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The Match-Play Coupon Circuit

Part III

Let me start by saying that when I embarked upon this Match-Play Circuit it was totally new territory for me. I have LEARNED a lot and I have EARNED a lot in the process. 

At this point, I can now say that so far, I like the scenery…

As I mentioned in the last installment of this article, it was originally written in 2002, so some of the items listed may no longer be available or as widely distributed.  However there are still plenty of profit-making opportunities, and I would encourage you to take advantage of the 49.3% POSITIVE-expectation that Match-Play coupons bring to your craps game.

Collect, Use…Profit

The idea was simple:

      Try to COLLECT as many Match-Play coupons as possible.

      Try to USE as many Match-Plays as possible.

      Try to make as much PROFIT off of them as possible.

I set aside a week of my time in Las Vegas to give it a fair try.  By the end of my first day on “the Circuit”, I knew I was on to a good thing.

Is it Worth the Effort?

To keep things in perspective, this experiment DID NOT meet the minimum per day benchmark of profit that I use to gauge my own Precision-Shooting success.

However, it did show steady rates of return, and I did not have to put out large bets to get that profit safely tucked into my pocket.  Simply put, I didn’t have to have very much of my own cash out on the layout to garner the nice profit that these coupons brought in.

I’ll give you the details shortly, but to summarize:

      I spent 12 to 15 hours a day looking for coupons, mapping out my Coupon Circuit, traveling to the actual target-casinos, playing a craps session or two (or three or four), cashing out my winnings (or losses) and moving on to the next venue.

      I did this for seven days straight, and as it turned out, I had to distribute my play over all three casino work-shifts.  This maneuver helped increase the number of coupons I could actually cash by nearly threefold.  Of course, the drawback is that it had an offsetting negative effect on my normal sleep-wake cycle.  While “money never sleeps”, I still have to.

      I was booked into several casino/hotels at the same time to take advantage of their comped rooms or suites AND most importantly for this experiment, the high-value guest-only match-plays.   I did catch some power-naps between some sessions, and used the spa and gym facilities quite a bit as well.

      I spent considerably more time than usual “schmoozing” with Pit Critters so that I could get the extra latitude needed to redeem multiple mp’s at the same casino (in most cases, on the same shift, at the same table, with the same crew). 

I can tell you that this particular task is no easy feat for the shy, timid or personality-challenged.  Although schmoozing does help a lot, I find that the “bigger-the-bankroll-the-more-slack-you’ll-get” theory holds a great deal of power in and of itself.

      My net-profit worked out to just over $400 per day, but it is important to understand that this was a concerted effort that I don’t think I could have sustained for more than a month or two before I burned myself out, both mentally and physically.

      That works out to about $30 per hour (based on a 13.5 hour workday); a rate which may be attractive to the, “Would you like to biggie-size your order, sir?” set, but I think that figure is misleading. 

Some Perspective

I say that the $30 per hour figure might be somewhat misleading because some of the moves that I made while conducting this experiment can be difficult for the low-budget player to replicate.  

This is especially true if you don’t already have a proven track-record of casino-play with some of the more attractive targets that I focused on during the one week tour of the circuit.  

The best mp’s (the multiple $25, $50 and $100 coupons) are linked to comped room offers or casino-rate promotions.  To receive those offers, you usually first have to be a rated-player at that particular house, and of course, the higher your rating, the more generous the offers are. 

If You Were Just Starting Out

Therefore, if someone is just starting out, and/or they have a limited gaming budget and/or limited dice-shooting skills; then you would have to rely upon the match-plays generated from new Player Card sign-ups, casino fun-books, coupon trading and “coupon-scooping” (where you utilize the unused coupons that others players do not redeem) as your major source. 

If you have to run all over the city, spending hour upon hour searching out the coupons, then it cuts into your actual playing time, and all of that searching can be VERY tiring and somewhat frustrating. 

I could easily see a situation where an unrated or low-rated player would need to spend close to 8 or 10 hours each day seeking the coupons, and another 5 to 7 hours traveling, playing and redeeming them.  That’s a long day for most people, and it equates to a very long 90 to 120 hour workweek.

If I had to rely strictly on the non-hotel sources such as fun-books, flyer-guys, time-share hawkers, coupon trading, brochure scouting, valet/concierge/bouncer sources and “coupon-scooping”; then net-profit per day would have declined to approximately $200 per day.

The hourly earn-rate would have been under $15; thus making it unattractive, or at least not worthwhile to most people.

At the $30 rate, it was an eye-opening experience that brought about some reliable, but relatively low profit, and also brought about a number of craps-sessions in a couple of casinos that I rarely frequent.  But like I said, it was a considerable amount of work for a relatively modest payoff.

