Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Cash Back vs. Comps -- It's Not Always a Clear Choice

The other night I was at Rampart Casino, and it was steak night at the buffet. I knew I had $42 in cash or comps so I headed to the Player's club to get a buffet voucher. Well, it was much easier said than done.

The woman behind the counter told me they were not issueing food vouchers that day. I didn't really understand, but had a vague awareness of an offer where if you get 600 points in a day you will get a free buffet on your next visit.

I told her I wanted to use my regular points to pay for my meal. At Station Casinos this is a pretty simple system, merely swiping my card and entering my pin at the cashier.

She offered me the Rampart/Cannery newspaper and told me there was a coupon in there. I was still rather confused, and finally she told me I could get my cash back and pay cash at the buffet.

So I was issued a voucher for $20 -- roughly half my points, and went to the cashier to get $20 in cold hard cash. I then took my cash and coupon to the buffet.

Sometimes I'm tempted just to cash out all my points around town and be done with it. I'll go back to watching TV and movies at night and eating at In-n-Out burgers.

Friday, February 22, 2008

New Slots on the Floor - Hitchcock Theatre and Up, Up, and Away

I made the rounds at Suncoast and Rampart casino this week and was pleasantly surprised to see that Wizard of Oz and Monopoly Up, Up and Away are creeping onto the casino floors.

I was amazed to see a new slot WMS' "Hitchcock Theatre" similar (meaning it fits into the same cabinets and has surprise bonuses bases on an extra bet) to "Gold Fish" and "Mermaid's Gold." I went to WMS' website (as I always do to provide a link) but couldn't find anything on this machine.

That left me to my own devices to play the darn thing and figure it out for myself. This of course, was easier said than done, as slot players are geniuses at sniffing out the new machines and testing their luck -- suffice it to say, I had competition.

At Suncoast this was difficult, but I did get a little time and hit a couple of bonus rounds with Alfred Hitchcock as my guide.

Like "Gold Fish" and "Mermaid's Gold" an extra bet of 10 credits is needed to activate the famed director popping up with a "Bird's Bonus" where the reels spin and the birds add wilds to the mix, an intermission bonus where sodas add wilds to three free spins, the popcorn machine adds credits, or a candy bar bonus, which I haven't hit so I don't know what it does.

Already that is three different bonuses . . . but wait . . . there is more!

If you hit three scattered tickets you get 10 free spins with more bonus opportunities. During the free spins if you get three film reels you get to pick one of three classic Hitchcock films and see how the audience reacts. There is also a stacked wild with a multiplier available in the free spins.

Well, it sure does sound like there are many opportunities to win, the trouble of course, is that I lost $25 at the Suncoast on Hitchcock, and won $5 at Rampart, only to quickly escape with my winnings.

I'm not sure how volatile this machine is, but so far, I'm reluctant to spend much time with it. Many of the bonuses give small results, and if you don't get a bonus at all, then you will run through your money very quickly.

Monopoly Up, Up, and Away doesn't seem to fare much better -- it's problem is having lots of bonus possibilities once you hit the cannon shoot gateway, but getting to that point (with three consecutive cannons (sometimes stacked) left to right is very difficult.

All and all, I've learned my lesson and will play these machines very selectively and carefully. I always love a new slot machine, but I'm not going to invest much financially in the experience.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Boredom Gets the Better of Me, IGT's Dragonfly Slots

Last night I got pretty bored with the routine of the same ole slots, and the same ole casino, and decided to try a new (same ole boring) IGT slot -- Dragonfly.

As I've said over and over, IGT slots are gettting simpler instead of more interesting and Dragonfly is no exception. To prove my point, check out the IGT webpage http://www.igt.com/GamingGroup/Games/game_detail.asp?toggle=ovr&pid=5.113.120&type_id=5115&pl=#cnt -- no graphics, no nothing, just a bare bones description of the slot with the allusion that Dragonflies are good luck to Asians. I wonder what Mr. Lucky would have to say about that? You want some Dragon Fly Rice? But I digress . . .

