More Good Reads and Gaming Resources

At the top of this blog page, you will see a link called “Casino Strategies.” This goes to an interesting blog, one on the 888casino website. Although you cannot gamble at this online casino in the United States unless you are physically in the state of New Jersey, where it is a legal place for real-money games, anyone can visit their blog. I recommend it because it contains an abundance of gambling information from many experienced gambling writers, including an article I wrote that traces Brad’s and my casino path down the last 30+ years.

The blog features two comprehensive game guides, on blackjack and slots, and numerous articles on many other games and gambling topics. Browse around it for interesting and helpful information.



Posted in Blackjack, Gambling Resources, Slots | Comments Off on More Good Reads and Gaming Resources


Watch for Derby Day promotions this coming first weekend in May.  And then there will be special promotions in many casinos May 8 for Mother’s Day and the 30th for Memorial Day.  A good place to get details on these is at “Today’s News” on the LVA homepage.   In fact every week there is an extensive list of weekend events there.  You never have to be bored in Las Vegas!

Last month I mentioned that one of the best ways to find new plays is to use your usual promotional resources in conjunction with vpFREE2, which is a very comprehensive database of the best video poker games.  Video poker inventory is constantly changing.  I would like to add another detail about this valuable resource: Continue reading

Posted in Casino Promotions, M Casino, Senior Promotion, Slot Clubs | 2 Comments

A Too-Good Promotion

Most everyone knows I love comps, but recently I had a real problem with one that made me wish the comp wasn’t “so good.” It happened at the Steak ’n Shake located at the South Point Casino. If you are from the Midwest, you may know that this restaurant chain has many fans – and many of us transplanted Midwesterners were happy when they came to Vegas.

Recently Brad had a coupon for $150 food at any South Point restaurant so we invited four friends to join us at S&S. Of course we could have made a more gourmet choice but we were hungry for the good hamburgers and milkshakes S&S is famous for. I “ordered” everyone to order the most expensive things on the menu, to not hold back. Continue reading

Posted in Comps, Couponing, Food Review | 10 Comments

Staying in a Casino’s Good Graces

I have had a number of people tell me that they usually don’t go back and read the comments that my readers post.  I try to encourage them to do so because there are often helpful hints there, ideas and techniques that might make their gambling more successful.  A case in point is the comment by Kevin Lewis on the recent blog entry “VP Questions” He suggests that a player might receive better mailed offers if he mixes in a little slot play with his video poker play.

This has been a subject on my mind recently because of several long-term players relating that they have recently been “no-mailed” and they don’t know why.   Not getting offers from a casino, especially one where you have played for a long time, is always a painful blow.  And with good playing opportunities decreasing rapidly, this can really impact your recreational and/or financial lifestyle.

Sometimes we know why we are no longer a welcome customer at a particular casino because an employee will tell us when we inquire.  But most of the time we have to guess – or just wonder.  Here are some of the reasons I have found out through personal experience and talk from other players Continue reading

Posted in Video Poker | 7 Comments

Tax Time Promotions

I haven’t researched the tax time promotions this year, but Scot Krause has and he has a good list in Gaming Today.  Good job, Scot!


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Video Poker Questions

Q:  I have read several articles referring to you and another couple winning $500,000. The articles always say that you won it in a slot machine contest. Am I to understand that you won this on a slot machine and not a video poker machine? It doesn’t seem to me that you would be willing to risk even what the entry fee would have been on a slot machine. Am I wrong?

A:  Tournaments are different from regular play in a casino.   Most tournaments we enter have no entry fee, being “invitational” ones that come from our past regular play.   However, the one you are referring to did have a fee but we could – and did – get the fee refunded by playing the amount of regular play specified in the tournament rules that would qualify us for the rebate.  And we did do that play on video poker.

However, once you are in a tournament, you are competing against other players, not against the casino, so it doesn’t matter what game you are playing.  There is no skill involved in a slot tournament except, if it is a timed one, you need the ability to play as fast as you can in order to get in more hands to rack up a higher score.  You can read more about tournament play in my book More Frugal Gambling.

Q:  Can you give an example of a game that would be a .5%- edge play or one that would give you an advantage over the casino?

A:  I almost never give exact details of our plays for the simple reason that many cannot be duplicated by everyone.  Some are low-level plays that would not appeal to those who want to play higher denominations; on the other hand, some are very high-level plays for those with huge gambling bankrolls and the intestinal fortitude to withstand extreme volatility.  Some include large free play amounts that are not available to everyone because they are based on a long-standing relationship with one casino or other individual factors.   In fact, much of our play has a free-play element that is almost impossible to exactly quantify.  It is not a consistent figure and almost never is publicized, so is often a best-guess number, based on past experiences and our conversations with other players.

Here is one “little” basic play I can share – and one Brad plays when he’s killing time, like when I am getting a mani-pedi at the Palms salon.  Play full-pay Classic Deuces Wild at the Palms with a 100.7% EV.  You don’t earn any players club points, but, if you are a local,  you might get a small weekly free play amount – perhaps $5-$15 depending on your coin-in (which I don’t know how much is needed) – and some small food coupons in a monthly mailer.  This play is only a small one – in quarters only – but it is very positive – and available for tourists and locals (however with only the latter getting mailers).  Some Station casinos also have a similar play.  You can check  vpFREE2  for casinos that have FPDW or other 100%+ EV games, like 10/7 Double Bonus.

