Stories from the whale gamblers

May 1, 2019 3:00 AM

Many years ago, I became friends with someone who is one of the largest gamblers in the USA. I have traveled all over the country with him, and even different parts of the world, going to casinos to gamble.

Along the way, I have learned many things about how the casino marketing system works. Over time, I have been able to take this knowledge, apply my own street smarts and deal-making skills to acquire some fantastic positive advantage deals of my own.

The perks are insane; and up until I was a part of that life, I only saw such things on television. There are free tournaments, amazing rooms, complimentary spa treatments, meals, fantastic show tickets with meet-and-greet, Rolex watches, $50,000 in mall credits.

I can remember one time when we literally ran out of things to buy and started face-timing friends to see what they would like in the Nike store. Spending the last $7k on others.

The networking that I have done has allowed me to befriend some of the world’s other largest gamblers too.

Some of the greatest perks I have had the chance to take advantage of is flying on private planes. However, after realizing what the casinos pay for these private flights, we were actually able to give the casino marketing reps an ultimatum. We would fly commercial first-class and save the casino tens of thousands of dollars in exchange for free-play or promotional chips.

Some of these deals were insane. My friend received up to $100,000 in promo chips just to walk in. Further, if he lost, then he would receive up to a 20 percent rebate. He would even negotiate deals for me to get up to $10,000 and even get me into some of the largest free-roll blackjack, baccarat and slot tournaments.

I always made him a deal since he got me into the tourney; he would take 50 percent of me, and I would take 25 percent of him.

This may seem like a better deal for me because I was basically not even required to gamble since he had seven-figure swings per trip. However, I knew so much more about tournament strategy than he does, so mathematically, this would be good for him.

What I have learned over these last few years is that many more people know the basic strategy in these tournaments than they did a decade ago. All it really takes is an Internet search, a few hours of studying and some basic math skills.

Many people were too lazy, or just had no knowledge the free information was out there. There are many tournaments where you just sit back and bet the minimum, hope the others are aggressive and bust themselves out; similar to a single table sit-and-go poker tourney.

Why am I talking about this? Well, for the most part, it does not work anymore. Approximately 80 percent of the participants now know the strategy. Therefore, I find myself having to use new strategies that are much more aggressive. In fact, up until last November, I actually made more money with my friend’s 25 percent than he made with my 50 percent.

Did I mention that my friend is one of the luckiest gamblers in the world? That is a story for another day.

Then came a giant international million-dollar blackjack tournament where it was winner take all. I have only been in two other free rolls this large in my whole life. I reached the semifinals where one winner from each table goes to the final table.

The last hand came down to knowing some basic mathematical strategy and having to hit on a 17. The guy in first place had a 17 showing also. Therefore, I had to improve my hand, which I did with by hitting with a minor miracle 3, which gave me 20. Now the dealer, with a 5 up card had to pull a 17-20 which she miraculously did with a five card 20.

The five people at the final table decided on a chop situation where everyone would get at minimum $50,000. First place was $500k and second place was $250k. Now, of course, it comes down to the final hand and a very unique situation which required them to actually call the clock on me. This meant I had 10 seconds more, or I would not get a chance to act on my hand.

The situation, in short, was if I doubled on my total of 10 and won, I win the $500k first prize. However, if I lose the double I get knocked down into 4th place, which would be $50k. However, by just hitting, I would lock up second place and $250k.

That is what I chose, and I split the $250k with my friend. Needless to say, of course, that if I had doubled, I would have won the $500k.

This past weekend I played in a $100,000 winner-take-all tournament, where the casino management would not allow the players at the final table to split the winnings. This shocked me, even though it really probably should not have. I mean, why would you want one person to win $100k instead of everyone winning at least $5k?

There are many reasons why they should allow the split. One, the winner of the tournament is not going to lose back $100k this trip; Two, by splitting the prize pool six ways, everyone now has more money to gamble with; Three, people love to go back home and spread the word of their good fortune and casino tournament winnings, which can bring that casino new business; Finally, it is just good business to make many people happy.

The problem is that at some of these casinos the people making decisions do not gamble. Therefore, they do not understand the heart of the business. Personally, if I ran a casino marketing or player development department, I would not hire anyone that did not gamble or at least know what it is to lose a paycheck.

Let me tell you something that most of these whales have in common. They all act like spoiled children if they don’t get their way. Furthermore, I notice they act so much differently in front of their spouses and away from the games then they do when they are dealing with gaming personnel.

I’ve watched butlers hand-peeling oranges for a guy that he was told he would be paid $100 an orange for a dozen oranges if he removed all the white parts of the rind. In Atlantic City, I’ve watched a giant movie studio executive doing lines of coke and urinating right at the tables.

There are rules for regular customers and then the rules for whales. The competition is so high for this elite type of player that the whales are allowed to bend the rules. The abuse, the screaming, the cheating, the sexual harassment. Throwing things around. It’s part of the business when whale hunting.

The ones that bother me are the ones that act like this and do not tip. In my opinion, that is the worst thing you can do.

I watch the guys play the role on the casino floor and in front of the personnel. Yet when it comes time to tip they are under-tippers or don’t tip at all. Some feel they should be spoiled and they deserve their comped life and not have to tip.

I’ve watched guys steal items from the room like robes and towels, yet give the bell guy zero for bringing the bags with stolen loot from the room to the limo outside. I watched one guy lose a ton of money and pry a painting off a wall in the hotel room, throw a sheet over it and carry it out of the hotel.

I can’t tell you how many times I had to go back behind one of these whales back and hand someone a folded $100 bill because I felt bad. It doesn’t make me any better then anyone else. It just made me human.

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