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The Match-Play Coupon Circuit

Part II

Just a quick note before we jump into this new subject.  I originally wrote this article in 2002. Some of the items discussed may no longer be available or as widely distributed as they were then.

Some readers have asked why I have written a number of articles about the low-end of the gaming spectrum, specifically the Cheap Craps Guide series of articles, as well as this one, instead of the high-end of the gaming spectrum that I covered in pieces like my Patterns, Prostitutes, Progressions, Pageantry and Profits article.

The answer is fairly simple.  While I continue to enjoy the perks and benefits that my casino-play brings, many readers do not play as often (4 or 5 days each week), or for as long (25 to 35 hour per week) and some of their bet-levels may be in a somewhat lower “snack-bracket”.

While I enjoy the way of life that my craps-play brings as outlined in the Lifestyles of the Precision-Shooter article, some other players are more comfortable and quite satisfied with a substantially lower bet-level, and a less intense focus on gaming. 

To that end, I am very pleased to present this information for everyones benefit. 


The Match-Play Advantage

If you’ve read Part I of this article, you know that each match-play coupon has a +49.3% positive-expectation advantage over a craps even-money PL or DP bet.

That means that on Pass-Line or Don't Pass bets, $10 in cash (or chips) will become $30 about 49.3% of the time. This gives your $10 an expected value of $14.79.

Match-play coupons turn the normal negative -0.8% expectation 2x-Odds game of craps into a +49.3% advantage!  And that is before you factor in any of your Precision-Shooting skills.   That alone should warrant a further look.

Now, if you combine match-play coupons with even rudimentary Precision-Shooting, you should be able to garner some decent profit.  That was the idea behind spending a week on the so-called “Match-Play Circuit” in Las Vegas.

I want to thank Alan Krigman (Winning Ways) and Mike Shackleford (The Wizard of Odds) for supplying the math figures.

The Play-for-Profit Plan

The idea was to gather as many match-play coupons as possible from as many different Las Vegas-area casinos as possible, and organize them into various geographic areas, so we wouldn’t be backtracking too much:

       North Strip – Stratosphere, Sahara, Circus-2, Stardust, Frontier, etc.

       Central Strip – Harrah’s, Imperial Palace, Casino Royale, O’Shea’s, etc.

       South Strip – Tropicana, Excalibur, Orleans, San Remo, etc.

       North Las Vegas – Santa Fe, Fiesta-Rancho, Texas Station, Wildfire, etc.

       Downtown – California, Four Queens, Fitzgerald’s, Gaughan’s (Barrick’s) Plaza, Lady Luck, etc.

       Boulder Strip – Sam’s Town, Castaways, Hard Rock, Terrible’s, etc.

       Henderson - Eldorado, Jokers Wild, Barleys, Sunset Station, Fiesta-Henderson, etc.

       Other LV - Silverton, Palms, Palace Station, AZ Charlies-Decatur, Primm, Jean, etc.

Using a BLACKJACK Coupon at a CRAPS Table

Now this is a novel idea that works at more places than at places where it won’t.  It takes a bit of savvy, a bit of moxy, and a heapin’ helpin’ of chutzpah, but it’s well worth it if you want to cash more coupons, more often.

There are simply more match-play coupons for blackjack than there are of the generic “any even-money bet” or craps-specific coupons.  Therefore, if you have a blackjack match-play coupon, but you would rather use it at a craps table, here is what you do:

     When you walk up to the craps table, have a large cash buy-in in your hand.  The bigger the better ($1000+ buy-ins work best, and $500-sized ones usually work).  A couple of greasy, wrinkled $5-bills will generally NEVER work.

     Have the match-play coupon and your Players Card on top of the cash, and make sure that the box-man clearly sees it in your hand.

     Before throwing your money onto the table, ask the box-man if you can use the BJ match-play at his craps-table.  Tell him that you hate BJ, and you’d really like to use it at his table.  That small, kindly-worded request is usually all it takes to get a BJ coupon into the game. 

