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The Match-Play Coupon Circuit

Part VII

When I awoke on the morning of Day Five, the HardRock’s legendary pool area was more than half full, and the topless portion of the Blue Lagoon section had a few life-sized and oiled-down Barbie Dolls who were languishing on the beach.   For a crowded pool, there are surprising few swimmers among the throngs and thongs.

I was already on my second glass of room-service orange juice when the Coupon-Rustler called to check on my availability for the day.  He had already hit several casinos on the way down from his house in Eldorado Highlands to where he thought I’d be (NYNY).  By the time he had made one additional stop and changed course to the HardRock, I was ready to pony up my food comp for breakfast at Mr. Luckys 24/7 diner.  As tempting as the cholesterol-special looked, I opted for a healthier and lighter choice.  I hadn’t worked out in the gym since I started on the coupon-circuit some 100 hours earlier, but I was putting plenty of walking-miles on in the meantime.  On top of all that, the Rustler had big plans for two, yes two, different semi-gourmet meal stops along our intended route today.  They were “gourmet” in the Rustlers eyes, but looked more “serviceable and workmanlike” in my eyes.

For breakfast we were joined by one of the Rustlers friends whom I had met the previous day.  I asked him to give me a few more details about another “advantage play” that I saw him carry out on Day Four.

WinCard Poachers

WinCards are those three little plastic-wrapped 3.5” by 2.5” cardboard strategy/payout cards for Blackjack, Craps and Roulette.  The one for roulette shows you what each bet pays whether it be Straight-up, or on a Corner, Street, Column, or Split-bet basis.  The BJ card has a Basic Strategy chart on it, while the card for Craps shows various Odds and Payouts for a range of typical bets.

These cards sell for $10, but they come with a $15 match-play coupon.  A good number of major casinos sell them, and at some, this $15-mp-for-a-$10 WinCard purchase is supposed to be a one-time only thing.  Needless to say, there are some guys (WinCard “Poachers”) who convince a never-ending parade of new tourists to buy these items on their behalf. 

The come-on is that the WinCard Poacher will actually GIVE the buyer the $10 that it costs to buy the little package, AND the WinCard Poacher lets the tourist keep the cards (he’s only interested in the mp’s).  The tourist gets a FREE gift, and the Poacher gets what he wants.  Such a deal!  

In an average week, the WinCard Poacher estimates that he is able to get about one hundred people to help him pull off this little bit of gaming legerdemain.  On the busiest of holiday weekends, he says he’s able to fulfill his weekly 100 WinCard quota several times over during the three-day period. 

The Poacher said that he prefers approaching small group of people (instead of individuals), because they feel safer in the group-setting and are therefore more likely to go along with him on this little “$15 of match-plays for $10” adventure.  Once he entices one person in the group with his plan, and the rest of them see that it turns out to be the real thing, the rest of the group volunteers to do the same thing, so that they too can get the FREE cards as well!  Everybody likes a free thing, and the WinCards are somewhat useful for a neophyte player in their own right.

While he’ll readily admit that it does take a bit of gall and nerve to approach a group of people, he says that it’s in his nature to “help them, and then help myself at the same time”.

Here’s a partial list of places that he finds most accommodating in letting him redeem these multiple WinCard $15-for-$10 offers:

Boulder Station                          Excalibur
Circus Circus                              Aladdin

Fiesta Rancho                            Harrah’s
Sahara                                       Paris

Four Queens                             Monte Carlo 

The HardRock Session

After breakfast I was able to use most of the match-plays that I had for this place.  I used the high-denomination $30 semi-VIP guest-only one first, in case they weren’t as tolerant of redemptions as I heard that they were.  I have a feeling that the younger dealers in here look down condescendingly on players who use match-plays.  Of course, these are the same guys who look like they had no fear of going to a discount haircutting place when they got the tips of their hair frosted and their eyebrows shaped.