Anyway, the slot is a 243 way, meaning it pays like a scatter (consecutively) left to right, not line pays. It is AVP (IGT's code for server-based ready) -- you know and come to think of it, that might be the reason the IGT slots are simplified, so that all the bells and whistles don't overload the server??? It's a thought . . .

The graphics on this machine aren't bad. The symbols are done in the style of Art Nouveau artists like Mucha, including lovely ladies and a wild symbol of a lady as a dragonfly.

Three consecutive dragonflies give you 15 free spins at 3X and I was lucky enough to win around $10 on my free spins and break even on the machine I chose.

I may try Dragonfly again, just as I've succomb to Super Happy Fortune Cat -- the Asian trend continues, but I still pine for an updated version of Mr. Lucky's Fortune Cookie -- I just might like Dragon Fly Rice.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The R Word, and the S Word

So do you want the bad news, or do you want the bad news? The Review Journal and the Las Vegas Sun is full of it today. The first on a two-part column about the R-E-C-E-S-S-I-O-N called "The R Word" http://www.lvrj.com/business/15713402.html was lengthy and sugar-coated the real story, which is -- Yes, of course, we are in a RECESSION, and it's going to be bad -- with statements such as "With Strip construction booming, a building executive says he has a hard time seeing the Las Vegas economy heading into a recession." and "Las Vegas Sands Chairman Sheldon Adelson is confident the convention business will weather any downturn."

Okay, so the muckety-mucks gotta talk confident so their stocks don't plummet further. Meanwhile Wynn stock fell by $9 on a poor fourth quarter. http://www.lvrj.com/business/15713417.html

But let's move on the slots, and the bad news there. The S Word, Server Based Gaming is being tested at TI (formerly known as Treasure Island). http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2008/feb/17/dont-worry-your-slot-bets-are-still-safe/

Don't you just love the title of this article and the photo of the smiling slot player? Sure -- Don't Worry, Be Happy! -- Your Slot Bet is Still Safe!!!

What is good about this article is the large photo that gives you a good view of what server-based machines look like. Check out the cabinet, and the sure fire give away -- a video screen where the glass graphics used to be.

Knock on wood, um, I mean glass, and you will be sure of playing a traditional slot. The video screen can be changed at whim, the glass printed panel would have to be manually switched out to change the game. I've already written about the demise of wild sculptural toppers like the Dukes of Hazzard General Lee, and the Green Acres pig -- surely these won't survive in the new age of server based games.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Las Vegas Officially Recession Proof . . . NOT !!!

Well, the big news from Las Vegas this week is LAYOFFS and HIRING FREEZES!!! Can you spell R-E-C-E-S-S-I-O-N ??!! -- it's kinda like D-I-V-O-R-C-E . . . a dirty little word that should be spelled out so the kids don't freak out and think the world is coming to an end.

Of course, the world, or more specifically THEIR world IS coming to an end, and if you didn't get a pink slip this week, well, just wait -- no one safe when the gravy train wrecks.

Yep, the sky is falling . . . but not for the muckety mucks in the corner office -- they'll hang on to their jobs and ride out the down cycle if they can just keep the pesky front line from eating into their little utopia.

The big word here is IF . . . and as I've reported before, when the head honchos are losing billions in stock value, heads are gonna roll faster than video reels.

Here is how the local media sums it up -- http://www.lvrj.com/business/15697987.html
"Harrah's Responds to Slowdown with Labor Reductions"

This is 9/11 Bull Sh*t all over again. They will all wave the flag as they screw the working man. Another prime example of the f*cked up world we live in. God Bless America.

Of course what the brilliant minds in the conference room never understand is that the grinders will keep grinding if they present us with true value and a fair shake.

Loosen up the slots, and keep the free buffets coming -- 'cuz we do need to console ourselves with food, drink, and slots in these troubled times.

Yeah, like THAT is gonna happen.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Casino Loves Me

Well, Silverton wins again for the best player's card giveaway. I will visit for a free box of Russell Stouffer's chocolate -- in a heart shaped box of course.

I might even use my free birthday buffet -- I only wish it were steak night, but I believe that is Friday and Saturday.