You might find a NSUD (Not-so-ugly deuces) game (99.7%), at quarters and sometimes at a higher denomination, with a good slot club and/or multiple points at the higher tier levels and/or on bonus Senior Days and/or general multiplier days, i.e., on holidays.  Some of these casinos send out mailers with “bounce-back” free play that combined with other bonuses will help push this game into positive territory.

Perhaps the most common “good” VP game available in many places is 8/5 Bonus Poker (99.1%) but it takes a lot of extras to make that a positive play,  a good combo of big multipliers, juicy promotions, and/or generous free play.

I can’t emphasize how important it is to scour vpFREE2 for good games and then search like a maniac for good promotions.

Posted in Video Poker | 1 Comment


First, just in case you haven’t marked them in your “Favorites,” let’s review the resources wise players will check for promotions that might be suitable for their playing style, gambling bankroll, and life goals after they have gone over their individual monthly casino mailings:

  1. The Sunday Scroll down to “Casino Promotions” to view the weekly list. Or search for “Promotions.”
  2. Vegas Values – new list every Sunday plus a section of ongoing promotions.
  3. Scot Krause’s list of bonus point opportunities.
  4. The monthly Las Vegas Advisor  (for subscribers) and Today’s News (for everyone!)
  5. Individual casino Websites

One of the best ways to find new plays is to use the above resources in conjunction with vpFREE2, which is a very comprehensive database of the best video poker games.  Video poker inventory is constantly changing.  Find a possibly good promotion in the resource list at a casino you haven’t ever visited or at least not for a long time?  Check out the vpFREE2 inventory and see if you could combine that promotion with an available game listed in the database and end up with a good play you hadn’t known about or considered before.    Scouting is the name of the game these days.  Don’t get in a rut and only look in your “usual” haunts!

Caesars Entertainment

Grow Your Tier Score April 1 – June 30

Total Rewards® members can grow their Tier Score this spring with a 50% BONUS when they earn at least 1,000 Tier Credits between April 1 and June 30, with a maximum bonus of 25,000 Tier Credits. Make sure you opt-in to this promotion in order to receive your bonus credits!  Official terms and conditions.


They still have their free (no fee) coin exchange kiosk.  Receive 110% back in free play; 100% back in cash.  Must have a players card.  See players club for details and limitations.

I found this promotion on their Website:  “In town for a convention?  Show your badge at the promotions booth for a free 20oz craft beer.”


The Palms doesn’t offer as much in the senior Sterling Advantage 50+ program as in the past. The only things I see for Senior Thursdays in my April mailer: “Half off at Bistro Buffet” and “$8 movie ticket, drink, and popcorn.”

To check other local senior days, check out individual local and downtown casino Websites, which usually have a detailed list of offers. Most have food discounts, but tournaments and drawings are also frequent benefits. And if you are a movie fan, there are often very frugal admission specials on senior days at casinos with movie theaters.















Posted in Casino Promotions | 1 Comment

Back to our Roots

Recently, while updating my first book, The Frugal Gambler, I was struck by how much fun we had back when we first started coming to Las Vegas, playing quarter full-pay deuces wild, and walking all over town chasing down promotions, no matter how small they were. Here is an excerpt from that first book:

In those dizzying early years, I sped around like a whirling dervish, taking advantage of every promotion I could find. I used every coupon that was worth anything at all, entered every drawing, and collected as much free merchandise as the casinos would give me. I’d make a special trip to an outlying casino on a shuttle bus for a free spin on a roulette wheel. I made it a point to play in casinos that awarded extras—logo caps, T-shirts, sweatshirts, jackets, drawing entries, even six packs of soda—when you hit four deuces or four-of-a-kind or a royal.

I dragged Brad all over town to attend all the drawings we’d entered. I scoured casinos looking for discarded funbooks, to the extent (much to Brad’s dismay) of looking in wastebaskets; I only drew the line at digging through half-eaten mustard-laden trash. The importance of promotions doesn’t stop at their cash-making potential, either. Brad has a thing for casino jackets. He has at least 50 logo jackets, six for every outfit he could possibly put together.

Promotions also account for a lot of the fun we have on the casino circuit. I’m going to play video poker anyway, so if the casino wants to give Brad a logo jacket to celebrate my hitting a royal flush, that’s just an easy extra. If I get entries into a drawing for a car by hitting four-of-a-kinds, that’s free action just for doing what I do. That’s why I like promotions: they offer a financial and a psychological lift.

I just read this description to Brad and we discussed whether we had increased our fun when we had accumulated a bigger bankroll and started playing at a higher level.  We decided we have had the opportunity to enjoy many more different kinds of fun activities, but everything is relative in gambling – hitting a royal flush top jackpot has always been exciting at whatever level we were playing.