While it was certainly interesting, I’ll readily admit that it wasn’t nearly as much fun as Precision-Shooting strictly when and where I want. 

Day ONE on the Circuit

I focused my first day on the downtown Las Vegas area simply because the casinos are so close together, and I figured that I could “move” (redeem) a decent number of coupons with a minimum of travel.

I also figured that I would have a fair bit of backtracking to do because of the multiple coupons that would keep me returning to the same gaming-houses more than once each day, albeit on different shifts.

I had “downtown” coupons ranging from the Golden Nugget to Jerry’s Nugget, and pretty much most other casinos in between.

Due to the close proximity of each casino to the other (except for Jerry’s Nugget), I didn’t have to do any driving or parking.  As I was to find out on subsequent days of this tour, just the parking facet (whether valet or self-parked), added considerable time to each change of venue.

Day ONE Results

      I had accumulated Fremont Hotel m-p’s through our ownership of Boyd Gaming shares (BYD is NYSE-listed).   For each mini-block of 100 shares, the shareholder-of-record receives a $10 m-p each year with no expiry date.  On top of those, I had a small handful of one-per-day coupons from various other sources.  I had no difficulty in deploying several of them at the same table during each session despite the restriction that is printed on each one.

The $3 tables proved to be quite kind to the Mad Professor, and I managed to squeeze in a couple of lengthy hands for good measure.  The casino was quite crowded on each visit, and while I only played a few more sessions on subsequent days of this experiment, I managed to use every m-p in my possession.

      I have to admit that I did not fair very well at Fitzgeralds.  Despite new owners, new tables, new felt, and new dice, my less-than-stellar results were not a surprise.   Even when I switched to my Long-Ranger grip (see my Long Tables = Po$$ibilitie$ article) which brought in considerable profit later in the day on the even longer Golden Gate tables, it didn’t produce anything approaching acceptability at The Fitz.

The upside of my dice-shooting shortcomings was that I only had a couple of m-p’s to deal with, which meant that I didn’t have to return here more than a couple of times later in the week.  My shooting subsequently improved at The Fitz, but it never did reach any level of stellar profitability.

      The Lady Luck flyer-guy was camped out at his usual spot at the Fremont Street Experience and 4th Street.   I didn’t see his compadr from the Four Queens who is usually nearby, but I did see “tall Elvis” in his trademark stars and stripes sequined cape giving out vouchers near the western entrance to 4Q’s later that same day.

I made my way over to the Lady Luck Casino/Hotel several times during the week. While it’s easy to get the fun-book vouchers, it’s a royal pain to redeem them.  Players are entitled to one fun-book per day, but the time spent waiting in two separate lines to convert them first into a validated-coupon and then another line to receive the booklet, makes the effort a bit tedious for a shot at a possible $5 payoff at the tables.

On the bright side of this, I found more than a dozen of the books lying around the casino on various slot-carousels where the slot-point coupons had been removed, but the match-plays usually remained intact.  This method easily outweighed the hassle of waiting in line.  On subsequent days, I didn’t even try to redeem my voucher for a fun-book, and rather took the lazy-mans route by just using the m-p’s that were laying around the casino in abandoned booklets.

I will admit that if I wasn’t doing this as an experiment, I would have felt self-conscious about the “coupon-scooping” part of the exercise.  While I was playing my coupons at the craps table, I did notice a couple of other people doing exactly the same thing.  It gives new meaning to the phrase, “There but for the grace of God, go I”.

The table-felt on the LL tables wasn’t new, but it appeared to be freshly vacuumed.  There wasn’t as much flotsam and jetsam of human skin and hair follicles as there usually is.  My shooting was good, but not great.  I remained in a good and positive mood as I registered a nearly 100% perfect score on winning each on my coupon Line-bets.

On each subsequent visit during the week, there were never more than three other players at the table.   I made a mental note that if I spent a little more playing-time at Lady Luck, my shooting consistency would probably show even stronger SRR/Inside Number hits.  Just the small endeavor of playing here on three days out of my seven day adventure brought about a ~35% increase in my SRR/Inside Number hits-average for this casino.  It’s definitely worth a concerted follow-up shooting campaign.

      I had collected a ton of $5/$25 match-plays for Gaughan’s Plaza.  Some were from their old fun-book, while the rest were from a few other sources including the Casino Perks book.  I’ll tell you a very interesting “war story” about using those BJ or Pai Gow-only coupons at the craps tables very shortly. 