Yesterday, the Orleans was giving away Valentine's chocolate, but you had to earn 100 points between 11 am and 7 pm -- which was too restricting for me.

Meanwhile, Station Casinos is offering 7X points the 14-18 to promote their new free play for points system. My normal cautious play might get me a buffet or two (or perhaps $10 free play depending how I want to spend it) -- I'll probably spend some time there each day.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Players LOVE WMS' Wizard of Oz Slots

I was walking through the Orleans yesterday, past the two Wizard of Oz slots that they have, when I heard a woman stop, and positively gush "Oh look, they have IT!" pointing to the Oz slots like it was truly her heart's desire.

She didn't have much chance to play the slots, as they are so popular, people are usually two or three deep in their vicinity watching others play, and hoping to get a turn.

The same is true at Red Rock.

I just don't understand why slot managers don't put in more of these machines. Over the past few months they have proven to be more than a passing interest, like Top Gun or Monopoly Top Box.

For whatever reason, people really love to play the Wizard of Oz.

I've played it enough to know that it gets dull real quick as my credits vanish -- like pretty much every other slot machine. It is fairly volatile, and if you don't get a nice visit from Glinda the Good Witch, or pick well in the Oz bonus, you can kiss your money goodbye.

I'm not sure exactly why this machine is so successful -- maybe it is because there are so few of them, or people just love to hate those flying monkeys.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Gung Hay Fat Choy! You want Curry Chicken or Furry Cat?!

It's Chinese New Year, and Vegas is rolling out the red carpet, literally. The decorations are lavish at the MGM Grand and the Bellagio. Sin City has always courted Asian gamblers who are even more avid over the two week holiday.

In light of the celebration, today I'm going to write about one of my favorite old school video reel slot machines -- IGT's Fortune Cookie. This machine is so politically incorrect, I was certain when I first saw it that Asians would complain and it would be yanked from Casino floors. Obviously this didn't happen, and even though they are getting harder to find (especially penny versions) a few still exist in Las Vegas.

Mr. Lucky, the chinese restaurant owner is a crude stereotype, but pretty damn funny as well. When you get to the bonus round and order food off the menu, Mr. Lucky repeats your order and occasionally comments -- "You want Hot and Sour Soup? Like my girl friend and my wife?" "You want Curry Chicken, or Furry Cat?""Orange Peel beef, this one beef that don't a-peel to cow!" and "You got a beef with broccoli? Don't take it out on me!" are a few.

In the Fortune Cookie bonus (three scattered cookies) you choose from three cookies and your fortune is revealed. They range from tame (Things are Looking Up!) to downright tacky (Don't repeat the mistakes of your father -- Don't marry your mother!)

I like to play the 9 line penny version of Fortune Cookie and move between 1 and 5x per line. I can usually play for quite a while on $20 this way, hit a few bonus rounds and be entertained by Mr. Lucky and his Fortune Cookies.

IGT should really come out with a new version of this game, but as I've said before many, many times -- IGT seems pretty intent on moving backwards and simplifying games, instead of improving their popular creations.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Free Buffets for the Rest of My Days

Sorting through the Birthday Offers this month, Silverton wins hands down with two free buffets. Red Rock ponied up with a $15 dining certificate which is not bad, but still not the value Silverton is willing to dish out.

Looking over my points and free meals, it seems as though I'll never have to cook, or pay for food again.

It sounds great, but the buffets, and the cafes do become tiresome -- I always end up eating too much and my health suffers.

I've put on ten pounds since I moved to Vegas, and I am getting downright pudgy.

Of course, this is a situation that is good to have, right?

Note that it is possible to show restraint and eat healthy in a buffet, just as it is possible to stick to a strict gambling budget.

That said I hear my stomach growling and my slot elbow is itching.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

A Slot Machine in Your Watch, Time is Money!

Next time I win a $625,000 Jackpot, I'll be sure to pick up one of these watches so that I can stay punctual on the twelfth of never.

http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2008/feb/09/625000-watch-slot-addicted/ Wynn is offering this beauty of a time piece that has a small slot machine in it's case.

