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The Match-Play Coupon Circuit

Part V

Some of the match-plays mentioned in this article may no longer be offered or as widely available as they were back when I took part in this week-long adventure.  Casinos are constantly tinkering with various types of coupons in their bid to draw customers to their establishments.  As business ebbs and flows, some places cut back on their “come-on’s”, while others increase them.

Day Three Begins

I still had $100 worth of food credit at NYNY so I used all of it for an impromptu meeting of my LV-posse (otherwise known as “the usual suspects”, see Mad Professor's Dictionary for the lowdown on this bunch of choirboys). 

I chose a 24/7 restaurant called “America”.   That’s the one with a 90-foot by 20-foot three-dimensional scale-model map of the United States wedged into the dining area, which is complete with mountains, rivers and major landmarks.  It’s mounted at an obtuse angle and suspended from the ceiling by thin cables.  There are all the usual points of interest with scale-models of stuff like an oil-rig perched over what would approximately be Buckshot Creek, Texas, and an armadillo squatting on the outskirts of Tucumcari, New Mexico, and a McIlhenny hot pepper squarely on top of the people who receive their mail in Natchitoches, Louisiana.  It makes for an interesting diversion if your table-mates are less than conversationally-inspiring.

When the Manhattan Express roller-coaster thunders by upstairs, you can feel the vibrations transmitted through the cables, then pulse and tremble into the actual mega-sized object ‘d art.  That’s a good enough reason for me NOT to dine under it.  In any event, they had part of the restaurant cordoned off while they were making some minor alterations to it and the over-sized Road Trip postcards that adorn the walls.  Maybe they were making room for a scale-model, snowbound, burnt-out building to represent Buffalo, New York.  Now THAT would make it look authentic.

After a heapin’ helpin’ of Virginia Ham, Huevos Rancheros, corned beef hash and rocket fuel (coffee), it was time to return to the hardworking life of a wanna-be match-play coupon pro. 

Realizations and Revelations

Even though I was only into the third day of this weeklong experiment, I had already had made up my mind about a couple of things:

       Collecting, sorting and redeeming match-plays is a LOT harder than it first appears.

       The amount of time that you have to spend seeking and redeeming, does not balance-off against the time that you actually spend at the table. 

       Roughly speaking, I would say that 80% of the time is spent seeking, finding, sorting, driving, parking, validating, cashing out, and moving on to your next destination.

       Less than 20% of your time is actually spent at the craps table. This 80%/20% imbalance is the opposite of using Precision-Shooting to make a far more decent living.  In that case, 80% to 85% of your playing-time is actually spent PLAYING, while the 15% to 20% balance is for cashing-out and travel time between target-casinos.

       I gained a newfound respect for the people who actually do this for a living.  It takes patience, discipline, stamina and a LOT of chutzpah. For those that play the match-play coupon-circuit full-time, it really is A JOB!

With that in mind, let me present one of those who actually does this for a living.

Introducing The Coupon-Rustler

I suppose I should call him MISTER Coupon-Rustler because this guy is GREAT at what he does.  As I mentioned in Part I of this series, Mr. Rustler makes a decent living by using Match-Play coupons and Precision-Shooting to earn about $60 per hour during his “casino work day”.  In actual fact, that $60 relates to his playing time at the tables.  He spends considerably more time chasing down coupon leads and rustling up coupons from various sources around town.

He is originally from the great state of Texas, and will readily admit that he’s a bit of a zealot when it comes to getting as many Match-Play coupons as possible…and YES, he does this every single day of the week.  

He describes himself not so much as a degenerate gambler, but as a walking beer-gut sandwiched between his big cowboy hat and his huge polished gold belt-buckle.   To his explanation, there’s no such thing as “over-sized” in Texas.  He happily brings that Texas-sized zeal, enthusiasm and ardor to the match-play circuit.

On the Surface 

At first blush, he has an ideal job. 

       He gets to live in a city with 320 days of sunshine.  He doesn’t pay any state income tax, residential property tax is nil, and the cost-of-living in Nevada is relatively low. 

       He doesn’t have a boss who nags him.  He sets his own hours, his own schedule and his own time-off.

       He gets to eat free in any number of restaurants all over town.  From an unlimited number of free buffets and steak dinners, all the way to Sinatra-style veal chops with pasta on the side, he can go without buying any food for months on end, and I can tell you that this guy has NEVER missed a meal in his entire life. 

