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 | 13 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 | 20 Comments

January Promotions

Here are some money-saving tidbits to help you tackle better the casino environment in 2017 .

MGM Properties

Mad about having to pay for parking while you are visiting most MGM properties on the Strip. This link gives the complete details on how to avoid that irritating charge.  Definitely a wonderful frugal “secret.”


The Senior Thank-You Thursdays (50+) promo continues, featuring food discounts and a free slot tournament. Also continuing is the monthly senior 20% discount that moves around to various departments. In January it stops at the Pub 365, the eatery that last year replaced their Mexican restaurant.

For everyone: The monthly mailer describes a “Winter Free Play Grab” on Wednesdays. “Earn 500 slot points for one grab from the prize Box. Win up to $500 Free Play – $5 minimum prize.” On Tuesdays you can earn 200 base points and receive a 2-for-1 entrée coupon to Marilyn’s Café or Pub 365.


Many of us oldsters had been anxiously waiting to see what Stations would be doing for us who play at their newest acquisition, the Palms. Would it be transferring here the My Generation Wednesday Senior 50+ program that they have in all of their other properties?

Our January Palms mailer answered that question. First, our special day is Tuesday, referred to as Timeless Tuesdays, with a new name “Boom 50+.” (Perhaps appealing to the Baby Boomer gang although some of us from the previous gang are still kicking around in casinos!) There are some good benefits: food and drink specials; drawings and tournament; hot-seat promo; and $5 movies. No multiple points like in the My Generation program elsewhere. There are no details I could find online so I can’t give you a complete report until I pick up printed material that I hope will be at the players club next time I stop in. Another question left unanswered is whether this is planned to be an on-going program or will change from month to month. Time will tell – and then maybe I can tell you here!

As far as Palms promotions for everyone, most seem to be separate from Station-wide ones, i.e., the January Balloon Zoom.  The Palms Friday drawings seem to be patterned after the ones that have been running there for years. You have to be very careful how you read about multiple-point days; check the logos on all ads and mailers to see what individual casinos, or casino groups, are giving these bonus points and on what days. Many players who played at a Stations or Fiesta casino in the past will get a separate mailer for these casinos and for the Palms. It is just like I have discussed for years about the Boyd properties. “Child” properties under a “mother” umbrella company like to show their independence by having their own goals and plans and interests. Don’t assume because one “child” casino is doing a particular promotion or offers a certain benefit that these will be available at a sister property.

Cannery and Eastside Cannery

Boyd Gaming has completed their acquisition of the Cannery and Eastside Cannery casinos. However, as yet no date has been given as to when they will be folded into the BConnected players club program.


I try to be as positive as I can about casino policies and the frequent changes. But sometimes my optimism is challenged big time. In my next blog I am going to share some of my frustrations, including some recent changes that may impact negatively your use of promotions.

Posted in Casino Promotions, Senior Promotion | 7 Comments

An IRS Birthday Present

A big thanks for all the recent birthday messages. I feel blessed to be surrounded by so many thoughtful friends and well-wishers.

And a big surprise – even the IRS decided to give me something nice for my birthday, new gambling regulations that will make easier my future book-writing life – as well as my personal financial situation. These new regulations wiped out some scary proposals from the IRS in the past, particularly dropping the bad idea of changing the $1200 W2-G threshold to $600. They also addressed some other technical issues for which the casinos had been pushing. I haven’t read the official IRS regulation document, but when I do, I will share all additional pertinent details.

Speaking of taxes, I want to clarify that the 3rd edition of Tax Help for Gamblers, only available online as an eBook, is the only edition with current information.  Continue reading

Posted in Taxes | 4 Comments

Back Home

Still “recovering” from a long and busy out-of-town trip, one that, as usual, combined casino activity and family celebrations.  This picture records the first family event when we got to GA, Zachary’s graduation from Police Academy, where he scored two  of the three awards given – top shooter and highest overall PT achievement.  All that ROTC and parkour/karate experience is reaping great dividends.  He will be one busy Man in Blue.  As well as his job on the Columbus, GA police force, he will be juggling a fledgling online business, Army National Guard duty, and being a thoughtful husband to Taylor and involved father to 2 1/2 Asher and on-the-way Bowen who will be arriving in March.