Then Brad quoted something he has said over the years, “It’s only matchsticks.”  If that sounds flippant, remember we have never had to make our living expenses by gambling.  When we started visiting casinos, we were still working at our regular jobs:  I was teaching and Brad was employed in a government civil service position.  Once we retired we had a small but comfortable retirement pension.  We have never spent our gambling profit on day-to-day routine expenditures.  It has just provided us with the ability to help – spoil? – our families and allowed us to save for a  more secure and luxurious retirement lifestyle.

Why am I writing about this?

People are more and more asking us how we are coping with the decrease in good gambling opportunities. And we are having to remind them of the title of the last chapter in the first edition of The Frugal Gambler, written so long ago: “Breaking Even is a Terrific Thing.”   Back then I wrote:

“So, how did you do?”

That’s the most common question we’re asked after we return home from an extended stay in Las Vegas. Very often, we say that we broke even on the gambling and got all our expenses paid. People tend to turn up their noses and make some remark like, “What’s the point of going?” They expect to hear a dramatic story that involves large sums of money changing hands. Breaking even is about as undramatic as it gets.

But here’s how we figure it. At the end of the year, we’ll have spent up to five months in casino towns. If we stay free most nights, eat free once or twice a day, see a few free shows, play up to eight hours a day, and recoup what we do spend out of pocket, we’ve actually made money by breaking even. We haven’t had to spend any of our own money, so our ordinary income continues to go into the bank and pile up. Anything we don’t spend is the same as winnings, and it’s tax free to boot.

Look at it this way. If someone told you that you could take the kind of vacations that I’ve described in this book and you could do it all for free, would you also insist that you had to make some money while you were at it? Take home a profit from a free trip to paradise? Maybe, but that sounds a little greedy to us. If you spend half the year away from home with no expenses, it means that the other half of the year you have twice as much to spend at home. That’s plenty “dramatic” for us.

Back in March and April of 2015 I did a 4-part series in this blog about the decline of good gambling and how various gamblers were coping.  There is no one-size-fits-all solution to this problem and no “right” or “wrong” answers.

We made our first trip to Vegas during a windy March – 31 years ago.  It isn’t just the casino world that has changed.  We have changed too.  We aren’t tourists any more but Vegas residents.  Our bodies are not holding up quite as strong as we would like.   Our energy levels are low and we seem to enjoy our home recliners more than casino chairs much of the time.

However, we still enjoy the challenge of sparing with the casino, and look for an advantage play wherever we can find it.  That has been the fun factor for us for 31 years.  But just like in the beginning, breaking even on the game and enjoying the comp “gravy” is still plenty of fun for us.

Posted in It's Personal | 10 Comments

Tax Questions

Q:  Does your tax book address the Medicare and Social Security implications of gambling income? I am approaching Medicare age and just recently became aware of the effects of gambling income on Medicare premiums. I believe there are some Social Security implications as well.

A:  I don’t discuss this subject at length because so much depends on your total income.  If you have high non-gambling income, adding gambling income to your AGI can become very expensive.  I write:  “Seniors may find that they have to pay taxes on more of their SS income.”  There can be higher Medicare payments also.  I give a whole long list of other negative effects for recreational gamblers who have to include gross gambling win figures in their adjusted gross income.  This is why some who qualify will file as professional gamblers on a Schedule C.  There is a whole section on the “1040 Line Problem.”  As I say so often, when your financial situation becomes more complex, you probably will need to see a professional tax preparer who is knowledgeable about tax issues connected with gambling.  And many times the taxpayer will need to tell them about Tax Help for Gamblers!

Q:  I have your 2nd edition 2012 paperback of Tax Help for Gamblers. I see your updated 2015 edition is only available online.  Do I really need to buy that?

A:  That depends.  The 2012 edition covers the basic well, but there have been quite a few changes in the last three years.  Here is a list of some of the subjects that are new and/or have been updated in this  3rd edition Continue reading

Posted in Taxes | 1 Comment

CET Buffet Promo Pulled?

I hate to report on a casino promotion about which I can’t get official information, but I also want to warn people when one I have described in earlier blogs seems to be changing.

Just got this from a blog reader: “The CET Buffet promotion that was advertised to last until the end of March does no longer exist! Am I the only one that is aware of this?”  

Here is a vpFREE post from a reliable source in answer to my query about this:

Jean, I just went to check another forum on what Dan Druff, probably the best expert on the internet today on CET Total Rewards, had to say about this. It was reported to him yesterday that the buffet promo was cancelled. He looked into it and reported today that the buffet offer “still exists ‘secretly’ for locals until 3/31. If you have a Nevada I.D., you can go to the TR desk and they will honor it. If you are from outside of Nevada it ended today.”

I am always dubious about anecdotal information that depends on a particular casino or comes from a particular casino employee.  What might work at one casino might not at another time or place.  So all I can say is that you should check this out before you play specifically for this promotion.

By the way, the forum mentioned above can be accessed here, and I found a lot of helpful information about the CET players club in the section of the forum called “Total Rewards and MLife.”  But I have been warned that there is a lot of troll infestation in the site.

Posted in Casino Promotions | 8 Comments