       He gets to play various casino games, from craps and blackjack to roulette and Pai Gow, all the way to Video Poker and slot machines, along with a few of the hideous house-games like bingo and keno.  In each one of those instances, he has AN ADVANTAGE over the casino.

       His “advantage” is gained either through match-plays, alternate-play certificates, free tokens, bonus-pays vouchers (like a free Ace or 2:1 Blackjack) or free game-plays (for slots, keno, sports bets, or bingo).

       He wakes up whenever he wants to, and he goes to bed whenever he feels like it.  He can devote as much time to his pursuits, or take as many holidays as he wants or needs.

On the surface, most people wouldn’t call what he does as “work”.

Below the Surface

If you scratch a little bit below that surface, you will see a hardworking guy who needs to put in a certain amount of hours each week to make ends meet.

       While he doesn’t have to worry about state tax or property tax, he does have to keep an accurate up-to-date gaming journal for Uncle Sam and the boys at the I.R.S.   In it, he logs where he plays, when he plays, what he plays, how much he bets, how much he wins (or losses), the time of each transaction, the number of the gaming device (for a slot or video machine), or the pit-number and game-number of any table-game activity.

       While he doesn’t have a boss, he has a much stricter taskmaster called “survival”.  If he chooses not to play, then the money-flow stops.  He has to maintain a discipline that will keep him in the game without exposing his precious bankroll to any undue risk.

       While he does get to eat free at a large number of casino restaurants, he does admit to getting a bit bored with the various buffets and steak dinners day after day after day.  On top of that, this guy likes to eat at least four, if not five, square meals a day.

       Generally he does not give any one particular casino enough play to garner better food comps, so he uses the free coupon offers to fuel his gaming lifestyle.  Unfortunately that reduces the variety of places he gets to eat at, and the types of shows that he gets to see for free.

       Although he gets to play a variety of casino games, the temptation to continue playing (once he has used up all of his match-plays) for one more hand, one more roll, or a few more spins is where he readily admits that he has frittered away countless thousands of dollars. 

       Instead of being satisfied in playing with a strong advantage over the house (from +12.3% for some bonus-pays to +49.3% for even-money match-plays, all the way up to a whopping +100% advantage for free games), he admits to often staying and playing long after he has exhausted the value of the coupons (and his advantage over the casino), in hopes of fattening his winnings. 

       He agrees that maintaining discipline is a constant struggle for him on a daily basis, and that if he stuck to just playing in “advantage-mode”, he could reduce his work-day in half.

       While he enjoys spending countless hours on the Coupon Circuit, he’ll also tell you quite candidly that he HAS TO.  Since his discipline level is so low, he figures he needs to spend about 70 hours each week, instead of the 35+ hours that would give him just as good of a living.  Still battling the discipline-monster after so many years clearly adds significantly to his on-the-job stress.

Mad Professor’s Definition of “Work”

To some people, "work" is drudgery, and a sort of emancipated, but self-imposed slavery that we have to endure just to survive.  I have a somewhat more progressive view of it, in that work can be viewed as a challenge in extending yourself beyond what you knew you could do or accomplish.

In a lot of ways, it all has to do with your outlook and attitude.  To some, work is the hard slog they endure purely to put food on the table.  While for others, it is the kind of thing we do because we like it, and are even drawn to.

Craps is my pursuit, my passion, and yes, by that definition, my work.  So let’s get back to work on this one-week match-play endeavor.

A Typical Day with the Coupon-Rustler


Match-Plays & Funbook Flyers

Mr. Coupon-Rustler meets up with several “flyer-guys” every day.  As you read in Part I of this series, they are posted at different spots around town where they hand out flyers that you can convert into funbooks or coupon-sheets.  

The Coupon-Rustler knows their route, their favorite corners, and exactly where they will be there on any given day (since they change spots throughout the day and week).  He’s on a first-name basis with all of them, and knows exactly how they like their coffee or what kind of soda they drink. 

In fact, he knows precisely how all the women who work the Players Club booths, and Gift Shop coupon-verification counters in all of the casinos like their coffee (or tea or lemonade) as well.  In doing so, he knows how to “oil” the match-play coupon-printing machine; and apparently it runs almost entirely on coffee!  Therefore, he makes countless coffee-runs throughout the day right before meeting up with any them.

Where to Find the Flyer-Guys

Here’s where just a few of them stand:

       In the Neiman-Marcus and Ralph Lauren/Polo section of the Primm Fashion Outlet Mall, you can find the Buffalo Bills/Whiskey Pete’s/Primm Resort flyer-girl in front of the Escada and Lacoste stores.