At this time of the morning, the craps tables are almost always less than half-full, and the older crowd that invades the Video Poker machines here, very rarely “cross over” or switch games even if the nearby craps tables get searing hot.   That is what happened during our HR session.  A local well-known Precision-Shooter who frequents the Boulder Strip (Sam’s Town, Castaways, AZ Charlies, Boulder Station, Nevada Palace, etc.) was in here just shooting the lights out.  

I bought in when he repeated his first PL-Point number.   A fellow player mentioned that this guy had been shooting for about ten minutes before that first Point was made.  He then proceeded to hit nine more Points along the way.   All six of us at the table were making enough noise to be heard, but we weren’t to the point of whooping it up or exchanging bodily fluids because of our unbridled excitement.  The recurring thought that I had as this roll just went on and on and on, was that no one at the nearby blackjack or Pai Gow tables had any idea just how much money was being made by the half-dozen intrepid souls that hovered over this particular game on Day Five. 

I can honestly report that it was the hottest and longest hand that I witnessed another shooter throw for the entire Coupon-Circuit week.  By the time he finally 7’ed-Out, I had a loaf and a half (1 chip-rail sections) filled with green (~60%), black (<35%) and purple (~3%) chips (the other ~3% balance were $1 and $5 checks).  I had started out with a $500 buy-in that had multiplied many times over, and I still hadn’t even gotten my hands on the dice yet. 

One fellow-player mentioned that he was down to his last three $5 chips before the mega-hand had begun.  He ended up coloring-out for a little under $4300.  Now that is what I call, “turning a match-stick into a lumber-yard!”

I’d like to tell you that I threw a mega-hand that equaled or surpassed that one, but I can’t.  My shooting at the Rock was adequate, but nowhere near sensational.  The one thing that I can tell you, is that the money that I would normally have made during my usual Precision-Shooting efforts, but that I had “given up” to pursue this little match-play experiment, was now fully made up for, for the entire week.  This Mad Professor was very pleased about that!

More Check-In’s for More Cash

I still had a room-comp for the Riviera along with a corresponding $75 match-play bonus (plus a heap of $7-for-$5 mp’s).  On top of that, I had similar offers from Harrah’s, Bally’s and The Stratosphere.  I told the Coupon-Rustler that I would catch-up with him around noon so that I could check-out of the HardRock and NYNY, and then check into the Riv, Harrah’s, Bally’s and The Strat.  

I hadn’t yet decided on which one of these places would be the one that I would actually sleep in, and which would be my “phantom stay” targets.  My plan was to wait and see how nice of a room or suite that I got at each, before making that decision.   It took a little longer to complete that whole process and also get in a few rounds of dice.  I called the Rustler to reschedule our luncheon for a little later in the afternoon.

Anatomy of a Loss

In the meantime, I managed to get a few match-plays redeemed, but didn’t fare well on the profit-equation.  I lost a number of mp’s and their corresponding base-bets at two of the above-noted places (Bally’s -$25 and Harrah’s -$40), so I decided to complete the whole check-in/check-out process before doing any more shooting. 

Yes dear reader, I DO LOSE, but I have enough sense to “come in out of the rain” and take a break from playing so that I can regroup and refocus BEFORE I re-bet again.  THAT is how you keep losses to an absolute minimum, and HOW I can keep the win-sessions to losing-sessions quotient so darn high. 

Of course, it’s easy to SAY that, but the discipline it takes to actually DO that, is very high.  DISCIPLINE and proper betting-methods are generally what separates the consistently-profitable player from his highly-skilled, but still frustratingly inconsistent brethren.

The skill-level between two players can be exactly the same, but I’ll ALWAYS put my money on the one with higher discipline.  One depends on control and restraint to bring in the profit, while the other one is banking on hopes and prayers.

