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Beware the cost
of those comps!

Dec 23, 2003 1:41 AM

I call my column the Undeniable Truth, and today I’ll give you one more reason why it’s called that. I make it a point to include all the bad with the good, and unlike others, I haven’t a problem sharing any of my video poker experiences with the reading public.

Because of this, come with me as I take you on my most recent ride to the seemingly innocent banks of the Colorado River.

Everyone learns lessons, and I’ve been taught many during my transformation from video poker loser to video poker winner. But nobody learns EVERY lesson, and yesterday was such a day of reckoning for me.

I left the house with what for me is a rather small gambling bankroll of $3,200. I didn’t really have an idea of what I was going to do with it or how. And I didn’t have any kind of pre-set win goal. I didn’t even know if I was going to play. But I was headed to Laughlin, and chances are that I would.

My destination was the Edgewater, which up until recent months wasn’t attractive to me until I discovered that all the perimeter bars had multi-game/multi-denominational machines up through the $5 level.

I’ve had very good luck there, albeit no royals to date. The reason I chose to make a day drive back and forth was three-fold: It was Saturday and my wife had to work; I was becoming overly stuffed with all the leftover turkey and trimmings; and I had been sent (please read carefully) a $250 certificate to the Edgewater’s holiday shopping extravaganza. Already, I can see where most of you have already forgotten my first two reasons for making the trip.

The 3½ hour drive to Laughlin was ”” as I always hope ”” uneventful and quiet. I had to check into the slot club to validate my shopping coupon, and there was one of those long lines. So I made the decision to wait and play some video poker at the bar. Certainly, it wouldn’t hurt to win a few hundred dollars while waiting. I even brought my card, and since I was going to the slot club I could pick up some additional cash back. It all seemed so very easy.

But here’s where the other guys are right and I was wrong. Yes, getting comps and cash back is always easy. All you have to do is play! Whether you win or lose, you’ll always get those beloved comps.

Soon enough, though, I didn’t want or need any company. At one point I hit a $1,250 quad and was ahead by $570, but I looked back to the line at the slot club and still didn’t feel like standing in it. So I played on, and nearly three hours later I had an empty wallet and a headache.

I was ahead several times, but glances at that line made me stay put. I was beginning to feel like the casino manager was watching me, and the last 15 people in line were constant shills. I was in a zone, but it was not the type that I’m used to.

What I did was let things get away, and all it did was make matters worse. I almost left in disgust, but I took a deep breath and decided to take the lesson and all the pain that comes with it in stride.

It was nearly noon, and the line at the slot club was even longer. I took my place amongst the others, and 40 minutes later was finally at the counter talking to a cheerful lady who had no idea of my personal struggle. She looked a bit startled though when she found she had to print out $1,005 in additional shopping certificates for me. And I also had $117 in cash back coming. Now I remembered what it used to feel like: I’d lose everything, I’d feel lousy, but I had some cash to take home! Yippee!

Over at the activities tent where the shopping event was held, I received my next dose of exacerbated discomfort. The crowd was huge, and the only big-ticket items were motor scooters. Not my style ”” in either case. But I managed to rummage my way through all the other things and selected four box loads of goods totaling $1,202, piled everything into my car, and left for home. Of course, I had people staring at my every move. Two people even recognized me, and commented on how they too wished they could learn to be a professional video poker player, and how lucky I must be. That was the image, I guess, from hauling all the junk out to my car.

When I arrived home and pulled into the garage, my two children and their new spouses came out to greet me. As they saw a car loaded with goods, they were bewildered. But when I told them what happened, they all broke out into a boisterous laugh.

They know me, and they know what I criticize about video poker comps. What I was concerned about was how stupid I’d look to my wife when she got home. Rob Singer ”¦ The King of Comps? Get real! But that’s exactly what she said, and I deserved every mocking word.

Once again, video poker had taught me a lesson. Get caught up in chasing promos, go into a casino with money and without a plan, and failure to play on only your own schedule ”” chances are better than 9 out of 10 that you will lose.

You like to read about all the glorious gifts and comps showered on others as they describe how they only play 100 percent and higher Expect Value (EV) machines? Have you ever thought of the cost of doing that so often? Yes, that is today’s stark lesson in the truth about video poker.