In the meantime, I’ve got to tell you that the table-conditions at the Plaza have improved substantially, and the attitude of the mid-level casino management has improved even more.

First, the table-felt and underlay seems to have settled into a nice neutral dice-reaction condition.   That means that the dice aren’t too lively, nor do they simply stop dead upon their initial touchdown.  The dice roll straight and true without undue veering or swerving, and the surface seems to be more “forgiving” of off-square landings.

Second, the attitude of the mid-level casino management seems to have improved substantially over the past little while.  Sure, they still verbally joust with each other, but there hasn’t been the number of fist-fights, or the ferocity of the yelling matches that used to break out between Pit Managers, Floor Supervisors and Box-men at the Plaza.  Ahh, I’m gonna miss those good old days.

      I had fourteen $10 match-plays for the Golden Gate Casino/Hotel (home of two 24-player monster tables).  They let me play a couple of those each day, but I had to do it on different shifts.  My schmoozing efforts didn’t do me any good at this particular joint.

I’ll say this though.  When I combined the nearly ~50% player-advantage with my Long-Ranger grip and throw, the results (based on dollars-bet compared to dollar-won) were amongst the best of any casino that I played in all week.

By weeks end, I managed to play all fourteen coupons, and with my Precision-Shooting popping on all cylinders I had won nearly every single one of them. 

I can also tell you that I was unable to convince GC’s casino-management to let me use any of their $5 Roulette m-p’s in the craps pit.  It was one of the few places where I was unable to persuade the Pit Meisters to allow me to do that at least once or twice.

      Jerry's Nugget (north of the FSE on Main Street) turned out to be a bit of a strange animal as far as using coupons.  Initially they said that they didn’t honor match-plays anymore; then they said they did, but that mine had expired.

When I pointed out that mine didn’t have any expiry date on them, the Pit Boss asked how many I had, and how long I was planning to play for.  I held up five $5 m-p’s and my $500 buy-in, while I replied that it all depended on how lucky I was that would determine how long I played.  He nodded his head to the box-man and said, “Okay, good luck, you can use them all if you want.”

Let’s just say that luck was definitely on my side.  I won 4 out of the 5 Pass-Line bets that I wagered the coupons on.  Each hand wasn’t actually very long, but they did throw off a fair bit of Inside-Number wins on my regressed-then-pressed Place-bets. 

Midway through this, I noticed that my Pit Boss benefactor was eying me.  It was either his irritable bowel or my growing rack of chips that caused a look of mild disgust and growing irritation to cross his face.  I had the feeling that I was outstaying my welcome, so after winning my final PL bet, I fled the scene quicker than Winona Ryder leaves a Saks 5th Avenue department-store.

      I played my Four Queens m-p’s where the famous “bald-headed prick” is a dealer of some repute for hassling a particular segment of the dicesetting community. 

They restricted me to one coupon per day (not per-shift) and they strictly enforced it.  Despite my good looks, dazzling smile and charming personality, there was no getting past that restrictive rule at this joint. 

That meant that I had to return to 4Q’s for each of the seven days of this experimental circuit.   My shooting was definitely keyed-in during most, but not all of my hands.  I noticed a discernable lack of players here, and I’ve also noticed a steady decline in dealer-attitude over the past couple of years.  I covered this subject in my Cheap Craps Guide Part II article.

      I didn’t have many coupons for the Las Vegas Club, but as most of you know, this is one of my most consistently outstanding Precision-Shooting venues in Las Vegas. While the table limits are pretty low, my profit-reliability on these tables on a roll-by-roll basis is one of the highest when compared on a dollars-bet vs. dollar-won basis.

      Binion’s Horseshoe and the El Cortez were the only two downtown joints that I didn’t have any coupons for.  I did have a couple of profitable sessions in each of them anyway.

Of course I did not count any of my non-coupon wins when I calculated the $400 per day average win-rate for this experiment.

I cut one of my ElCo sessions short when one player who couldn’t stop coughing and spewing phlegm, refused to leave the table despite the fact that he appeared to be coughing up large bloody chunks of his lungs all over the table. 

Since I was within the circular-error-of-probability range of his “bombing” campaign, I scooped up most of my chips (except for my Pass Line bet), passed the dice to the next player and told the dealers that my blood-spattered line-bet was theirs for the winning. 

One of the female dealers at my table said that it seemed like a full-body condom should be part of the dealers uniform at the El Cortez.  I nodded my agreement through a forced smile before departing the still-erupting gory onslaught.  It was a good thing that the hand-soap in the washroom was free that day! 

      I also used a good portion of my Boyd Gaming coupons at both Main Street Station and the California Hotel/Casino.   These two places were a study in contrasts.  

