Vegas Hack for Scoring Cheap Concert Tickets (or How Not to See U2 at the Sphere)

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Dan Michalski

Updated by Dan Michalski

News Writer

Last Updated 14th Mar 2024, 07:22 AM

Vegas Hack for Scoring Cheap Concert Tickets (or How Not to See U2 at the Sphere)

My sister was in town to see U2 at the Sphere. Having read rave reviews from friends and critics alike – not so much about the show but about the venue – I told her I might try to crash her party. She said bring it on.

It was too late to get a ticket at the box office, but plenty were available on the secondary market. A couple weeks out, the buy-it-now prices started at $495 for nosebleed and obstructed-view seats, and climbed to $900 and into the thousands for something more premium.

Call me cheap, fiscally confused or maybe just stuck in the ‘90s, but these prices seemed far too high for a humble casino writer’s entertainment bankroll. But I had a plan. 

A former coworker who sometimes sells his season tickets to Vegas Golden Knights games confirmed that seats are almost always available at game time, and prices fall dramatically after the puck drops. It shouldn’t be too different for a concert if you're willing to miss a few minutes of the start, right? 

Joining me on this quest for a sweet discount were my friends Dirk and Agatha (not their real names), two recent Las Vegas transplants from Chicago who were still learning to navigate the Strip.

Las Vegas High Roller and Sphere

The Sphere is a new spectacle you can’t miss in the backyard of the the Las Vegas Strip. (Image: Steve Harvey / Alamy)

We all agreed that we’d be OK missing up to a half hour of the 135-minute show if we could get in for $200 or so. 

This would prove easier said than done. 

Here are four important lessons learned from our digital ticket-scalping experiment:

inside Venetian, signs to Sphere

Excuse me, ma’am, which way to … ahh, got it, thanks. (Image: Dan Michalski / Casinos.com)

1. Know What You’re Walking Into

To get to the Las Vegas Sphere, you can park at The Venetian or Palazzo (two hugely popular Vegas casinos) and make your way to the Venetian Expo Center. There will be signs.

Sphere is massive – 366 feet tall, 516 feet wide, and 580,000 square feet of digital surface-area, making it the largest LED screen in the world. 

Inside, it seats 18,600 people, with another 1,400 General Admission tickets for Standing Room Only around a stage that is surrounded by a 150,000 square-foot screen with 16k resolution (making it the highest-resolution display on the planet) and 1,600 speakers outfitted with technology apparently capable of making you levitate.  

A crew of Sphere personnel were on hand to point ticket holders toward the right entrance and answer any questions. A few dozen people outside seemed to be doing what we were, fixated not on the lights all around us but instead on our mobile phones, presumably refreshing ticket apps. 

That’s when Agatha realized she and Dirk didn’t even have those apps. Fortunately, we still had time, the wifi was good and everyone’s phones were charged. Those $239 seats I saw on the way there were long gone. The cheapest now were hovering between $369 and $402.  

Agatha downloaded StubHub, set up an account, verified her email, connected it to a credit card, verified her credit card … 

“There’s a lot of steps!” Agatha said. “We probably should’ve done all this before we left home.” 

U2 Achtung Baby Live at Sphere

An amazing display in 16k resolution washes over a rapt crowd that we are not part of at the Sphere. (Image: Sipa USA / Alamy)

2. Be Ready to Act Quickly

The doors into Sphere opened at 8 pm, with U2 expected to take the stage at 8:45 pm. 

Agatha was on StubHub looking, and I was toggling between StubHub and Vivid Seats. 

The price point we were hoping for was $200. We said we’d reassess about 15 minutes before showtime, and then decide if we wanted to pull the trigger on the best available or wait until after the show started to definitely get our discount seats. 

Soon the winding queues began filling the Sphere. And as predicted, prices started going down. Over the course of a few minutes, $369 became $311 and then $289. And these were good seats – not just the far corners of the 100 section (with the slightly obstructed view) or the vertigo-inducing steepness of the 400 section – but some of these were GA on the floor! 

