Don’t let promos rule your play

Dec 28, 2004 1:26 AM

Well, it’s the end of another year once again, and I’ve had what I consider to be my best-ever year of playing video poker. Sure, I’ve had better years than the $105,000 in net winnings and in the past I’ve hit more of those magical royals. But this year was a pleasantly different story. I spent far less time in casinos than I ever have, and that’s a plus no matter who you are. Yes, I know, some of you like to sit and smoke and drink and eat your days away, but I only go in for the profit, and to pick up whatever they want to give away to me for free.

Normally I’d mock the for free part because, as we all know, even if we’re in denial or too stubborn to admit it, we pay for these freebies at least ten times over. And yes, I know, there’s a faction of self-proclaimed "advantage players" out there who believe these gifts and giveaways are truly free or, worse yet, quantifiable to the extent they are counted in order to create a winning year out of yet another loser. The same old tune followed by the same old truth.

Also, with the advent of several of my newest play strategies — Romp-Thru-Town (RTT) and Advanced Romp-Thru-Town (ARTT) — I’ve been using my slot club cards as often as possible because they do not require playing at the limits as my single-play strategy does.

I know there are a few folks out there who’ll instantly and hysterically go into some form of TILT if you suggest playing without a slot club card. But all that tells me is that the player usually doesn’t win, he or she doesn’t expect to win, and they get their cheap thrills by how many patronizing gifts and comps the casino gives them for their time and their losses. It is as pathetic a picture as can be found anywhere in the gambling scene.

Now that I’ve categorized slot club cards and profits in their true order of importance to the video poker player — and it’s known that I have never been a consistent user of the colorful plastic demons in the past — guess what’s been happening? Yes, a daily mailbox chock full of casino junk mail. And at this time of year, when business is relatively slow in Nevada, it’s almost like a frenzy.

Not one to search out, talk to, or even ask about who my host is at any place I play, it’s borderline amazing that I’ve received more Christmas cards and year-end good tidings from people I’ve never heard of. So do I sing out to the world that these people think I’m Mr. Wonderful? HA! Let’s talk reality here.

These folks are interested in one thing and one thing only: They want to take as much money from me as they can whenever I walk through their doors. Period. So how do I respond to such tactics? I read them like a book, I use them like servants, I play them like a fiddle, I work them like machines, and I get far more than they have any idea they’ve ever given me. And the kicker? Most of the time they have absolutely no idea whatsoever how I’ve manipulated the system or the fact that I’ve even been doing it! Yes, winning their money is sweet, but playing and winning the real "casino game" with their marketing departments has a certain satisfaction all its own.

Since it’s not really busy in casinos this time of year, the offers arrive daily for a huge variety of events. Some casinos have year-end gift giveaway extravaganzas, and they always offer free rooms along with the shopping spree. Others start passing out show tickets — and the rooms to go with them — like there’s no tomorrow. Free food values seem to show up out of nowhere, as do the "Here’s a free cash coupon ”¦ just come in and cash it and spend a few nights with us" enticing, rope’em in deals.

I’ve got so many offers to go to New Year’s Eve parties that my head started spinning in early December! Right on the heels of those come the Super Bowl weekend party offers. And while all this is going on, Harrah’s seems intent on keeping me in the air, wanting to fly my wife and I to Reno, New Orleans and Lake Tahoe ASAP! Who in the world can keep up with all this stuff?

Now I’m not saying all this recognition is a bad thing, but player beware is a good rule of thumb. I don’t go to casinos for New Year’s any longer because I don’t feel safe where huge crowds congregate while celebrating holidays and are having lots of fun, American style, if you know what I mean. Super Bowl parties are a pick’em for me each year. But I do take the flights when my schedule permits, especially in winter.

Too often, we players let our drive to play video poker do the talking when it has to be far more involved than just that. Stop and think: Why are the casinos sending us all this mail? Are they feeling like corporate Santa Clauses and wanting to simply pass out presents because we’ve been good boys and girls? Do casino managers feel the need to do some profit-sharing with their customers for a show of good will? How about they might have too much cash just laying around, and rather than pack it into their year-end bonuses they feel like sharing out of the kindness of their hearts?

Go ahead. Figure it out. And if you’ve had a great year I hope you know how to keep it that way!