The Cal was busy and their five tables were hopping with activity, while the MSS tables were a virtual ghost-town.  I’ll tell you right now, that if the Main Street tables were a little shorter and a little softer, then I would spend considerably much more time at them.  I love the relaxed ambiance of MSS, although their long tables leave a little to be desired.

I only stayed long enough to shoot once at The Cal, and I was happy with the results.  My wager-outcomes at MSS were good enough to make most of them pay off, and more importantly I stuck around for a few more solo hands since the Precision-Shooting “gettin’ was good”.

My consistency at MSS has always been spotty.  Sometimes I do great, and I think that I’ve got their tables totally mastered.  During my next session my shooting is so bad that it makes more sense to stay home, tear up my money into little pieces, put it all into an envelope and mail it in to MSS.  That lack of consistency is very frustrating.  For me, it’s either feast or famine at the Main Street Station tables.

      I stayed at the Golden Nugget on the first night of the circuit.  The comped suite came with $50 in m-p’s (in two $25 increments), along with an equal amount of food credits.

It only took me a couple of minutes to garner a profit off of the coupons, but I continued to play because of the excellent shooting conditions and somewhat profitable results.

It was a little difficult for me to get into the right frame of mind during the first day.  The coupon-collecting and coupon-cashing campaign that I was on, was not like my normal daily Precision-Shooting routine.  The extra time that I spent at the GN tables cut into my coupon “hunting and gathering” time, but it proved to be somewhat worth the effort. 

Like I said earlier, I did not count one single solitary non-coupon dollar into my net-profit figure.  The $400 per-day profit number was derived STRICTLY from match-play coupons, and from NO OTHER SOURCE whatsoever.

Comped Meals and the “Coupon-Rustler”

I don’t know what it is about free meals based upon comped-play or promotional coupons, but the meals just seem to taste a little better especially if I am coming off of a good win, and this day was no exception to that perception.

I ended up having dinner at the Pullman Grille in Main Street Station with a guy who actually prompted me to write this article and go on my Coupon Circuit experiment in the first place.  I’ll introduce you to the “Coupon-Rustler” in “Part IV” of this article.

For now I’ll just tell you that I’ve seen him around the LV tables for the past five or six years, and that he truly is the MASTER of the Match-Play Coupon Circuit.

Armed with a couple of free dinner coupons, we entered the restaurant through the original Pullman Mansion copper-relief entry doors.  From the panels of Aesop’s Fables to an actual railcar built by the Pullman Company for Louisa May Alcott (author of Little Women, Eight Cousins, etc.), this upscale (but not up-priced) eatery is a hidden treasure.

I started with a medley of lobster, shrimp and crab as an appetizer, and then had the lamb chops with port-garlic sauce, before polishing off Bananas Foster that was prepared tableside.  Definitely a full meal deal, that seemed to taste all the better because it was free!

A Quick War Story

Gaughan’s Plaza had a very popular m-p designated as a Blackjack/Pai Gow-only item that was available in the highly popular Casino Perks coupon booklet. 

I managed to use a decent number of them in the craps pit without any undue interference.  Again, developing good relationships with dealers, box-men, Floor Supervisors and Pit Bosses allows you a lot of latitude in getting them to accept BJ-only coupons at the craps tables. 

I keep on telling you that “tokes and jokes” go a  l-o-n-g  way to improving the profitability and longevity of your game, and it is a valid device that should be included in your tool-box of Precision-Shooting skills.

Some people were apparently abusing the CP coupons to such an extent and in such a way, that casino management had to become downright dictatorial in who could use them, and how often they could be used.

An Abject Lesson

A Shift Manager friend of mine at the Plaza intimated that several organized “teams” of players had purloined “a thousand or so” of these slips, and had gone on a marauding redemption spree.

A Pit Supervisor now has to check your I.D. to verify that your name isn’t on a “blacklist” of players who have over-used or abused the Casino Perks coupons, and are now banned from redeeming them. 

A similar kamikaze redemption spree campaign took place at Harrah’s-Laughlin this past summer, which of course led to the outright banning of ALL Casino Perks m-p coupons in that particular casino.

The upshot of all of this is that they continued to allow me to use a small number of the Casino Perks BJ-only coupons at the craps table during every day of my one-week Match-Play Circuit tour.  Like I just said; developing good relationships with casino personnel gives you a lot of latitude in getting your way in MANY aspects of the entire gaming experience.

Whether it is additional discretionary comps, or a favorable decision in a payout dispute, or having a relaxed attitude if your dice-toss doesn’t always hit the backwall, or turning a “blind eye” towards your non-greedy, but steady Precision-Shooting winnings, or extra latitude in permitting you to use non-conforming coupons; the “schmoozing” effort is usually worth it.

