Harrah’s romp takes
strategy to new level

Oct 5, 2004 1:29 PM

Casinos are changing their strategies all the time. They will do anything within reason to get as many people to play as often as they can and for as long as they are able. I believe that’s one of the key points behind all the corporate collaboration of slot club card programs in the past few years. You play here and are recognized there. Accumulate points at this property and redeem them at that property. And I believe we are now entering the ”˜prime time’ portion of this trend. More is on the way.

Slot play, after all, is big business these days. Just as with the reason many casinos have either lowered some higher paying pay tables or removed the machines altogether, slot club marketing has joined in on the parade of how to respond to the board of directors when they scream for higher overall profit percentages. THAT is what runs this business, my friends. When you read or hear others say how a few hundred so-called "advantage players" are hammering the theoretical ”˜positive play’ video poker machines around Las Vegas, you’re simply seeing the marketing efforts as made from the other side of the business. Stick with reality and you’ll be fine.

As for overall programs, none comes close to the mega-effort thus far put forth by gaming giant Harrah’s. With very diverse properties in several parts of the country, one can travel from here to there and still watch as their single national rewards account pile up with the points. Normally I don’t get caught up in any of this slot club business, but this one program has piqued my interest to the point that I chose to give it a go.

Four or five years ago I used to be a regular at Harrah’s Laughlin, while playing only occasionally (because of the relatively poor selection of video poker machines) at Harrah’s Las Vegas. My results at the Laughlin location were so-so, but in Las Vegas I did well. In fact, at one point, I was called into the VIP office and bluntly told they did not appreciate my hit-and-run style of play, and that it was not welcome any longer. That could be taken several ways, so I have stayed away — except, of course, for the free leather jacket giveaway offer I somehow received that I popped in for about two years ago with no play.

This past year has been a bit different. With the installation of more of the multi-denomination/multi-game ticket-in/ticket out machines at the Rio, I’ve been playing some of my sessions there — and I nearly always use my card. What that has done is generate multiple offers from Harrah’s corporate to go to many of their non-Las Vegas properties for a visit. Several have been for out-of-state locations (one even for here at Harrah’s Ak-Chin, Phoenix) and although I do not play for-profit anywhere outside of Nevada, because I had the time I decided to take them all in.

It was going to be a Harrah’s Romp of sorts, but because distant locations supplied free airfare that put me on their schedule, I was not able to play according to my very strict play strategy rules. Still, I though it would be interesting to see what this was all about, and decide for myself if the Harrah’s Total Rewards program was indeed as good as I thought it was from my single main vantage point at the Rio.

The first out-of-town trip I took was to Harrah’s Lake Tahoe. Really, I’m already very partial to anything Lake Tahoe. A more beautiful part of the country you will not find. While I got chopped up pretty good here chiefly because I played longer than I intended (they do know what they’re doing when they put you on their schedule) because I incorporated my play at Harrah’s with a regular Romp-Thru-Town at other casinos up there (including a brief stop at Harrah’s Reno), I had a slightly profitable trip.

After a good few days at the Rio I went to their location in Laughlin for the first time in about a year. The offer was for three nights in some type of suite, but I was alone and chose not to stay there. Once again I did not do well, but my overall Romp in that little town netted a very small $150 win — which successful players know is far better than a $2,000 loss!

My next stop was an overnight at Harrah’s Ak-Chin about 55 miles from my home here in the Phoenix area. They offered a one-night stay with $10 in coin. What was enjoyable about this was the fact that the drive down there was through an intense monsoon thunderstorm (OK, we like the rain when it comes around here) and the hotel has exceptional standard rooms — comparable to the best in Las Vegas. I played until I won $49 and quit. No one can get me to risk much when I am not able to get information on tribal regulations in any casino. And yes, gurus, my winning hand came on a $2 8/5 double double bonus game — one that is continually pounded into player’s heads as being a big loser!

Just recently, we returned from a three-day visit to Harrah’s New Orleans. Now I have to admit I accepted this offer based mainly on the premise that we enjoy walking around that town, and their food is some of the best in the country. That’s also evident in the fact that I quit after winning just $11. And did anyone hear a loud shriek when I noticed my card reader say "please reinsert" when I got up to leave the $5 machine? Ha!

This mini-vacation had its challenge. The humidity seemed so high to us that immense sweat was commonplace. But inside Harrah’s — a giant casino that I did not expect — it was cool, and the restaurants and services were great. But the Earl Turner show was hard to take. This extremely talented and energetic entertainer (whose shows at the Rio were understandably quite different) put on more of what seemed like a revival show for the many Louisiana locals in the audience — which was not our cup of tea. But he was special to everyone else there, and on this night that’s all that really counted.

In a few weeks I have another trip to take up to Harrah’s Reno (anything to hit the cool air around Lake Tahoe again) and next week I’ve accepted an offer to visit Harrah’s Rincon in the San Diego area. Each destination has a different theme while being tied together by one very effective slot club. Utilized properly, it can expand your one-track mind when it comes to playing video poker. I’ve taken time out to see what they have to offer and I like it.