The informative article gives quite a bit of detail on the precision handcraftmanship that goes into this watch.

For $625,000 it better come with a round the clock cocktail waitress.

I'm betting some smarty in China is already working on the $19.95 version.

The Mile High Player's Club

In light of their sinking stock, Sands hope profits will soar with their new tricked out high roller jets. They are outfitting two planes with baccarat tables so that their high flying clientele can gamble the hours up up and away. http://www.lvrj.com/business/15474536.html

It seems gambling in the great blue yonder is similiar to gambling on a cruise ship, once you are in (or apparently over) international waters, it's anybody's bet. Which leads to the inevitable question -- why not outfit jetliners with slot machines?

Well, it seems none other than Kirk Kerkorkian who ran a shortlived MGM airlines did in fact propose it.

Unfortunately, it was never to be.

As Tammy Wynette and George Jones sang -- "I'm not the jetset" but if ever I did find myself on a 14 hour flight I certainly would be first in line to join the Mile High Player's Club.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Station Casinos to Introduce Free Play for Points

You heard it here first -- starting February 14th Station Casinos will introduce a program where you can redeem your points for free play.

The lovely young lady was so happy to tell me all about it at the player's club.

I inquired when I saw big red balloons throughout the casino the other day, and apparently she was thrilled to tout the new addition to an interested party.

Here's how it works. 1000 points will be equal to $1 free play, but you can only redeem in $5 increments. There are slot machine shaped kiosks placed throughout the casino which players can use for the conversion.

As I generally keep about 20,000 point on my card that I use for free buffets (a lunch buffet requires about 4,500 points) I doubt that I will convert my points to play, but you never know.

I personally tend to be motivated by free food, but I'm glad to see any casino expand the possibilities of their points.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Slot Players not the Only Losers at Wynn, Venetian, and Bellagio

In a wonderful, rare case of poetic justice the Review Journal reports on the losses of the bosses, and it's massive.


Sheldon Adelson, third richest man in America has seen his fortune drop 40% or $10.8 BILLION dollars since October. Apparently Sands stock isn't performing up to snuff, and all the grand opening press for the Pal can't save it.

Across the street at Wynn, Steve-baby has lost a mere $1.4 Billion, or a third of his stock value.

At at the other end of the strip, my personal favorite, the real lion of industry Kirk Kerkorkian has lost $2.6 Billion or a third of his stock value in MGM Grand. I'm sure Kirk isn't sweating it, he's been there and done that his whole life.

All these guys are pretty old, especially Kirk, and certainly they could never spend all their riches -- so I don't anticipate any charity events for their benefit.

That's the way the stock market tumbles -- I'd recommend buying stock in Station Casinos, but of course they just went private.

It almost, and I stress ALMOST makes me want to drop a twenty in Kirk, Sheldon, and Steve's tight-ass slots. It just might help their bottom line.

But, I say they are getting just what they deserve -- bend over boys!

Well, you know what they say -- the bigger they are, the harder they fall.

Slot Makers are Thrilled with Super Tuesday Results


WMS is cleaning up in the slot wars. A couple of years ago an article like this from the Review Journal would be detailing IGT's successes.

As I've constantly said WMS delivers a far superior product, and the tide has definitely turned in their favor.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Cali Slot Props Pass as Predicted

Well, once again the slot players pay. As an ardent slot jock you may think I would welcome more slot machines -- and, in a sense I do. However, when these slots are added to fill a hole in a state budget, the aftermath becames painfully clear. The slot jocks lose, and the government wins.

I'm thankful I live in Las Vegas, and at least feel like every now and again I have a chance to break even, and maybe (a big maybe here) even walk out of a casino a winner.

Slot players in California don't stand a chance.

On Super Tuesday, the slot props passed. http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/02/06/MN7QUPQ7N.DTL

The Indians (three tribes anyway) win, Schwarzenegger wins, and the slot manufacturers win. You can guess who the losers are.

It would be foolish for me to propose that the 17,000 slot machines don't get played. If I lived near these Indian casinos I would be first in line to try them out.

