Expect (enjoy!)
the unexpected

Feb 14, 2005 2:51 AM

Just when I thought I’d either seen it all, done it all, and/or heard about it all, one more crazy experience was awaiting me on my latest adventure in the world of video poker.

Ups and downs are common to those of us who play the game on a serious level, and many times I’ve said you either have the stomach for it or you do not. My latest comp-romp through the state was certainly a test of my gastro-intestinal fortitude.

What made this trip so interesting was not so much the game this time as the circumstances surrounding it all. Certainly, I was not going to casinos to play a bundle at all, as I was doing a statewide comp-romp at selected casinos through Reno, Lake Tahoe, Las Vegas and Laughlin. The mere $100 in cash I took with me attests to that fact.

In the past, I’ve had some tough times up north in the usual rental cars I take on most of my Nevada trips — and of course the often severe weather has had a lot to do with that. And since this visit would include renting a snowmobile for a day in the mountains (yes, it IS possible to do something other than sit in front of the machines all day!) I decided to borrow the brand new QX-56 I just got for my daughter and her family with my ’04 winnings. In more ways than one, it was a fitting use on a trip such as this.

My initial stop was at the Fiesta in Henderson for a meal at Garduno’s using slot club points. Remember, this romp was all about comps and was intended to include very little video poker play. After the meal, going for a simple $10 win, I lost $40. The next stop after the all-night drive was at Atlantis, where I had $50 in free play along with a $25 match play table game coupon.

It’s important to note that the ONLY way to approach free-play credits is not to play any more hands than you have to in order to cash out — and you almost always cash out something. This is what I mean when I say the only way to play video poker to win is by doing exactly the opposite as what the casino managers expect you to.

In this case, the $50 yielded $20 in cash, and along with the loss I incurred with the match play at a blackjack table, I had a simple $55 cash remaining in my pocket. Nickel and dime stuff, I know, but believe me, it’s a lot of fun knowing there’s a good chance the casinos would be funding my entire trip with little or no risk on my part.

Right after my short visit to Atlantis, I went down the street to the Peppermill to play the $170 in free-play I was sent. After precisely 34 hands on a dollar machine I had a $325 balance, and anyone who isn’t a slave to video poker would cash out and stop playing just as I did. Yes, it’s a very simple concept, but not one most regular players are able to do. A relaxing free seafood dinner at Oceano’s and I was ready for the next phase of my plan.

Now comes the interesting part. I also had a $20 match play table coupon to use, so I walked up to the nearest low roller BJ table and laid down my bet. To my surprise, a friend I hadn’t seen for years was sitting at the table, so I thought I’d sit down and chat with him a while. The problem was, this was not his night but it turned out to be mine. I rarely play the game — I’m not sure if I truly know basic strategy. But in about an hour I lost only four hands, had numerous blackjacks, and ended up with a profit of $2,100. My friend — who says he plays all the time — left with squat. As is typical among irritated players, the only thing on his mind was to go first to the nearest ATM, and then to another table to chase his loser. He didn’t even care that I was leaving.

Although I arrived at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe at11:30 p.m., tired and in need of a good night’s sleep, I got there just in time to cash in my $150 coupon (it expired at midnight) at the cage. I had one night, and in the morning after a fully-comped massage, facial and then lunch, I went across the street to check into Harvey’s for a two night stay along with another free $150 in cash.

I did play some and lost around $400, but my main reason for staying there was to have a nice dinner at Sage Steakhouse as well as see a show. In true guru fashion, I suppose one could say that I had $401 worth of living in order that I could claim to be a winner of sorts, but that’s just not me. I lost, plain and simple.

The next morning the whole complexion of my trip was altered. The snowmobile riding was fun and of course the beautiful Sierra Nevada views remain second to none, but when I got back to my car I found it up on stands and all four of the pricey wheels were gone! Thanks to cell phones, a service vehicle came by and installed four temporary wheels and tires so I could go shopping for the real stuff in Reno.

I don’t know how you handle these kind of things, but whenever a negative happens in my life I try to make the fix a positive one by going up a notch on whatever I’m taking care of. In this case, it was the perfect opportunity to put on a set of those fancy chrome wheels with larger tires that are common on SUVs these days, and $4,200 (and an entire day) later I suddenly had a better looking vehicle. Also in my mind, however, was the fact that the trip would actually end up costing me something when the plan was for it not to.

Oh, well. So goes life. I decided to eat the expense rather than make a claim that would have an unfavorable impact on my family’s insurance. In many gamblers’ minds they’d probably have a need to try and win all that back, but not me. The next day I stopped by at Atlantis to play off another $50 in free-play, walked out with $90 on that one, and began my drive back to Las Vegas.

In Las Vegas, $25 in free-play at the Westin turned out to yield nothing; $20 of the same at the Aladdin turned into $42 — and I received a jogging suit in the process. In Laughlin, I picked up my jacket at the promotion booth and won a quick $60 before I went upstairs for a long nap before I drove home.

When you plan a trip through Nevada that includes gambling, comps, and anything else related to casino life, you always have to be prepared to ride the waves as they come. Although this trek had nothing to do with high-rolling or professional play of any sort, there ended up being fairly big bucks involved anyway. I would never go if I did not have the resources to back me up in most situations, and winning at BJ while losing parts from a vehicle are certainly unforeseen for a professional gambler who plays video poker. I’ve always known these comp-romps would be interesting.