A Good and Valid Question

Let me make a small aside here for a second.  In the case we were just discussing, we were talking about a $5/$25 coupon.  That means that you can match it with any denomination between $5 and $25 on an even-money bet.  That isn’t a great deal of money in the overall scheme of things as far as the gaming industry is concerned.

The fact is that a casino got bent out of shape over a small group of “coupon-poachers” who took too much advantage of a good thing.  When you multiply things out we are still not talking about a great deal of money, and in any case, it was probably in the $10,000 to $25,000 range.

Okay, I have a question for the dicesetting brain-trust who think that advantage-play like Precision-Shooting could never, ever be banned or curtailed by the casinos in any way whatsoever.  

This is the same brain-trust that unabashedly says that the casinos would never, ever even consider changing the rules of a game to eliminate any advantage that players might be able to gain, especially for craps. 

They reason that no matter how much money the casinos lose to Precision-Shooters, the amount is so tiny as to be infinitesimal in size, compared to the money that the casinos make off of all the other players. 

They go on to argue that dice-setting classes, especially those that are held in a casino, are good for everyone concerned because they bring fresh blood, and fresh money to the tables.  They argue quite reasonably that the low-skilled dice-setters lack the discipline to keep any money that they win, and only an even smaller segment of the higher-skilled dice-setting fraternity have the necessary discipline and money-management talent to walk away with their profit.   So, the reasoning goes, the casinos never lose much money at all.

While that may or may not be true, the brain-trust fails to understand that the casinos want to win money off of EVERYONE.

When casinos first instituted wide-sweeping changes to the game of blackjack, it wasn’t because everyone started winning…it was because a very small segment of the BJ-playing market started to win.

They reason that we shouldn’t concern ourselves with how much profit skilled dice-setters rake out of the casinos, and that there has never, ever been a situation where a casino would take such a draconian and unprecedented step. 

They say that they understand that over the years that some casinos have altered the rules of blackjack to counteract the small number of advantage card-counters even though they only make up an infinitesimal segment of that particular market as well.  However, they reason that craps is so much different than blackjack in that BJ can be shown mathematically that it can beat the house, and that you can’t “prove” that with dicesetting.

Okay, that appears to be somewhat valid on the surface, but let’s look a little deeper. 

Let’s imagine for a moment that one of the huge casino-corporations actually employs an accountant or two on their payroll.  Now let’s just suppose that one of them figures out that a growing number of dicesetting student-graduates are taking more and more profit from the dice tables, and some are doing it in a BIG way. 

The corporate managers don’t have to be shown unimpeachable scientific evidence that dicesetting actually works.  They aren’t like the “Masons” or “Jeffs” of the “I-have-no-life-but-I-live-to-prove-that-dicesetting-can’t-possibly-work” Message Board posters that are on a crusade to debunk the mere possibility that dicesetting might work.

The proof for corporate managers will be in the unbridled winnings that some greedy students extract from the tables.  The casino-corporations don’t have to wait, and won’t wait until the scientific community has delivered unassailable “proof” that dice-setting works.   

The proof for them is that there are a growing number of players who are “beating the house”.  While they acknowledge that some players can be “lucky” quite consistently, they are bright enough to know that if hundreds of more players get “luckier and luckier” at the tables, then they’ll look into it quite a bit further.  My prediction is that THAT will be “proof enough” to bring about changes to craps sooner rather than later.

It only took THREE “lucky” video-poker players that led to wholesale player-barring in the Detroit market.  That number has escalated to more than 300 players who have now been banned from certain casinos in that market, all for being too lucky.  Is craps so far removed from other forms of gambling that the same thing can’t happen to skilled dicesetters?

Is Detroit so geographically removed from Las Vegas, Shreveport, Biloxi, Tunica, and the Midwest that the same message won’t be heard elsewhere?

My question to the brain-trust, is why they think that craps would be excluded from any counter-measures while any other advantage-play like card-counting, coupon-poaching, full-pay VP, curtailed cash-back, elimination of comps to advantage players, outright barring, etc. could never ever happen to their skilled dice-setting students, or to the greater dice-setting community at large?

Exactly how is it that you will keep the ever-increasing number of Precision-Shooting students below the casinos counter-measures radar?

It’s a good question that probably deserves to be answered BEFORE the casinos give their own less-than-kind reply.

In “Part Four” of this series, we’ll take a compressed look at the rest of my one-week experiment.  Until then,

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


The Mad Professor

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