Let's just call it what it is -- a vice tax, and a stiff one at that.

I always said the Indians will get this country back -- one twenty dollar bill at a time.

When you play in California just envision $5 of every $20 going in the Terminator's pocket.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Stations Casino's 32 Second Rule

Those who have played at Station Casinos are probably familiar with the Jumbo Jackpot and that when it hits everyone playing receives $50 in free play.

Well, there is a catch -- and last night I found out the hard way.

The Jumbo Jackpot was over $140,000 and had a pretty good shot at hitting any time.

I have only been playing once when it hit, another time I was in the buffet, and once a friend of mine was playing without a card and stupidly I was just standing by her machine.

Last night I was technically playing, at least I thought I was. To be more specific my card was in the machine and credits were active, only I was talking to the person next to me and as I'm the kind of person who can't do two things at once, I wasn't actively hitting the button.

When the music went off and the screen flashed "The Jumbo Jackpot is now $100,000" indicating it had been hit, the girl behind me screamed. I actually thought maybe SHE had won the Jackpot and ran over to her.

Her machine showed $50 in free play (she hadn't won the Jackpot) and that alone had her pretty excited.

When I returned to my machine it did not show the $50 free play.

The woman I was talking to had actually taken her card out when it hit.

I decided to go to the Player's Club and ask about why I didn't get in on the deal. I was told to return to my machine and ask a GSA -- Guest Service Ambassador -- about the situation.

I did as I was told turning the service light on my machine. My neighbor had moved to my machine in my absence. The GSA told me that I had to be in on a 32 second cycle when the Jackpot hit to receive the free play.

So, that's what I get for talking and not playing -- no $50 free play. I learned the hard way to keep actively wagering no matter how scintillating the conversation.

As luck would have it I sat down next to my neighbor and quickly hit a $50 line pay on WMS' "Goosin' Around." She then hit a $50 bonus round on "Jewels of the Night."

So we got our $50 after all, and cash trumps free play every time.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Cashback Angels Promotion at South Point Casino

I got to give it to Michael (son of Jackie) Gaughan's South Point Casino Promotions people. They do come up with some clever marketing campaigns.

The latest involve the "Cashback Angels" http://www.southpointcasino.com/cashbackangels/

The gist of this is supposedly to convince you that you get more cashback at the South Point than other casinos.

That point I don't dispute. The problem is I can't win there to save my life and the slot selection is poor.

Once a casino has put a bad taste in the mouth of a slot player, it is exceedingly hard to remove it.

Of course I recommend free Steak House vouchers.

I probably have enough points for a free lunch buffet at the South Point and those were hard earned, resulting in heavy losses. What I should do is cash out those points and be done with the place.

I do enjoy the events in the Equestrian Center, and will frequent the joint from time to time. I've learned however to walk right through the casino.

I have no idea where all the 99% slot machines are, but we all know that claim is the oldest in the book, and has little bearing on an average players' session.

The South Point is going to have to come up with something better than Cashback Angels to get me playing there again.

Slots, Slots, and More Slots

I couple of articles caught my eye this morning, and they all add up to one thing -- more slots.

The Las Vegas Sun is reporting casinos, and more casinos in North Las Vegas. http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2008/feb/04/casinos-and-more-casinos-coming/

More casinos means more slots, and it looks like Stations Casinos will continue its grip on the local's market.

I've been pretty hard on Stations, but they did send me a $15 food voucher for my birthday, so they're not all bad.

Truth be told, Red Rock is the nearest casino to me, so it is where I spend most my time. I really have no one to blame but myself for giving them my play.

The San Francisco Chronicle offers us this nugget http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/02/04/BANSUQN1M.DTL about the amount of money spent on the Indian Gaming Wars, i.e. propositions for 17,000 more slots to be voted on tomorrow, Super Tuesday.

I don't live in California, so I haven't been subjected to the 69 ads per week, TV viewers in the Golden State are subjected to regarding these slots.

17,000 Slots would probably be the equivalent of 4 Large Casinos, so here in Las Vegas we'll get that increase in due course.