       The Silverton flyer-guy hangs out in front of Emporia Limoni near the Off 5th-Saks Fifth Avenue Outlet in the Annex-One section of the Belz Factory Mall.

       You’ll find a few flyer-guys for the Henderson casinos (Skyline, Barley’s, Magic Star, Joker’s Wild, Hyatt Lake Las Vegas, Gold Rush, Eldorado, etc.) near the trendy shops on old-town Water Street.

       For Sahara coupons, they usually stand at the McDonalds near the Stardust, and across from The Riviera.

       The San Remo Hotel-Casino guy occasionally stands on the overhead walkway cattle-chute that connects NYNY, MGM Grand, and Tropicana.

       The Barbary Coast guy stands near the moving-sidewalk entrance in front of Ballys, or at the bottom of the escalator to the overhead walkway in front of Bellagio.

       If you are interested in Fitzgeralds Hotel-Casino match-plays, just look for “TALL” Elvis in his star-spangled banner jumpsuit.  He usually has a handful of vouchers that will get you their time and play-activated fun-book.  At other times, he is hawking the Las Vegas VISA credit-card and does not have funbooks or match-play vouchers on him.

Obviously the flyer-guys aren’t out 24-hours a day.  Some are only out during the busy prime weekends, while others are only around during selected convention or special-event periods.  However, it seems that the more “obscure” or smaller the casino is, the easier it is to find their match-play coupons.  For example, finding vouchers for the Skyline or Opera House Casino is a lot easier that obtaining mp’s from Barbary Coast or Hyatt LLV.

Trading Coupons & Rumors

The Coupon-Rustler trades information, match-plays and buffet vouchers with other coupon-circuit players, and quickly follows up on rumors of where a new batch of chits may be available, or which casino has a new and attractive “advantage” offer. 

These advantage offers can range from coupons for a 40 to 500-coin Video Poker bonus, to a 3-for-1 payout on any dealt blackjack for one hour.   He was the one who provided the entre into the informal coupon-swapping coffee-klatch meetings where, as the Coupon-Rustler explains, “coupons trade faster than shares on NASDAQ, and rumors fly higher than a double-wide trailer in a Texas tornado”.

The Brothel Trail Coupons

It was from one of those meetings that the Rustler said he had traded for quite a few coupons from the “Cathouse Alley” brothel trail in Armagosa Valley.  That’s the home of legal brothels such as the Chicken Ranch, Sherri’s, Mabel’s Ranch/Madame Butterfly’s and the Cherry Patch.

I suspected that he himself was the actual “frequent-flyer” who had garnered them, and he was just too self-conscious to admit it.  I’m willing to bet that he’s on a first-name basis with more than a couple of their “ladies” in the same way he is with the Players Club booth-matrons.

Now, every time that I pass by “Cathouse Alley” on my way up to shoot the sand dunes in Armagosa, I wryly keep an eye out for the Coupon-Rustlers nearly-new Ford Expedition-Eddie Bauer that hauls his ass hither and yon around the Clark County GMA.

Gaming Lessons and Free Match-Plays

The Coupon-Rustler said, “Hey, let’s take some gaming lessons.”  I replied that I knew how to play every casino game known to man or beast, and I really didn’t need a refresher course.  He said that that wasn’t the point, and that getting MORE match-play coupons was. 

With that in mind, he rhymed off a number of casinos that not only offer gaming lessons for their neophyte players, but also give away match-play coupons at some of their sessions.

Before I could say anything, he added that he took gaming lessons nearly every day of the week.  I asked if they objected to him doing that, and he replied that most of them didn’t mind, especially at a few of the bigger Strip casinos that still offer lessons AND match-plays at the end of the lessons.  He claimed that he only got backed-off once, and that was by none other than acclaimed gaming-author/retired gaming instructor Barney Vinson at Caesars Palace. 

If you are looking for any of Barney’s well-written books, you can find them here through Irishsetters excellent website.  The Coupon-Rustler said that Barney joked with him about his money-making, voucher-swooping efforts for a couple of months, but when another suit caught on to what the Rustler was up to, they politely but firmly told him that he was taking up valuable space and wasn’t welcome anymore.  He added, “That’s okay…they cut out the free lessons at CP anyway, but I hope Barney mentions me in his next book”.

In any event, we attended the free lessons at the Imperial Palace, Tropicana, Aladdin, and LV Hilton.  I took the meager coupons that they handed out, but I felt somewhat sheepish and self-conscious about doing so.

