The Boyd “YAH” Drama

If you have been following the Boyd “Young at Heart” drama, you know that I have been trying to keep you up to date on the details as they have been frequently changed since “Black Wednesday.” That is what one person called March 1 when the YAH program drastically changed by disqualifying out-of-towners to fully participate.

You will need to frequently check on the separate rules for the Downtown properties and those in the outlying areas. Continue reading

Posted in Boyd Gaming, Casino Policy, Casino Promotions | 8 Comments


Sometimes casinos do take note of player complaints.

I’ve been a little hard on casinos lately, especially critical of some of the policies of local ones in Vegas. However, today I want to give out a note of praise to Boyd Gaming, who reversed the change they had put in place March 1 restricting their Young at Heart (YAH) promotion to locals only for their four non-downtown properties.  I guess the outcry, especially on the Internet forums and blogs, was loud and fierce enough to reach the powers that be!

Here are the latest updated rules for The Orleans, Gold Coast, Suncoast, and Sam’s Town that will make a lot of out-of-towners happy again.

I am not as familiar with the YAH program at the three downtown casinos because I don’t play at any of them, and I’m not sure if any of their rules have changed. You need to check this updated rule sheet for Main Street Station, California and Fremont.  Their programs are for locals only, but this may have always been the case.


Posted in Boyd Gaming, Casino Policy, Casino Promotions | 10 Comments



Although their loyalty card and some advertising and promotion mailings still sometimes use the name “Boarding Pass,” marketing seems to be favoring the term “My Rewards” in many instances. I wonder if they eventually want to permanently get rid of the railroad image? Too old-fashioned? I guess “My Rewards” sounds more modern – and perhaps more lucrative? The problem with sounding more valuable makes a lot of players feel betrayed and not very rewarded when benefits are being cut right and left!  :(

Major change in their Wednesday senior program, “My Generation.” Continue reading

Posted in Casino Policy, Casino Promotions | 41 Comments

The Start of a Very Happy Week

OMG – Such warm and happy feelings tonight after a wonderful two-hour flood of memories covering 50 years of favorite music. An Engelbert Humperdinck show – at 80, he’s still “got it.”

A great start to what will be a personally fulfilling week for me, the arrival from the printer of the fourth addition to my frugal family, The Frugal Gambler Casino Guide. For several years now I have wanted to broaden my writing to help more casino gamblers. Although I still look for and share information to help the serious gambler who is looking for an edge, I find that the casual recreational casino player is the one who is really in need of assistance. He wants to enjoy the entertainment that the casino affords but he is losing too much and too fast. This new frugal Guide was written to help this player, no matter what game he plays. My hope is that this book will allow more casino gamblers to lose less so they can enjoy the exciting casino atmosphere longer.

Posted in Book Recommendation, Memories, Show Review | 3 Comments

Talking Blackjack

Today I want to talk blackjack. Although video poker has been our core game for about 25 years, we haven’t forgotten our first 6 years when blackjack took center stage in our casino life. And we still hit the BJ tables occasionally, when we have a coupon for that game or we are on a cruise ship and want to have some social activity with friends and relatives at a gambling option better than the machines offer.

I still keep up on blackjack news and take note of new BJ resources that would especially be valuable for recreational players. Recently my friend, Henry Tamburin, who has been a BJ player and gaming writer for many years, has just finished a book rightly called the Ultimate Blackjack Strategy Guide. It is a comprehensive introduction to the casino game of blackjack that is a step-by-step handbook for the beginner and can help more experienced players fine-tune their game. The Guide includes an Index and Glossary and is fully illustrated with graphics and color-coded charts that make it fun to read and easy to understand. It is more than just about blackjack strategy; it covers many related topics, like the history of the game, side bets and variations, tournaments, and the famous practitioners at the Blackjack Ball. Best of all, it is the ultimate frugal read since it is FREE to access online.

And if you ever wondered how big BJ players operate, you will love this story Henry discovered in his recent interview with Donald Johnson, a piece that appeared in “Casino Player” magazine. I had heard how Johnson beat several casinos for $15 million dollars betting $100,000 a hand, and I – and most everyone else – thought it was due to the lucrative rebate on losses he negotiated with the casinos. However, in this interview Henry found out that there was much more to this story, amazing details that hadn’t come out before. You can read all about it here.

For more on Don Johnson, go to this podcast at “Gambling with an Edge,” where he and Anthony Curtis and Max Rubin talk about this year’s Blackjack Ball, at which Johnson was inducted into the Blackjack Hall of Fame.


Posted in Blackjack | 1 Comment


In this blog entry I will give some additional information I have gleaned while talking to other players and reading in the online gambling forums. I can’t stress too often how important it is to utilize these kinds of resources.

However, I need to warn players that one must continually verify information they hear and read. I have rarely found that writers or players will deliberately give false information, but humans do sometimes draw mistaken conclusions. A player may assume certain facts that they personally experienced, not realizing that they may not apply to others in different circumstances. An example of this would be a local player who would tell an out-of-town friend about a good promotion, not knowing that it was open only to locals. Continue reading

Posted in Casino Promotions | 5 Comments


Many casinos are doing a better job on their websites, giving detailed timely promotion information and updated details on personal players club accounts. And some are even providing extra conveniences.  For example, you can go to any Boyd property website and download and/or print out a tax win/loss statement or any W-2G you have received for the last 3 years. You may want to check out the websites of the casinos where you play and see if there is any help for you there before you start doing your tax returns.

A general caution about multiple-point promotions: Some casinos offer ones on individual player mailers that are not open to the general public. I know this is true on some – or all? – Boyd property mailers. Also true for the Palms – and perhaps for all Station properties? There may be others.  So this might be the reason you and a friend might have an argument over whether there are multiple points on such-and-such day.