The good news for Cali players, if the props pass is more slot selection -- the bad news is they are in Indian Casinos that will pay a 25% tax on the profits. I've said it before, and I'll say it again -- these slots are gonna be tight.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Slots - Vocation or Avocation?

In a Review Journal article entitled "These tips may ease tax time" http://www.lvrj.com/business/15155016.html the writer tells the tale of Linda Myers of Minnesota who went to court to defend her slot playing as a legitimate business.

She began playing slots in 1992 after her husband died, spending 35 hours a week in a casino.

That scenario sounds pretty typical, and I'll bet the casino was Mystic Lake, an Indian casino I've spent a few hours in myself outside the Twin Cities.

Here's were the story gets unusual -- Linda claims to have developed winning strategies for the $1 slots. There is only one definitive winning strategy I know of -- Luck!

If you are lucky you could earn a living playing slots, but I doubt anyone would be lucky enough year after year.

Still according to the article she won her argument, and somehow reflected her slot "business" on her taxes.

As for me, this will be the first year I incorporate my slot losses in my tax return. Time will tell how that works out.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

The Slot Jock's Guide to Superbowl Prop Betting

I admit, it is exciting to see the action as hordes of bettors invade Vegas for Super Bowl Sunday.

You can bet on practically anything in Vegas, and the Super Bowl really brings out the lengths Sportsbooks will go to give the gambler what they want -- Proposition or "Prop bets."

Betting on the final outcome of the game too boring for you? Why not bet on who will score first, or even who will win the coin toss? But even those bets are old hat, compared with exotic wagers like -- which will be greater -- accumulative points scored in first half of Super Bowl, or Dirk Nowitzki's points plus rebounds in Sunday's Mavericks-Pistons game?

For those who have no real interest in football, there are a litany of other bets to be made -- this list from The Bachelor Guy website made me chuckle.


How about betting on the length of Jordin Sparks National Anthem, or which song Tom Petty will close his set with?

It seems to me practice for the Half Time show will render these bets almost pointless, but what about which commercial will be the most popular? Bud, my beer of choice is a 2 to 1 favorite, while Victoria's Secret is 9 to 1 -- any woman who tried to get her man's attention during a football game will attest that lingerie is good, but beer is better.

Who will the MVP thank first? God (5 to 2) or the Coach (5 to 1)?

You'll have to be really observant to track how many time Archie Manning will be shown on the broadcast, and you can bet on that, but what about Eli's mom, Olivia? http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/29/sports/football/29manning.html?em&ex=1201755600&en=df44fd9d38252845&ei=5087%0A She rated this article in the New York Times, what about a Prop bet for her?

I heard on the radio yesterday, that the bet with the longest odds is a Super Bowl without touchdowns -- it pays 300 to 1.

Hilton's Superbook seems to be ground central for Prop Mania, http://www.lvhilton.com/casino/superbook.shtml offering over 300 different bets.

I had a great spot to watch the Super Bowl last year, perched at a "Gold Fish" slot machine with a clear view of the screens in Terrible's Sport Book. I actually came out ahead on the slot, drank plenty of beer and enjoyed the boisterous revelry of the game and game watchers.

This year, I'm not sure where I'll watch the action or what I will bet on. I do like underdogs, so I just might back Eli and Victoria's Secret.

Friday, February 1, 2008

More Birthday Offerings in the Mail

It's now officially my birthday month -- don't you love the concept of celebrating the whole MONTH!? -- and the enticements from local casinos continues.

The best gift came from Silverton, who is offering me two free buffets (it will probably be one one buffet as I usually hit the casino alone, and apparently it is two buffets for one visit.)

The others are pretty chintzy. Rampart is offering me a free logo T-shirt or hat. I probably won't even take them up on this, unless I need some polishing rags -- that is usually what I use the free T-shirts for.

Terrible's is offering me a reduced room rate, which I would use if I live out of town (but I DON'T), and $5 free play.

Casinos need to realize that folks are most often motivated by a free meal, or a substantial amount of free play.