Slot club changes
taking their toll

Apr 24, 2007 4:12 AM

I’ve tried and tried to find another casino in the downtown Las Vegas area where I feel both comfortable staying and playing video poker, and it has always turned up the same results: There is nothing for me outside of the Golden Nugget.

And now, after reading a recent GamingToday article on their expansion, there have been some improvements that even I — as a regular visitor — wasn’t aware of. It is now an aesthetically pleasing property as almost any location on the Strip, with a pool area rivaling the best the city has to offer.

But beyond all the incredible upgrades to their pool complex, the beautification throughout the casino, the newly remodeled sports book, all the refined dining offerings, and the overall improved classiness of the place, what I’m really interested in is how and if all the work Landry’s has put into the Golden Nugget has affected what they offer in the way of video poker. After all, that’s really the main reason I go there, and while change is always a constant in the game it is not always welcome.

One of the first changes I noticed was the inclusion of an additional high-limit slot area with games starting at $25. Interesting, and I’ll keep that one in mind in the future when I need to go to those limits.

Right now, however, I wanted to see if any changes were made to the games I play the most — which were between $1 and $5. And there were plenty.

I’ve commented in the past on an anomaly that really favored my style of play at their very popular bar that’s closest to the cashier and near the former location of their slot club. While most of the machines were geared towards quarter players, one side had a line of dollar machines along with a couple $5 machines sprinkled in, and I’ve played them for as long as I can remember

But there was something odd about the pay tables on those machines that I still do not understand. My staple game — Bonus Poker (BP) — was offered in full-pay version at 8 for the full house and 5 for the flush. However, the machines also offered the more attractive version of BP, A-C-E-S BP which typically have a reduction to 7 or even 6 for the full house, but these did not. I always played these games, and it always had me wondering if casino management was aware of this.

On the other side of the analysis lies something just as puzzling. These multi-game machines incorporated a Double Double Bonus Poker (DDBP) game that had a pay table paying 8 for the full house, 5 for the flush and 4 for the straight — not unusual for the short-pay version of that game but kind of confusing for a machine that also had such a high paying version of BP on it also.

What was strange was that on the very same machines was the game of Double Bonus Poker (DBP) — a game that nearly always distinguishes itself from DDBP by paying at least 9 for the full house, 6 for the flush, and 5 for the straight.

Yet for some reason this version of DBP had the EXACT same pay table as that of its more volatile sister DDBP. I brought this up to casino management three years ago and apparently it was a success because nothing was ever changed.

Regardless, the game I played was neither DBP nor DDBP because they also had Triple Bonus Poker Plus — which at 7 for the full house was no sweet deal either.

Well now things have changed. All those games and machines are gone — replaced with either 25¡/50¡/$1 multi-gamers or $1/$2/$5 of the same. Yet these now incorporate some of the worst pay tables available for the games they do have.

I can only attribute this sort of reduction to the fact that there is some strong marketing going on or planned, to get in out-of-towners who really don’t care about pay tables.

So what does all this mean to the Golden Nugget being one of my favorite casinos to stay and play in? I wasn’t sure at first, because that property has always seemed to me to be fairly generous with their comps and offers. I’ve regularly received all types of free-play in the mail to go along with constant three night stays. And I’ve always taken advantage of them because of a fondness of their overall amenities.

But on my most recent visit I was greeted with a policy that overwhelmingly is as distasteful as it gets for players who use a slot club card — as I always do unless I’m playing my single-play strategy (in which case, it varies by casino). Several visits ago I went to the slot club booth to ask for and received a $70 comp to eat at their new (and excellent) Grotto trattoria-style Italian restaurant located on the casino floor.

At the time I inquired about what type of balance for free food I had, and was told that since I’ve rarely used food comps in the past I had nearly $200 coming. So on this most recent visit I went to the booth to collect what I thought would be a simple comp for another great meal at Grotto.

Not so. I was told I had a zero balance, and that was because of a newly instituted policy of making all comp dollars earned on any particular visit disappear if you did not use them at that time and ONLY at that time.

Where many players would and I was told HAVE angrily complained at high volumes, I simply thanked the lady and said "All that means is I’m going to set my win goal $70 higher than originally planned before I quit."

I’ll still go in for the rooms and once-through the free-play as they are offered, but no longer would I play at the Golden Nugget — as splendid as it now is — beyond that.

I’ve said this many times in the past: I play for the money first and foremost, and all the fluff that may or may not go with it is just gravy if and when I receive it. I know of many a player who would have fits over a policy change such as this. I also know that there are no guarantees made by the slot clubs, and what they do give us players has to be accepted as it is.

When you expect too much all you’re doing is displaying how you put playing for profit second to benefits. And that is NOT playing winning video poker.