And to answer a reader’s question: Continue reading

Posted in Casino Promotions | 4 Comments

Tax Help for Gamblers

Many of you are starting to work on your 2016 tax returns and have questions about how to handle your gambling figures for the year. If you are a new gambler and/or have gotten some W-2Gs for the first time, you need a lot of basic information. This is why Tax Help for Gamblers was written. It will give you and/or your tax preparer valuable details you need as you work on your returns, including both federal and state for many of you.

If you are experienced in handling gambling figures on tax returns and/or you have heard about the recent IRS ruling, you may have specific questions about possible changes for 2016. Here is the actual 25-page IRS document discussing the regulations proposed earlier – and many vehemently protested by both casinos and players – and why or why not they made it into the final document.  Fortunately, the most problematic for gamblers, lowering the W-2G issuance from $1200 to $600, was scrapped.

Unfortunately the one issue we players wanted settled, specifically approving the “session method” of reporting our wins/losses did not make it into this final document; the IRS stated it is still “considering” Notice 2015-21, which would give a “safe harbor” for this logical method.

Therefore, we cannot yet change the advice we give in the latest edition of Tax Help for Gambler. In the section titled “1040, Line 21 Problem” (which may now be a different line!) we discuss at length this problem of deciding what a “session” is and whether the IRS will kick out your return if you use it instead of your W-2G total. Although there have been an IRS memo and a court ruling validating this method – and many have been using it with no problems – there have still been many cases where gamblers have had to endure much back-and-forth argument and even needed professional advocating before they could prevail. Some gamblers just deathly fear the hassle and won’t use the method even if it would be the most cost effective. So we all hope that the IRS will soon put out a clear directive on this issue.

Another resource I can recommend is a recent good article by my friend Mark Gruetze that discusses IRS and tax issues for gamblers.

The latest edition of Tax Help for Gamblers is available only as an eBook but is immediately accessible to download for a very frugal price – $7.99. It can be ordered through iTunes, for the Kindle and for the Nook.


Posted in Taxes | 2 Comments

Celebrating 85 years of Adventure

January 18, 1949 was a typical cloudy cold winter day in Connersville, Indiana, when a skinny teenager ran across the street from his high school to catch the bus just pulling up to the stop.

“Well hello, kid,” the driver grinned as the young man dropped his nickel fare into the coin box, “It’s only noon; are you playing hooky from school this afternoon?”

“No, Butch, I’m not going back there anymore. Today is my 17th birthday and I’m off to see the world.”

“Well, this bus will take you downtown.” Butch was laughing now, “That’s about all I can do for a world traveler.”

“Well, that’s all I need to get to the Greyhound Station, catch a bus to Richmond, walk into the recruiting office, and join the Marines.”

A few hours later, a dejected young man was riding the bus home. Much to the painful disappointment of the adventurer, he would not be able to realize his dream that day, one that he had kept in his head since he commanded an army of tin soldiers in his backyard sandbox – the Marines had a temporary freeze on enlistments. Back home it was tedious waiting time, holding on to the promise made by the recruiter that as soon as the freeze was lifted, they would call him and he would be sent overseas very soon thereafter.

Connected with his desire to be a soldier so he could travel was his belief that a military life would give unlimited opportunities for gambling, a passion he had pursued, influenced by two much older brothers, since he was a preschooler. So during this wait to be called by the Marines, he became more impatient as he heard all the exciting military gambling stories told by the veterans at the card tables in the pool halls and cigar stores where he continued to hone his gambling skills.

In June, he gave up on the Marines, who still hadn’t called.   He went to the Army recruiting office, took his test, and was ready to sign on the dotted line when the Air Force recruiter in the same office offered a deal to the Army recruiter. “How about a trade? I have a recruit here but he didn’t achieve the higher test score the Air Force requires but it is good enough for the Army. Let me trade for your guy since he had a higher score.”

The Army recruiter looked at his enthusiastic wannabe soldier, “What do you think of this idea?

The Air Force recruiter looked at him and saw by his face that he would need some persuading, “In the Air Force you won’t eat meals off a tin tray. They’ll be served on tables with white tablecloths.”

And that is how this adventurer ended up in the Air Force, started his world travel by being stationed in Japan, and was put in charge of base supply where he could run a daily blackjack game in the back room behind his office.

Happy 85th birthday, Brad, from your loving traveling and gambling companion who joined your adventure for these last 31 years.

Posted in Brad Stories, It's Personal, Memories | 16 Comments

The Negative Side of Promotions

In my last blog I promised that I would address some of the frustrations and problems players might face in using casino promotions. I really did not want to write on this subject, but I was getting criticism that I was “Little Miss Sunshine,” that I was presenting a too-rosy picture for a situation that was really getting more difficult for players who wanted to cut their losses.

I have always stressed that casinos are not non-profit businesses – at least they don’t plan to be such. And so in recent years when they started cutting video poker paytables and reducing comps and other player benefits, I chided other players about talking about “the greedy casinos.” I suggested they adjust to the new casino environment by “complaining with their feet.” When a casino makes too many cutbacks, then look for another playground. In the meantime, I was trying to help by detailing in this blog many of the options so they would have a better chance of finding a friendlier casino atmosphere.

I have always been aware that casinos take notice of players who work against their goal of achieving profits. It started long ago with countermeasures against blackjack players who could beat the house by counting cards. Skilled video poker players stayed under the casino radar for much longer but finally caught the attention of math-savvy executives – the ones we call bean counters. Continue reading

Posted in Casino Promotions | 23 Comments