How to beat the odds, every single time. 
Las Vegas
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Would you wander on to a battlefield, unarmed? Probably not. You'd want to have a strategy, too—unless, of course, you enjoy being blindsided by your adversaries. Okay, so lining up for a Las Vegas buffet isn't exactly going to war, but showing up with no plan is a really bad idea. The days of the buffet as a cheap giveaway or a way to pass the time between stints at the slots? Long gone. All those upgrades to the local food scene over the last couple of decades didn't leave the iconic Vegas institution behind; from top-notch meat and seafood to a dishes designed to reflect (and appeal to) an increasingly global audience, buffets are, in many respects, better than they ever have been.

Naturally, none of this comes cheap. Which is where the need for strategy presents itself. With all the energy going into creating the city's best buffets, you're now paying more than ever. Want to know which ones are worth it? Want to know how to get the most from your experience? Let's dive in.

Which ones are the best ones? On its worst day, the Buffet at Wynn is still pretty much as good as it gets, around here—you can't hope for much better than a leisurely, over-indulgent brunch inside the sunny, colorful Conservatory (absolutely ask to be seated here, it's worth the wait). For those who prefer a more sleek, modern setting, the Wicked Spoon at the Cosmopolitan is a terrific runner-up—the relatively adventurous food here, which has in the past included everything from roasted bone marrow to pho—actually works, and works well. Their bottomless beverage option is a terrific value, and they do a happy hour from 3-5 p.m. every day, with $5 cocktails and more good deals. In third place—that's a very distant third, mind you—would be Caesars' Bacchanal Buffet, a venue that has received an incredible amount of hype since its launch, a few years back now—it certainly is stunning, from a visual perspective, and it had better be, with all the money they spent, and based on how much they're charing. Much of the food, however, is Instagram-bait nonsense, looking far better than it actually tastes.

Are you in the club? Spending a penny inside any Las Vegas resort without being a member of the house rewards program, or players club, is something you should never do. Not that you needed to be reminded. Just in case, though—every dollar counts towards free stuff, is why; those points add up to all sorts of good things. (For instance, free buffets.) Sometimes, you even get cool stuff (again, free buffets) just for joining. Sometimes, joining, playing a bit of video poker, and then asking (nicely) for a comp works, too.

Go big or go home doesn't necessarily apply. Not at first, anyway. Even the best buffets can stumble, and if it's your first time in Las Vegas, you're smart to keep it simple, at least on your first go-round. There's nothing worse than feeling like you were ripped off, after dropping $40 on a dinner buffet you weren't really ready for. Start with breakfast, or one of the cheaper lunch buffets, and ask to take a look before you commit. If you're only in town long enough to just do this the once, however, we'll advocate strongly for weekend brunch. (That seems to be when even the ho-hum buffets get really exciting.)

Don't fill up on bread, or its flashy equivalent. Crab legs, yes. Pathetic sushi that's mostly rice, no, are you crazy, put it back. Prime rib, you bet; made-to-order omelets, or pancakes with maple syrup? Let those wait until your next diner run, back home. Do what you have to—write yourself a note, get a henna tattoo on your arm—but don't forget the first and most important brunch commandment: Red meat, raw seafood, full stop. Until you're done. Only then should you be tinkering around with the rest of it.

For best results, tip. Yes, it's a buffet, but you're still being served—those nice people who clear your half-empty plates and refill your drinks would really appreciate you not forgetting that they exist. It's always a good call to leave at least a couple of dollars per person—no need to get crazy—in your party. If, however, you've purchased one of the unlimited drinks packages that are quite popular right now, consider being slightly more generous, if only to catch your servers attention. (You typically pay up when you arrive, and your check does follow you to your table. They'll know.)