online poker in the U.S. market, coming on the heels of recent banking legislation and high-profile arrests of overseas gaming executives, the expectation is that the field will remain stable—or perhaps just edge down slightly. In fact, the total number of starting contestants in the World Series of Poker Main Event has long been a popular "prop" bet among poker professionals. And this year's discussions about the trend are proving as lively as ever.

"It may be the toughest year since 2003 to predict the size of the field for the Main Event," notes John Caldwell, editor in chief of PokerNews.com. "The legislation has caused the WSOP to have to change some of their rules as far as registration goes. It's going to keep a lot of 'regular Joe' players at home. I think we'll see 5,000 to 5,500 entrants this year, which is still a massive field."

Last year, successfully navigating the huge field of the Main Event earned Hollywood agent Jamie Gold a record $12.5-million prize for 1st place—the richest crown in sports by a wide margin. The 2006 prize pool for the Main Event alone was a whopping $82 million, which, in hindsight, makes the $10,000 entry fee seem like chump change. This year's payouts are a little flatter, meaning that even more players will get a piece of the pie.

Still, the majority of players won't last more than a day in this vaunted competition. For many, the price tag will be somewhere between $1,000 and $2,500 per hour. Most players are happy to pay, and not just the ones who won bargain-priced satellites, or mini-tournaments that award entrance spots in the big show. The good news: No one goes home empty-handed. Feel free to consider how to spend your $15 food court coupon as you shuffle down the long hallway of the Rio after your last chip has been pushed towards some anonymous stranger's stack.

Of course, you don't have to hitch your star to the long odds of the Main Event. You can get an WSOP experience for much less. Scheduled events in the seven-week series start at a measly $1,000 and come in 45 different combinations of price and game-selection. As of last year, the main event isn't even the priciest heat in the series. That title now rests with the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E tournament, which offers five different flavors of poker, while pitting you against 200 or so of the world's top professionals. If you have money to burn and you want to sit down with the world's best in a tournament setting, skip the main event and go straight to H.O.R.S.E. Last year this tournament had 143 entrants, with over $6.8 million in prize money—the first prize of $1.8 million went to Chip Reese after an epic, ten-hour heads up match.

If you'd rather face off against the world's best players without ESPN's cameras recording your every embarrassing miscue, just visit the Bellagio or the Venetian's high-stakes poker rooms. If you flash enough credit at the cage, the Phil Iveys and Doyle Brunsons of the world will be happy to make room for you at their nightly game.

No matter what road to poker glory you choose—$125 super-satellite or $500,000 cash game—you'll need to find accommodations and amenities to suit your endeavor. Poker takes skill, observation, imagination and long hours of stressful mental focus. You can't hope to score big if you're sleeping on your cousin's futon in nearby Henderson.

Meet the playersOnline qualifiers and visitors who are just in town for a single tournament, even if it's the Main Event, will likely book a room at a hotel on or near the Las Vegas Strip. You can't beat the value of proximity when 16 to 20-hour days are looming on your horizon. Hotel living isn't for everyone, however.

For poker professionals, many of whom call Las Vegas home (or a second home), there is comfort and convenience aplenty. These pros who aren't full-time Vegas residents have worked and reworked their routines over the decades to provide an optimal environment. For visiting big-name players, especially those who typically compete in events over the entire month-and-a-half series, renting a house is the preferred lifestyle choice.

Image: The Venetian
© The Venetian
The Venetian is hosting a tournament series of its own, concurrent with the WSOP. They're not trying to compete head-to-head with the "Olympics of Poker," but they are hoping to attract some of the many players who just can't get enough competition. If you've got $10,000, you can easily enter more than half of the 31 events in the Venetian's Deep Stack tournament series, running the entire month of June.
"My general rule of thumb for staying in hotels is that for one week it is great, and by week two I am starting to get stir crazy and really miss home. I have noticed that my poker playing results are drastically better when I am happy with my living arrangements," says WSOP bracelet-winner Robert Williamson III.

Luckily, Las Vegas's status as a premier destination makes the market for monthly and weekly house rentals fairly liquid. That's not to say there isn't significant lead time required to secure a rental. And unless you're a high-roller, you may need to line up roommates to share that 3,000-square foot house with the pool. If you decide to go the rental route, make sure you're in for the long haul, willing to play cash games if the tournaments don't pan out. Rental homes are not the way to go if you're the kind of player who takes a bad beat and wants to check out, fly home and lick your wounds.

Williamson explains, "I've been leasing a luxury home in Vegas the last few years during the World Series. I not only enjoy the additional space, but also being able to cook in my own kitchen, BBQing outdoors, swimming in privacy, and having a nice glass of wine on one of the balconies. These things help me to relax and prepare mentally for the tough challenge of playing long hours of poker for seven weeks in a row."

The seven-week World Series of Poker starts at Harrah's Rio All-Suite Hotel on June 1 with a $5,000 Mixed Limit/No-Limit Hold 'Em event. The Main Event unfolds from July 6 to July 17. If you're planning on taking your shot this year, get your accommodations squared away soon. And if you're looking for alternate ways to spend $10,000 in Vegas, take a look at the slideshow.