Ice-Cream Socials and Horny Seniors

As I mentioned before, I visited the Westward Ho Casino-Motel on Day Two with the intention of meeting up with an mp coupon-pro, but he was a no-show.   Day Three brought better luck with our scheduling.

You won’t find too many pretty young things at this motel.   If you are looking for the kind of girl that puts the “ho” in hoedown, you’ll probably have to find her elsewhere.   The closest you will come to a party-girl is seeing a divorced Soccer Mom who has had a few too many free margueritas, and is on her way back to Circus Circus to reclaim her three kids from their All-day Pass escapades at C-2’s Grand Slam Canyon Adventurezone. 

The girls at the ‘Ho are more like Golden Girls of the blue-rinse set sitting in God’s waiting-room (the Keno Lounge) than it is party-central.   A number of them with names like Myrna, Betty and Norma immediately recognize the Rustler upon his approach, and group around him like lovelorn, hormones-on-a-rampage teenagers.

If you attend one of Westward Ho’s free 45-minute slide-show orientation-nights (in Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas, Detroit, Flint, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Houston, San Antonio, St. Louis, Buffalo, Cedar Rapids, or Des Moines) you get three free nights, super-discounted airfare (about 50% to 80% off economy rates), and a book full of coupons including several free meals and a healthy number of match-plays that are useable at their craps table.

The Coupon-Rustler lives right in town, but it didn’t take long for me to figure out how he managed to end up with the thick piles of ‘Ho mp’s.  He goes to Westward Ho’s free “Ice-Cream Social” that is held every afternoon.  This is a gratis ice-cream and cookies get-together that they have for any guests, casino patrons or passers-by who want to join in. 

Everyone is invited to wear one of those adhesive-backed paper nametags that say’s, “Hi, My Name is_______”.  The only problem is that everyone seems to have trouble reading each other nametag, so there is a lot of heads dipping towards stranger’s chests to try to decipher your newfound friends name.  Suffice it to say that the Mad Professor does NOT wear a nametag at events like this.

The Coupon-Rustler comes to these proceedings loaded down with 2-for-1 buffet coupons, free show tickets to Rick Thomas, etc. and asks if anyone wants to trade their Match-Play coupons with him.  Within seconds, he is literally surrounded with folks who willingly give up their mp’s in favor of free food, free fanny packs, baseball caps, bingo cards, show tickets, and keno plays. 

He’s very generous in giving away his coupons, especially the free admissions to the Gamblers Hall of Fame at the Trop and the Imperial Palace Car Collection.  He comes away with a sizeable stack of match-plays from slot-mavens who wouldn’t even consider approaching a table-game, let alone play at one.  He’s actually got his own fan-club of seniors who return time and time again to the Ho, and look forward to dealing with this coupon-rustling charmer who carries out this same maneuver at least three or four times a week.  He is ALWAYS there on the major “check-in days” of Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. 

On a good day, he mentioned that he’ll pull in 30 to 40 mp’s, while an average day will yield about 15 to 20 coupons.  Since the Pit Bulls won’t let him use all of those vouchers, he sells and trades the excess ones to like-minded pals.

I admired that the Coupon-Rustler treated all of his retiree “buddies”, with respect, dignity and a healthy dose of laughter.

One More Song Before I Go

After the ice-cream kisses were washed off, we ended up playing at a number of additional mp’s target casinos, before I headed off on my own to cover all of the downtown casinos once again.

I was getting a bit tired after the Casino Center run, but I still had a pile of coupons from places that I hadn’t yet even been near on this tour.  So I dedicated the latter part of the evening and very early morning hours to hitting as many of them as I could.  The object of course, was to unload and redeem as many match-plays as I could.

I put a few miles on the chariot in doing so, but due to the late hour (and the fact that they usually recognize the car), I was able to get the valet guys to keep it nearby in the VIP/No-Wait area at all of the places where I stopped.

I managed to get to Arizona Charlie’s-Decatur, Jerry’s Nugget (to check the validity of, but not play, some $5 blackjack matchplays), Cannery, Santa Fe Station, Texas Station, Fiesta-Rancho, and Barcelona (again, to check the validity of a couple of coupons), then The Palms (to check-in, but not stay; so that I could redeem a $50 cash-voucher and to validate two corresponding match-plays of equal value), before finally heading back to NYNY to hit the spa for some much needed rest and relaxation.  Day Three was finished and Day Four was already here, but I required some much needed sleep before I made any attempt at tackling the Circuit on D-4.

Good Luck and Good Skill at the tables…and in Life.


The Mad Professor


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