     In some cases, he may have to consult with a Floor Supervisor or Pit Boss, but like I said, it usually works.  If they recognize you as a regular player or as a higher-roller; then the task is made all that much easier.  Equally, if they know you as a good-tipping player; then your success at getting the coupon into the game is almost virtually guaranteed

     At some places, they’ll motion your buy-in as well as the coupon into the center “count-area” in front of the box-man.  They’ll usually say, “Let me ask, but it should be okay,” or they’ll say, “We’ll do it for you this time, but it’s really supposed to be used in the 21-Pit.”   Your reply should be a smiling “thank-you” and an added, “I like making a bet for you guys more than I do for the snapper-heads (semi-derogatory term for BJ dealers)”.  That will usually elicit a smile from the entire crew, and pretty much lock-in your chances of being able to cash more BJ coupons with the same crew again in the near future.

     In either case, a small line-bet for the crew when it becomes your turn to shoot the dice will confirm to the box-man that it was a good decision on his part.

      Upon revisiting the same casino and encountering the same box-man, he’ll usually grant you additional latitude with multiple BJ-coupon redemptions.

     The box-man may add a conspiratorial, “don’t tell anyone about this, okay” comment.  A small nod is all that is required for a response. 

     Don’t make a big deal of it if they sometimes won’t allow you to cash the BJ coupons at a craps table.  It is just part of the game, so don’t take it personally.  Try it again on a different table, on a different shift, or on a different day.

     If you want to guarantee FAILURE, walk up to the craps table with a $5 BJ match-play and a single $5 bill.  Without fail, that will bring out the, “That ain’t any good here kid…the 21-Pit is over yonder.”  Most civilized boxmen will only add the “…over yonder…ASSHOLE” tag when you are out of earshot.  The more surly ones will say it directly to your face. 

    You have to set up a positive situation where they WANT you in their game, and they are willing to redeem your BJ match-play at their craps table.   If you look like a “where’s the free daiquiri’s” sort of one-bet tourist, you can expect a frosty reception.

Foraging for $$$ Coupons

It took a fair bit of time to plan for this Tour because I don’t usually go out of my way to find or bet match-plays.  However, I do go out of my way if I have free Cash or Chip-vouchers from any casino that decides to send them to me. 

I’ll usually take one day in the first half of each month, then another day in the second half when Ms. MP and I hit the multitude of casinos that were kind enough to send us the no-risk “pure cash-value” vouchers in return for our semi-loyal play or when used as a “please come back and lose money” come-on.  These are the best kind of casino-promotions (from a players perspective) because you can cash them either at the cage or gaming table, and then simply walk away without any obligation to gamble, if you so choose.

Why Go to So Much Trouble?

I want to touch upon the whole “Why are you doing this?”  and “Why go to all of the trouble for $10 or $25?” question.

A lot of players are more comfortable with lower buy-ins (under $200), and are more at-ease in knowing that they don’t have a substantial chunk of change resting in their chip-rail.  It helps them focus on the game instead of the money, and that’s a good thing.

For a Precision-Shooter, it is very important to be relaxed while you are playing.  To borrow a phrase, you should always “play with your head, and not over it”. 

If you are buying-in for too much, or especially if you are betting more than you are comfortable with; then you won’t be as relaxed as you should be.  In that case, your Precision-Shooting efforts might be too “tight”, forced, and it may lack the proper focus or perspective.  Rarely do good things come out of situations like that.  So it is important to play within your means, and to make only the best bets that reflect the strength of your Signature Numbers no matter how big your bankroll might be. 

That just makes good business sense, and I look at these coupons in the same light.

Match-Plays help to increase your bankroll without adding much additional risk to your bankroll.  In my books, that’s a good deal, and any opportunity to make money with very low risk (and a positive-expectation) shouldn’t be overlooked.

In addition to that, if you are going to be playing at a specific casino anyway, and there is a Match-Play or cash-voucher available; then it behooves you to take advantage of it. 

It just makes sense no matter how big your buy-in is, or how large your actual bets are.  If your ego is so large that you can’t stoop to playing a $5 to $25 Match-Play, or cashing a $25 or $50 voucher, then pride and ego are likely affecting your game in many more ways than you would choose to believe.