We’ll just refresh one more time … Nope, damn, now $371! 

ticket apps for U2 in Las Vegas at the Sphere

Instead, we were rapt with this less brilliant display, where prices didn't drop as steadily as we would've liked.(Images: StubHub, Vivid Seats)

This was the game. You could watch the price drop on a certain batch of tickets, but at what point when they’re falling do you just have to grab them before someone else does? 

We were learning in real time that vigorous button pressing reaps rewards. One after the other, our fellow bargain-hunting brethren were heading inside.

“The show is probably starting now,” Dirk said at about 8:50 pm. Agatha kept refreshing her screen and started to look despondent. 

By 9 pm, the show had certainly started. Surely we would get something now, right?

3. Beware of Hidden Fees

TicketMaster uses “All In Pricing,” meaning the number you see on the website includes taxes and fees. But this is not the case on third-party ticket apps. 

We figured Bono was probably starting the third song or so when we finally were seeing prices near our predetermined ceiling. Both apps were showing desirable seats (or GA tickets) for $211, $214 and $222. With a look and a few nods, we decided to go for it, Just a few more clicks … whoa … we kinda expected there to be more fees, but it was another $69 for me, $79 for Agatha. 

We paused. When we said $200, did we mean the ticket price or total price? 

“Ticket price,” Agatha answered. 

“Total price,” Dirk and I said almost simultaneously.

Sigh, it didn’t matter. See lesson 2 – you snooze, you lose. A few extra seconds of debate and some questionable math was all it took for the tickets to be gone as we watched three soon-to-be concertgoers gleefully skipping toward the innards of the Sphere.

U2 Achtung Baby Live at Sphere

The stage itself where U2 played was small, and beneath the surreal display surrounding them, I can see unsold space on the floor. (Image: Sipa USA / Alamy)

4. More People, More Problems

If you want to play the game of getting into a sold-out show by buying up tickets from last-minute absentees, it might need to be every man or woman for themselves. 

Available seats on the apps were mostly just individual tickets,. There were plenty of pairs together, but we almost never saw a block of three. 

Now more than 45 minutes after the show had started, available tickets were back up to the mid-$300s minimum (before adding fees). 

We reluctantly did our walk of shame away from Sphere and back toward self-parking at The Venetian. 

“Hey, don’t worry, we’re locals,” I said in an effort to assuage the dejection. “They’re here for another couple months.”

Agatha shot me a look that Dirk seemed to know well. Between work, travel and kids, we would not be coming back. 

I texted my sister to let her know we were headed home. She texted back with her reviewer's take on the concert: “Amazing … crazy … an experience in its own right!” 

Hallway between The Venetian and Sphere

More directions. It’s easy to get turned around, but no one should be missing the show because they got lost. (Image: Dan Michalski / Casinos.com)

Looking back, there really were some great bargains for good seats. But as first-timers, we just didn’t recognize the opportunities when they presented themselves, and then quickly they were gone. 

Some may have been a little more than we want to spend, but c’mon, this is Vegas where almost-even is close to a win. As a longtimer here, that’s a lesson I should’ve been teaching the new locals!

* * *

U2:UV Achtung Baby Live at Sphere returns on Friday, when they resume a thrice-weekly schedule until the final show on Mar. 2.

Next up, perennial jam band Phish will play four nights in Las Vegas at the Sphere, April 15-18, with each show featuring unique visuals. 

These tickets currently are running about $900 on the apps. If you’re quick and smart, it’s a good bet you can get them for significantly less.

Sphere Las Vegas

Las Vegas already loves its Sphere. Next time maybe we’ll get to see it from the inside. (Image: Suzanne Andrews / Alamy)

Meet The Author

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Dan Michalski
Dan Michalski
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Dan Michalski is a longtime journalist based in Las Vegas with nearly 20 years as a writer and editor covering poker, casino gaming and sports betting. As founder of Pokerati and an award-winning blogger, podcaster and news reporter, Dan has worked tirelessly to elevate the standards of journalism in gaming media. He also has served as a gaming industry consultant and holds advanced certificates in gaming regulation from UNLV. When not thinking about media and casinos, he can be found on the tennis courts, where he has captained two teams to USTA national championships, and one to second place.

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