A romp up north!

Apr 16, 2007 3:41 AM

Oh how I enjoy the drive from Phoenix to the Reno/Lake Tahoe area. Already a sparsely traveled road, when doing it overnight allows the most spectacular views of the star-filled night sky of anywhere I’ve ever seen. And I’ve seen a lot.

This trip was designed as part vacation for my wife and part playing-for-profit for me. Since I’m no longer making weekly trips to Nevada to play and I’ll never play for profit at any Indian casino in the Phoenix area or elsewhere, I’ve been incorporating multiple sessions with smaller profit requirements into those visits.

On this particular trip, even though I could not foresee the exact number of sessions with short-term winning strategies onI wanted to get in at least five. It turned out that six was what was played.

Our trip began with a stopover at what I consider to be a beautiful and comfortable South Point Hotel/Casino a few miles south of Mandalay Bay. Our plan was to have a nice seafood dinner at the oyster bar, play a few hours of video poker at the bar, then see a movie before turning in after midnight.

Everything worked — except our helter-skelter play at one of their bars ended up in a surprising $1,900 loss. No quads in three hours of play on fairly low denominations. This is clearly not how a professional would play for profit and there was no intention of doing so at the start. It ended up being all for fun — and mostly for the South Point.

The next two days were spent in the Reno/Sparks/Lake Tahoe area, and if you’ve kept up with my column then you’d understand that there is no place on this earth I’d rather be for a vacation. Every trip seems to include a surprise, and this time it was supplied via an invite by my friend Ted Turner to be his and his wife Darlene’s guest for dinner in the Steakhouse at Western Village Hotel & Casino in Sparks.

Ted is a very astute player who puts much of his play in at Western Village — a smaller clone to giant owner Peppermill. To those who are unfamiliar with this casino, after being shown around it easily has the best overall video poker pay tables of any casino in Nevada or anywhere else. Yet the typical player would not recognize it as such because it has no player’s card, and we all know of the heart attacks involved with those who cannot accumulate their points and slot club status.

But that’s not where the real genius of Western Village lies. I have to admit, being right next to Sid’s Truck Stop, my wife Cindy was not real thrilled about going into that casino for a Saturday night dinner. Yet after the nearly four hour gourmet dining extravaganza was over, we simultaneously proclaimed that it was not only an exceedingly excellent meal — but it was, bar none, the BEST restaurant we have ever experienced in our lives. Thank you Diane, the tireless and meticulous general manager of that hidden gem — to which I will return.

On the video poker front, it still wasn’t reasonable for me to play any sessions alone because when you’re with someone in Lake Tahoe you just don’t disappear for a few hours at a time. That turned out to be a lucky omen, because running around from one casino to another — Eldorado, Horizon, Montbleu, Harrah’s, Hyatt Regency at Incline Village, Western Village, and Casino Fandango — we made up $1,600 of the $1,900 we lost playing at the South Point.

After a leisurely trip back to Las Vegas and another picnic stopover at serene Walker Lake, we went into Sam’s Town where we promptly recovered the remaining $300 of the loss to get us back to even on our recreational play. It was also the last Cindy would play because as a non-avid fan of the game, she was already burned out and bored from participating.

I now could get on with my session play.

Although I occasionally knock Sam’s Town’s location and consider their locals promotions as preying on the weak, they’ve always had a great collection of video poker games. But recently they downgraded many of their Bonus Poker games by 5 credits for the full house to 7/5 from 8/5.

I did, however, find that one bank of 8/5 25¡/50¡/$1/$2/$5 still exists in the movie theater section, so I chose that to play five individual Romp-Thru-Town sessions on this trip. If they take them out then it’s very easy to say adios to Sam’s Town. Hopefully, they never will.

What happened at those machines — actually all on the same machine — confirms that video poker is the most inexplicable, unpredictable game in the universe. I played five sessions and I won every one. Not that unusual — except for the fact that four of those sessions were won by hitting four Aces on $5 Bonus Poker. Once I chose A-C-E-S Bonus Poker where if you spell ACES it’s 4,000 credits. My very last hand before leaving was A-E-C-S. Normally I’m not frustrated with a session win but that does get to you.

In between those wins I suffered my only loss at the hotel where we stayed — Paris. I chose to play $1/$5/$10/$25 and lost nearly $3,000 in the process. My overall result was a great vacation and a win of $2,900.

Knowing if I were playing a single denomination at Sam’s Town and hitting those four sets of Aces would have tallied an overall loss, I’d say the Singer Play Strategy once again made the difference.