I figure that if the casino wants to give me a +49.3% advantage on top of my own Precision-Shooting skills, then you can be sure that I’ll be there to take them up on their offer.

Foraging Continued…

I spent a week or so keeping my eye out for any type of match-plays.  In addition, we altered our social schedule so that we would intentionally encounter a few more coupon-gathering opportunities, such as:

     When Cook E. Jar is performing his standing-room-only free weekend (midnight) “old-Vegas lounge-lizard” shows at Harrah’s, you can get at least one (if not more) $5 match-play for each “call-drink” that you order.   Remember that Harrah’s and Rio coupons are also handed out daily in the Carnival Court of Harrah’s from mid-afternoon to early evening. 

     They also generously give away a “$7-payoff-if-you-win-a-$5-craps-bet” “semi” match-play thing on the weekend at the Riviera Hotel during the outstanding 1 a.m. Lon Bronson All-Star Band show.  Ms. MP’s dazzling smile brought in a pile of them from one particular bartender at The Riv who took an instant liking to her feminine wiles.  The $7-for-$5 coupon has a ~19% player-advantage over the casino.

     If you frequent Baby’s nightclub at the Hard Rock, their senior security dudes (that attend to the VIP booth section) are always armed with stacks of $10 match-plays which they are generous in giving away to guests in that area.

Rummaging through the Magazines

This exercise didn’t provide as many coupons as I had hoped for.  I got a few (through fun-book coupons), but not enough to justify sifting through a two-foot high pile of them, only to be rewarded with just three match-plays of limited value.  Still, magazines like 24/7, Best Read Guide, Las Vegas Style, Where Las Vegas, Gaming Today, Las Vegas Today, Showbiz Weekly, Today, Tour Guide, and What’s On have some useful discount coupons for dining and popular shows, if that sort of thing appeals to you.

Unconventional Sources

There are some unusual sources of match-play coupons all over Las Vegas.  Keep in mind that this is a town of slot-filled “saloondramats” (laundromats that serve liquor and have slot machines as well as washers and dryers), drive-thru wedding chapels, in-car marriage-counseling, and drive-thru funeral homes; so unconventional resources for these type of coupons shouldn’t be considered too unusual.

     We saved up a pile of $5 to $25 match-plays for Terrible’s Casino by getting our gas and car-washes at some of Terrible Herbst’s 80 gas stations (they own the Terrible’s chain of casinos in Las Vegas, Pahrump and Henderson).  We also had several more $10 match-plays from their on-going e-mail offers.  In some cases, you have to print out the e-mail offer and bring it to their Promotions Booth (with proper ID) to convert it into a real voucher.

     We had quite a few $25 match-plays that were garnered from Tropicana, Castaways, and Gaughan’s (now Barrick’s) Plaza monthly or quarterly newsletters.  In some cases, the coupons are in the newsletter, at other times they accompany the mailing.

     In the same vein, we had numerous $25 and $50 ones for NYNY, Gold Coast, Orleans, Aladdin, Sahara, Arizona Charlie’s, and Hyatt Regency Lake Las Vegas from their monthly postcard/letter reminders that they are still in business.   These offers are usually accompanied by a couple of complimentary room-stays and free food come-ons.

Jerry’s Nugget, Four Queens and Speedway Casino had also provided a couple of the $5 and $10 variety.  In most cases you have to bring the postcard, letter or the promotional confirmation-code (with proper ID) to their Players Club booth to collect your coupons.

     We are shareholders-of-record for virtually all of the major gaming stocks (MGG, MBG, PPE, STN, BYD, AZR, HET, etc.), so we receive quarterly fun-books, along with a once-yearly coupon-pack with the Annual Report to Shareholders from each.  I had given away quite of few of these in past years, but I’ve mended my ways, and seen the light.   I sorted them out (HET’s are valid nationwide, and PPE’s are property-specific) and added them to our itinerary.

     Since I originally wrote this article in 2002, the Park Place Entertainment Corporation match-play coupon situation has improved, and they are now useable in any or all of their Las Vegas properties.  The Harrah’s coupons are now valid at most of their nationwide casinos except Harrah’s Rincon in San Diego, Harvey’s Wagon Wheel in Central City, and Harrah’s Cherokee in North Carolina.