Check back in a couple of weeks for the Forbes Traveler Deluxe Guide to Vegas, featuring insider tips from the regulars: dining, hospitality, entertainment and more.

Photos: Welcome to Vegas

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  1. Welcome to Las Vegas

    The Bellagio's fountain show entertains visitors nightly. In the background is Bally's Las Vegas, left, and Paris Las Vegas, which has a 50-story Eiffel Tower replica in front. Over 37.5 million people visit Las Vegas each year. (Ethan Miller / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Fremont Street Experience

    Located in downtown Las Vegas, this exciting pedestrian promenade is home to approximately 16 million lights, making it one of the largest LED screens in the world. (Brian Jones / Las Vegas News Bureau) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Looking for Lady Luck

    Casion visitors play slot machines at the Mirage Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. (Ethan Miller / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Dunking Elvis

    An Elvis impersonator performs a slam dunk during the 2007 NBA All-Star Game on February 18, 2007, at Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas. (Jesse D. Garrabrant / NBAEGetty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Grand casinos

    Lights from passing vehicles are seen in front of the MGM Grand Hotel/Casino in Las Vegas. (Ethan Miller / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Poker face

    Jamie Gold, right, of California and Paul Wasicka of Colorado go head-to-head on the final table of the World Series of Poker no-limit Texas Hold 'em main event at the Rio Hotel & Casino on Aug. 11, 2006, in Las Vegas. Gold outlasted more than 8,700 other poker players to win the top prize of $12 million. Wasicka won just over $6.1 million for finishing second. (Ethan Miller / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Glitz and glamour

    A Canon display is seen inside the Las Vegas Convention Center at the Consumer Electronics Show. Las Vegas is the nation's top business travel destination, with easy airline access, numerous hotel rooms, low rates, plentiful convention facilities and a wide range of dining and entertainment options. (Karl Polverino / Zuma Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Over-the-top entertainment

    Performers ride a Volkswagen Beetle across the stage during a preview of "The Beatles LOVE by Cirque du Soleil" at the Mirage Hotel & Casino on June 27, 2006, in Las Vegas. (Ethan Miller / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. A New York minute

    The New York-New York Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas recreates the Manhattan skyline, complete with replicas of the Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building and Brooklyn Bridge. (Courtesy of MGM MIRAGE) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Entertainment mecca

    Kenny Chesney performs "Out Last Night" at the 44th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards in Las Vegas on April 5, 2009. (Mark J. Terrill / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Tying the knot

    From left, Elvis Presley impersonator Norm Jones plays guitar as Bruce Barnett of Virginia Beach, Va., escorts his daughter Gayle to her wedding ceremony at the Graceland Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas, Nevada. Graceland is the oldest wedding chapel in Las Vegas and offers ceremonies with or without Elvis impersonators. (David Mcnew / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Explosive attraction

    The $25 million, newly redesigned volcano display in front of the Mirage Hotel & Casino features 150 choreographed FireShooters sending fireballs more than 12 feet in the air and a custom soundtrack created by Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart and Indian tabla virtuoso Zakir Hussain. (Ethan Miller / Getty Images for MGM Mirage) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. A night on the Strip

    Hotels and casinos line the Las Vegas Strip. From thrilling roller coasters to erupting volcanos to art museums, Las Vegas' many attractions appeal to people of all ages and interests. (Ethan Miller / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Fight night

    David Diaz and Manny Pacquiao fight during the fourth round of the WBC Lightweight Championship at the Mandalay Bay Events Center on June 28, 2008, in Las Vegas. Pacquiao won in a ninth-round knockout. (Harry How / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Day at the races

    Rookie driver Shawn Langdon earned his first No. 1 qualifying position of his career at the SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway on April 4, 2009, in Las Vegas. (Richard Wong / NHRA via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Fabulous shopping

    The Juicy Couture retail store at The Forum Shops at Caesars Palace is seen before the grand opening February 5, 2009, in Las Vegas. (Ethan Miller / Getty Images for Juicy Couture) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Stunning shows

    Buyi Zama as “Rafiki” in the opening number “The Circle of Life” from THE LION KING Las Vegas. (Joan Marcus / Disney) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. A slice of Italy

    Visitors take a gondola ride at The Venetian in Las Vegas. (Ethan Miller / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Get into the groove

    Dina Buell, left, and Carla Giordano, both from California, dance at the pool at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino during Rehab, the resort's weekly pool party, in 2005 in Las Vegas. (Ethan Miller / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Let’s get this party started

    Party goers gather for the grand opening of LAX Nightclub Las Vegas in 2007. (Chris Weeks / WireImage) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Big laughs

    Comedian Ellen DeGeneres performs at a taping of ''Ellen's Even Bigger Really Big Show'' during The Comedy Festival at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace in 2008 in Las Vegas. (Ethan Miller / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. A kingly stay

    The Excalibur Hotel and Casino features a castle motif with newly refurbished hotel rooms. (Courtesy of MGM MIRAGE) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. A dancing fountain

    Visitors are silhouetted against the backdrop of The Bellagio's fountain show on the Las Vegas Strip. (Ethan Miller / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
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