sold out
If you've ever logged onto Ticketmaster and received the unfortunate "No Tickets Are Available" message for a sports game or concert you just had to see, chances are you've had to consider getting scalped tickets from a 3rd party source.  While this is often a viable way to successfully get the tickets you want, you're likely to pay 3, 4 or even 10 times face value!  
This may seem wrong - and in some ways it is.  However, the purpose of this article is to give you some ideas on how you can pay much less for the same ticket.

Leading up to the event

In the days leading up to the event, there will be plenty of sites (such as Stubhub or Ebay) selling the tickets you want, giving you plenty of options for tickets.  You're going to want to avoid these sites at all costs!  They often mark up their tickets more than anything else you will see.  So while there are some pros associated with the sites (mainly, the security of knowing you'll have the tickets you want days prior to the event), it's going to cost you.
craigslistOne site that you'll need to explore leading up to the event is Craigslist.  Craigslist is full of real people who are trying to sell their tickets for reasons other than making a profit, and even if you don't buy the ticket here, it will give you a good sense for the market.
One thing you'll start to notice on Craigslist is that the prices people ask for tickets will slowly start to go down as the event gets closer.  This is because people are trying to not get stuck with the tickets if they're not able to go to the event.
At this point, it becomes a little bit of a gamble.  Do you buy a tickets for a good price that you perceive as fair now, or wait to see if the prices go down even lower?
If you're using Craigslist, one thing that I've seen time after time is that tickets reach their low point the night before the event as people are just trying to get rid of them at that point.  While it's true that people will continue to sell their tickets the day of the event, it's a lot less riskier buying them the night before, and will save you a lot of last minute stress.
We have to mention that a lot scams occur on Craigslist, so if something looks too good to be true, it probably is!  Also, never send money to someone first, or offer to meet someone anywhere that isn't a public area.
StadiumAnother last ditch option before the event is to call the box office or go to a few days prior to see if any tickets have opened up.  In some cases, people will get a refund for their tickets purchased through these venues and you may be able to get the tickets you want for face value!  However, this is really a long-shot, so I wouldn't recommend depending on this option.

The day of the event

Ok, the day of the event has arrived and you still don't have tickets.  In these situations, you really have three options: 
  1. Scan Craigslist for fans trying to sell their tickets last minute, and attempt to meet up at the stadium
  2. Purchase tickets from fans at the stadium who aren't necessarily 'scalping' their tickets, but trying to get rid of extras they may have
  3. Buy tickets outside the venue from scalpers.
For the purposes of this article, we're going to focus on #3, as this is often the only option you will have.
Scalper1If you've been to a professional sports game or concert, chances are you've seen the signs being held up proclaiming "I Need Tickets".  In fact, these people are the ones who are actually both buying and selling tickets, otherwise known as ticket scalpers.
To deal with these scalpers, it helps to know how the process works.  They often will buy tickets in bulk from ticket brokers who were unable to sell tickets before the event.  They also buy tickets from fans who may have an extra ticket that they're trying to unload.  The price that they offer for these tickets is drastically below face value.  To put in perspective, if the ticket has a face value of $50, they may offer $10 or $20 to the fan.  Since the fan is just trying to go to the game, they will often take whatever they can for ticket and be done with it.  
By the time you get to the scalper, they are sitting on a number of tickets that they have purchased below face value.
Scalpers also help each other out and are often part of a network.  If one scalper does not have a particular ticket, they will work with their scalper friends to find what you need (for a kickback, of course).
So how do you get these tickets cheap?  First off all, be somewhat realistic in your expectation.  You're not going to get a $50 face value ticket for $5, and starting your offer at this price point is only going to make the scalper angry and unwilling to negotiate.  Expect the scalper to start negotiations at 2 times face value of the ticket, which would be $100 in this scenario.
If the event is a high-demand event, you should target getting the tickets for face value at best.  In this case, what you need to do is offer a price that is a little below what you are ultimately willing to pay.  I would target $40 in this scenario.  The scalper will likely then come down on their price and say it is their "final offer".  In our ongoing scenario, I'd expect the scalper to drop their asking price from $100 to $90.  You need to then offer your "final offer" (in this case $50), and be prepared to walk away if they don't sell you the ticket or counter with anything higher.
In fact, walking away is the best piece of advice we can offer to anyone trying to get the best price possible for a ticket.  If the scalper really was willing to sell the ticket for $50, you'll know about 3 seconds after say "thanks but no thanks" and begin to walk away.  Sometimes it takes walking away a few times to really know what the price range you can expect to pay is!
MoneyOfferAnother strategy that often works is to put a random, set amount of money in your pocket (in this scenario I would go with $52).  If you empty your pocket, count it out in front of the scalper and tell them that's all you have, they may bend and sell the ticket for the amount - if they believe you're telling the truth.
When working with scalpers, remember that they don't want to be stuck with any tickets at the end of the day.  You may have to wait until closer to game-time, but chances are if you are patient, persistent and follow the advice above, you should be able to get tickets as cheaply as possible.
At the end of the day, tickets are never really sold out, but you may need to find some extra money to go to the event of your dreams.  There are plenty of avenues for purchasing tickets, and if you're diligent with exploring your options and doing some research, chances are you'll be able to find tickets for a reasonable price.  Good luck!
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