     We made several stops at the Las Vegas Visitor Information Center on Paradise Road, as well as the “unofficial” Visitor Center on the Strip near Polo Towers for a healthy supply.  Stops like that, and a number of other “brochure rack and time-share hawker” locations literally netted arm-fulls of good match-play coupons for these casinos:

         Hard Rock


         Plaza Hotel


         O’Shea’s Casino


         Rampart Casino






         Nevada Palace




         Joker’s Wild




         Golden Gate




         Barley’s Brew-Casino


         Imperial Palace


         Jerry's Nugget


         Santa Fe Station


         Lady Luck


         Texas Station


         Wild Wild Wes



    One morning I had just finished a short, but profitable session on the $1 tables at the Sahara.  I grabbed a coffee from Jitters Gourmet Coffee (this location may no longer be open due to a chain-wide bankruptcy) and I was walking through the hotel lobby near the rear valet-parking area (where the Vibra-Massage chairs are set up near the elevator bank).  Just to the right of this spot, I saw a small brochure-holder on top of the un-manned Bell-Captains desk.   Therein I found a huge supply of “$50 in Non-Negotiable Chips for $40” coupons. 

This coupon provides an approximate ~10% player advantage over the casino on even-money bets.  Again, when you add this positive-edge to your Precision-Shooting efforts, it makes craps a VERY good game indeed!   They’ve allowed me to use up to five of these coupons at one time, and do multiple transactions in one day.  The “$50-for-$40” coupons can be redeemed at the Casino Cage (left of the front Rotunda/right of the NASCAR Caf as you enter).

     In the Primm Fashion Outlet Mall (which is connected to the Primm Valley Casino) they hand out match-plays that are redeemable at Primm Valley Resort, Buffalo Bills Resort, and Whiskey Pete’s Casino.  Look for the flyer-girl in the Neiman-Marcus and Ralph Lauren/Polo section of the mall. She’s generally in front of the Escada and Lacoste stores.

     Speaking of Outlet Malls, there is a Silverton Casino flyer-guy ($5 match-plays) who hangs out in front of Emporia Limoni (home of 30% to 70%-off bargains on Bally, Belvedere, Andrecus Marvini, and Calcaterra shoes) near the Off 5th-Saks Fifth Avenue Outlet in the Annex-One section (southernmost part) of the Belz Factory Mall (2.5 miles south of Mandalay Bay, near Vacation Village).  The Silverton flyer-guy is actually grateful when you ask for more than one $5 coupon.

     A great (and unusual) source of match-plays is from selected valet-parking attendants and hotel-concierges.  These are entrepreneurial-types who reward their better customers (read: good and steady tippers) with match-plays and other free “re-gifts”.  A complete list would be long and distinguished, just like my…well, you get the idea.  The best-connected of these are found at Caesars, Paris, Bellagio, Mandalay, Luxor, Sahara, NYNY, Palms, Rio, Hard Rock, Mirage, Stratosphere and LV Hilton. 

     Speaking of “unusual sources”, I am told, and I verily believe that customers of various brothels outside of Clark County (Chicken Ranch, Sherri’s, Mabel’s Ranch/Madame Butterfly’s and Cherry Patch) sometimes receive LV and Pahrump casino match-plays.  However, I am unwilling to confirm this particular business arrangement in person.

Phantom “Stays” at Multiple Hotels

Unless there were more than 1,000 days in one year, we get more “free hotel nights” than we could ever possibly use. 

A friend of ours suggested a “multiple and concurrent stay at different hotels” strategy to glean more high-value ($25, $50, and $100) match-play coupons.  This simply means that you check-in to more than one hotel at the same time, to take better advantage of their bonus-bucks from several hotels at once.

How it works, is that you check-in to your fully-comped room and collect your match-play Hotel Guest bonus at the registration desk (or from the “Welcome” package fruit-basket in your suite/room). 