After celebrating an early Christmas in Columbus, our next stop was at granddaughter Kaitlynn’s apartment in Atlanta, where she is working on her master’s in communication, specifically video production and related areas.  She has connected her hobby of geocaching to her studies with a YouTube site chronicling her adventures at home and abroad.

Then it was on to Cherokee Harrah’s in North Carolina’s Smoky Mountains, one of our favorite casinos, Continue reading

Posted in Atlantic City, Bankroll, Blackjack, Book Recommendation, Family News, Non-Vegas Casinos | 10 Comments

Yes, a New Frugal Book is Coming!

Many of you have been quizzing me about this for years. I resisted … but the casino world has been changing so radically. I felt I owed it to my long-time faithful readers – and also to new casino gamblers – to write a book that would help them—not just navigate, but … yes, survive … this new casino environment. The title of this new book is The Frugal Gambler Casino Guide.

Originally, I decided to just update each of my first two books, The Frugal Gambler and More Frugal Gambling. However, I found that this involved repeating too much material from one to the other. So I settled on writing just one Frugal casino guide, updating much of the basic information from those two books, along with some material from the Frugal Video Poker. Although I still wanted to thoroughly cover my “specialty,” video poker, I realized that many casino visitors prefer other games. So I added new information about all their possible choices, including table games, slots, live poker, bingo, keno, carnival games, and sports and race betting.

The biggest change you’ll see in this new book is a new emphasis. Although it still gives you a glimpse into the possibility of “advantage play”—that is, long-term winning—my main purpose is to show you how to stretch your bankroll and/or lose less. This is the more realistic goal of most gamblers, and I describe ways you can keep more money out of the casino’s clutches and in your pocket no matter what your choice of casino game may be.

This new book will be back from the printer  in February.  At that time it will be available from Huntington Press (including autographed copies), Amazon, as well as being orderable from your local bookstore. In the meantime, you can pre-order the book by going to ShopLVA  for the pre-pub price of $11.95 plus shipping (it will retail for $16.95). Also in February it will be available as an eBook.

In the meantime, you might wonder what will happen to my older books. They won’t be reprinted, so when the present editions are sold out, they’ll disappear forever.  Some of you have bought and studied all of them. However, if you’re not in that group, you may wonder if they contain some information that still might be useful and might be a frugal buy, especially since they can be ordered at a nice discount. So here’s a brief consideration of that point for each title and what possibly helpful material they contain that didn’t make it into the new book.

The Frugal Gambler – The original 1998 (red cover) edition and 2005 updated (green cover) edition contain a chapter on airline bumping with money-making techniques we still use today. And the introduction tells the story of how we became “the frugal gamblers,” with a later chapter detailing how we could stay free in Las Vegas for long periods of time.

More Frugal Gambling – In 2003, after more years of experience at both lower and higher play levels and becoming a Las Vegas resident, I had much more information to share. My daughter Angela helped me review the basics for beginners and I contributed new information for experienced gamblers. This was a very big book and I had to boil down so many details to cover and update the same subjects in the new book: VP, players clubs, promotions, comps. If you haven’t read this book, I guarantee you’ll find details that will make you money, especially in the 60-page section on comps. No other book covers the host system more completely. Yes, the casinos are cutting their comp benefits, but the player who knows the basics and some of the “tricks” I share will score more.

Frugal Video Poker – This book came out in 2006. Although it was originally written to accompany software that is no longer available, it’s still a good step-by-step guide that will help beginners start on the path of skillful video poker play. It gives some bankroll tables and volatility information that will help them know what to expect. It would be a good companion volume for the novice video poker player who needs more basic information to add to what’s found in the new book.

The Frugal Video Poker Scouting Guide – This sturdy pocket guide continues to be a must-carry for all studious VP players, giving the EV (expected long-term value) of almost 200 of the most common VP pay schedules, plus progressive information for over 150 games. The math never needs to be updated!

Tax Help for Gamblers –Although previous editions have been in paperback, to keep the information up to date, the latest, the 3rd edition, is an e-book that you might want – or need – to consult as you start thinking about filing your 2016 tax return. Download now for your Kindle; Nook; or Apple device.


