The ‘no sweat’ way to cash in

Oct 30, 2006 2:53 AM

To me, nothing comes close to having the freedom to be able to do what you want, where you want, and when you want to do it. Playing video poker professionally has somewhat given me this opportunity, yet it is the time of year after my win goals have been met that I truly look forward to.

Because I have a little over four months off this year, I had time to put together several trips up through my favorite area in all the world — Lake Tahoe. While most players would look at that as an opportunity to hit the machines and play the tables, that is not what it is for me. Unlike many video poker players, I have not lost touch with what the rest of the world has to offer.

For my first trip through Northern Nevada, I made it a point not to play any video poker other than running any free credits through the machines just once.

My initial stop, oddly enough, was Harrah’s Ak-Chin right here in the Phoenix area — although it’s a good 70 miles from my home. I had $50 in free-play that I seem to keep getting each month just from playing their free-play, and after once through I counted exactly $50. Not bad at a tribal-run casino and on a VERY short pay table.

My next destination was more for the ride than for the casino/hotel. Harrah’s Rincon, which is really an overall pleasant stop in the picturesque mountains north of San Diego, had sent me $40 in free-play, but I turned that into only $15. The meals were free, the room was excellent, and the rest was indeed welcomed.

From there was the familiar trip up to Las Vegas. Sam’s Town had the usual $100 in cash waiting for me, but there was an added bonus of a free $40 sports bet — I guess in recognition of football season. But I bet a baseball game and won, so when I turned my ticket in I was handed $76. Once again the meals were free, but I chose to stay at beautiful new Red Rock Statinon after all I’ve heard about it — on a comp of course.

In between all this was a video poker tournament at the Venetian.  I rarely get involved in these boisterous events but since I had the time I scheduled it in, and even though I didn’t come in the money I was awarded $75 in free-play. I turned that into a disappointing $14, but was thankful and left.

Not really wanting to leave a very comfortable Red Rock room that was more on the scale of a Wynn hotel than a locals place, I got into my rental car and headed north. After a leisurely stopover for a picnic at the always-serene Walker Lake, I continued on to what has become a staple in my trips over the years — The Hyatt at Incline Village on the North shore of Lake Tahoe.

If I wasn’t staying there, why did I stop there? That’s easy. First, no trip to that area is complete without walking down to their Lone Eagle Grille for a drink overlooking the lake. I also had $50 in what I thought was cash to pick up, but they gave me a play coupon instead. But still, none of these was the main reason I was there.

I received an invitation to be involved in a 4-hour cash giveaway extravaganza — something I’d NEVER get involved in during for-profit video poker play. But it was a good reason to go, and once I arrived I signed in and waited for my name to be called. After sitting around watching everyone else collect the free cash for nearly three hours, I decided to run my $50 through a dollar Super Aces game that I expected to come away with no more than ten bucks.

Then it happened: The machine locked up as I drew for a fourth Ace for a $2000 hand-pay, and my name was called for the contest. Each contestant was to choose from 10 envelopes, which contained from $0 to $1000 — of course loaded on the low end. If you picked anything less than $1000 (which no one had hit yet) you could make a deal and trade it in for a second shot, which was final. Most people walked away with $50 to $250.

My first try was a big fat zero — the only one of the night. I traded it in and bingo — $1000 — again, the only one of the night. And when I returned to my machine they were there waiting to pay me $2000 for the Aces. Not bad for zero investment. I love the Hyatt!

After I collected I immediately left for the South Shore to check into Harvey’s. Along with the free room came $200 in cash, and my meals were all covered by my diamond card. I don’t think I’ve ever been up there before without playing at my favorite high-limit ($1-$10, 10 credits max) sports bar across the street at Harrah’s, but I wasn’t there to play. I checked in to relax some, watch some sports and collect the cash. And that’s exactly what I did.

The next morning I headed back first to Sam’s Town to collect another free $100, then over to the Venetian where I stayed and played in a traditional slot tournament. Again I made the lowly $75 in free-play status, but this time I turned it into 60% after playing it once through — which is required.

On the way home I picked up $20 at Harrah’s Laughlin for checking in, and when I arrived home after all expenses I would have had an additional $3215 in cash — if I didn’t spend most of it at the Outlet stores on Las Vegas Blvd. for Christmas presents. Yet my point had once again been made.

I do the video poker thing on my own terms and on my own schedule. It requires determination and discipline to stay ahead of the game and not fall victim to the many temptations put out there for video poker players to bite at. I bite, but I only take what I want.

The game offer players more than any other casino game. I’m not done by a long shot this year, and I hope you aren’t either.