You don’t actually have to STAY in the hotel; you just have to check-in for one night.  Of course, you should give them some play at the tables, and naturally you WILL, because you are armed with match-plays to put into action on their tables.  Hopefully, you have also gathered coupons for the same casino(s) from a few other sources so that your multi-room effort will be worth your while. 

Here’s the thing; if you stay for one night, three nights or even seven nights; you’ll still only receive the ONE check-in bonus, so it makes sense to keep your “stay” as short as possible. 

The other upside is that you will have a “base” at different hotels.  If they are in geographically-diverse sections of town, you can do a coupon-campaign in one area, then take a spa break, do a work-out in their gym, or have a nap in your room; then move on to the next coupon-crusade in another part of the city.

Normally I would only recommend changing hotels once every three or four nights.  That way, you are better able to “groove-in” your dice-throwing on each set of tables.  On the other hand, you should spread your play around so that your Precision-Shooting efforts don’t wear out your welcome.  So please remember not to make a pig of yourself in the profit-department wherever you play.

The idea behind multiple “phantom hotel-stays” is to change hotels every day to get further and greater match-plays from each place that hands out these high-value coupons to it’s guests.  In fact, as you’ll see in “Part Three”, I was occasionally booked into three hotels at the same time for my week-long Coupon Tour experiment. 

Keep in mind that I was spending a lot more time at the tables each day than I normally do.   My usual Precision-Shooting regimen is to play 25 to 35 hours per week spread over a four or five day period.  For the Match-Play Circuit, I was putting in 12 to 14-hour days during that one-week time-frame.  That’s a lot of playing and traveling, so I NEEDED a place to rest and refresh.   It is important not to burn yourself out, or become too fatigued when you are playing with real money in a town that embodies the definition of: “EXCESS”.

Hotel-Guest Match-Plays

Some hotels do not give any type of coupons to their patrons.  However, MOST Las Vegas hotels have a three-tiered match-play policy for their hotel guests.

Tier One is for regular guests that book their rooms through conventional means, or walk-in guests who literally “walk in” without a reservation.  This level of guest usually receives a fun-book, which may contain one or two low-end $5 or $10 match-plays.

Tier Two is for guests who book their room/air combo through a charter company or a tour consolidator and receive a higher-value coupon as part of their “player package”; or for people who book internet-specials and take advantage of seasonal or promotional offers from the casino/hotel itself.  This tier of guest usually receives one or two mid-level $10 to $50 match-plays.

Tier Three is for invited guests, V.I.P.’s, and other premium guests of the casino.  In this case, the match-play offers are significantly better.

     Let’s say that you receive a “Bronze Offer” postcard from the Flamingo Hilton.  This one might give you a cheap $29 “casino rate” room, a $50 food credit, and $25 in match-play.   A “Gold” or “Platinum” offer from the same hotel will see you getting a free room or suite, up to $250 in food credits, and another $250 in match-plays for a minimum two-night stay.  All of the Park Place (Caesars, Hilton, Bally’s, Paris, etc.) clan are well-known for decent come-ons like this.

      Caesars Palace stands pretty much alone in the high-end match-play section of the market by offering $500 and $1000 coupons (in books of $25 multiples), along with matching-value shopping vouchers for their Forum Shoppes.  For those players whom Caesars deems worthy of this largesse, it makes for VERY loyal customer-retention.

     MGM-Mirage (NYNY, Bellagio, Treasure Island, Golden Nugget, etc.) also sends out frequent offers that are similar to PPE’s.  Mandalay Bay Group (Excalibur, Luxor, Circus-2, etc.) is usually not quite as generous to their high-end players, by capping their match-plays at the $100 mark.

     Imperial Palace always has great match-play specials.  Their current promotion gives you twenty $5 match-play chips that you can play at any table in any amount up to the full $100.  The only catch is that you have to do your buy-in at the casino-cage, and you have to buy a full $100 worth of real $5 chips, which they “match” with $100 worth of their own $5 match-play chips.

In “Part Three” of this article, I’ll show you how I put it all together by playing the Match-Play Circuit for an entire week.  The results may surprise you.  Until then,

Good Luck & Good Skill at the tables with your Match-Play Coupons…and in life.


The Mad Professor

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