Posted in Book Recommendation | 2 Comments

Covering Vacation Time with a Guest BJ Rant

Brad and I will be flying to Georgia in a couple of days, combining, as we often do, a family visit with a casino stay.  First, we will be attending grandson Zachary’s graduation from Police Academy, part of his training for his new position with the Columbus, GA police force.  Then the whole family will celebrate an early Christmas together.  This year we just have a single “little one,” great-grandson Asher, but at two-and-a-half he is quite able to generate a lot of joy and excitement.  However, he won’t have to go it alone for long.  Come March he will have a little brother arriving to help with holiday mayhem!

Then the fun continues with a short road trip (4 1/2 hours north) to Harrah’s Cherokee Casino in North Carolina, where most of the family can join us as their work schedules permit.  This is a 7 Stars trip, and as usual, they are glad to help use up accumulated comps!  We will be there from December 15 until the 18th so, if any of you happen to be there too, please stop and say hello if you see us.

Departing from my usual subject of video poker temporarily, I will leave you an interesting article to ponder over while I am absent here.  It was written by my friend Henry Tamburin and taken from the October issue of Casino Player magazine:



Posted in Blackjack, Family News, Guest Writer, Non-Vegas Casinos | 3 Comments


Everything cowboy the first 10 days of December when the rodeo takes over the town.  Holiday special offers all month. Check all your usual sources for related promotions all over town!


Play for a Buffet is a Tuesday promotion for Las Vegas CZR casinos that is continuing in December. Earn 50 tier credits in a day at any of our Total Rewards casinos in Las Vegas and get one free entry to the Rio Carnival World & Seafood Buffet. (This voucher does not include the Seafood section – that requires paying a $25 upcharge!) Much fine print on this offer – so check the rules at players club at any CZR Vegas property.


Senior Thursdays feature food discounts, special gambling offers, and a free slot tournament. Plus seniors receive 20% off rooms for the entire month of December.


If you like to shop, you may want to check out the Macy’s gift card promotion here from December 1-12. For every 5000 base points you earn you receive one $25 Macy’s gift card, max of 10 cards per account. I don’t know any fine-print warnings yet, but it always pays to check at the players club before you start playing for the written rules for any promotion.


In my last blog entry I discussed the transition of the Palms to take its place under the Stations umbrella. There are still some issues to solve and some programs that have not as yet crossed over. I expect changes to proceed slowly over the next few months – and perhaps some programs will not transfer at all, with some Palms-specific ones appearing. Continue reading

Posted in Casino Promotions, Palms, Slot Clubs | 7 Comments


It’s still transition time. Many changes have been made, but all the kinks haven’t been worked out and some programs and policies have not yet gone through a switch.  Often there are excruciating long lines at the players club, but I will have to praise the patience of the workers there who will go to all lengths to try to solve problems . And when they are unsuccessful to find answers and solutions, they can turn to supervisors who are very knowledgeable and can almost always provide a satisfactory resolution.

Often when I ask a question, an employee will say that this particular issue will probably not change or be settled until January or later. This seems to be the situation Continue reading

Posted in Food Review, Palms, Senior Promotion, Slot Clubs | 10 Comments

Tahoe Adventure

Recently we took a family casino vacation to Tahoe, staying on an offer from Harrah’s.  Although we had been here many times before, this was the first time daughter Angela and her hubby Steve had been here so they kept busy with active choices –  like hiking –  that Brad and I didn’t/couldn’t join in.  They also did a day trip to Virginia City, something we had enjoyed in the past.

One sunny afternoon we all 4 went on a paddleboat cruise sightseeing tour – one thing we had never done in all our previous visits.  This gave us an amazing view of Lake Tahoe and surroundings from the “inside.”  Here are some photos from the dock and onboard the M.S. Dixie II.



We consider Tahoe one of the prettiest places in the country in which to take a casino vacation.  And it just so happens that we will be visiting a casino in December which gives Tahoe a run for the money in this category –  the Cherokee Casino in the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina.  And, as usual, this will be a very special visit, a holiday reunion with our GA family.  There is nothing better than combining family  and casino fun!

Posted in Family News, Non-gambling Activities, Non-Vegas Casinos, Travel | 7 Comments