I figured that I was trying to stuff too many divergent activities into too tight of a time-frame.  Instead of pushing my mp losses, I decided to finish the “phantom-stay” phase, and collect (but not squander) the room-comp cash-vouchers and match-plays, then meet up with the Rustler for that early-afternoon luncheon with four of his mp-buddies at the New Frontier Hotel-Casino.

My Frontier Session

Despite the rushing around, it still took longer for me to accomplish the list of things I had to get done that morning.

In any event, I got to Margarita’s Cantina at the appointed time, but it turned out that I was the first one there.  That being the case, I managed to redeem a small pile of mps at the Frontier Hotel’s tables.  Even more fortunate, my shooting ability appeared to have returned from the skill-vacation that it took just a few hours earlier. 

The usual bunch of tolerant-to-surly dealers and pit-personnel were on hand.  Once I started winning on a consistent basis, they waved off any further attempts to use the match-play coupons.  The funny thing is, they were willing to let me bet the blackjack-only vouchers at the craps table as I was getting focused-in (and NOT winning), but once I started winning, they put the stop-sign up and the no-more-coupons light on.  It’s pretty much what I have come to expect from them, and obviously I harbor no ill will against them.  They have a job to do, and so do I.  As they clamp down on Precision-Shooters more and more at the Frontier, I just take it all in stride.

At this point, I go in there knowing that they’ll only permit me to have one great hand before they start to get upset, and literally start kicking the wastepaper basket at the Pit Clerks podium, or having the boxman slam his fist on the layout right before I am about to release the dice, or trying to time the landing of the dice with the same “slamming-fist-to-scare-(upset)-the-dice” routine.  It’s all VERY laughable, and I take it all in as part of the game if you get on a great roll at The Frontier.

I caught sight of the Coupon-Rustler and his posse as they came in through the doors opposite Phil’s Black Angus Steakhouse (named after current Frontier owner, Phil Ruffin).  Although it’s not open for the lunchtime crowd, I can highly recommend Phil’s as a great living-museum of the earlier Rat Pack era on the Strip.  Their warm Spinach Salad is one of the best on this planet, and their medium-rare slabs of cow ain’t bad either.

We all got a table at the back of Margarita’s Cantina and everyone got the same two-for-one steak or chicken Fajita special.  With two-for-one coupons applied over top of the two-for-one special that was already in effect, the bill came to a paltry couple of bucks which my own comp more than adequately covered.

Geez, You’ll Sell ANYTHING, Won’t You?”

It was during our lunch conversation that I realized that the Coupon-Rustler and his buddies will sell pretty much anything.  Although I can’t confirm that he himself has sold a few pints of his OWN blood for cash, I have the feeling that he would gladly sell a few quarts of YOUR blood if he had the chance.  I posed that question to him, but his non-committal response was answer enough for me.

I witnessed ample proof of this a little later on.  He demonstrated how he obtains a stack of $5-off coupons at the kiosk in the open-air Carnival Court area of Harrah’s, then sells them to people waiting in line at the Fresh Market Buffet for $2 each.  Yes, he’ll try to sell anything to anybody…THAT is the kind of guy he is, and he’s darn proud of that fact!

For example, he’ll look for places where there is a line-up to buy popular show-tickets.  He says there is always a line-up at the Riviera’s ticket-window, so he never runs short of paying customers.   In the truest ticket-scalper tradition, he’ll boldly ask if anyone wants to buy a discount coupon such as a “buy-1-get-1-free” voucher to La Cage, Crazy Girls or Comedy Club at the Riviera.  Since people are already in line, they are ripe for pickin’ as far as being willing to buy a voucher that will allow them to purchase a half-price admission to a show that they were already planning to see.

Likewise, in the ever-present line-ups at the popular nightclubs like Curve (Aladdin Hotel-Casino), Rain (Palms), Ra (Luxor), Studio 54 (MGM), Baby’s (HardRock), Voodoo (Rio), “V” (Venetian), etc., he’ll ask the waiting crowd if anyone wants to buy a VIP Line-Pass.  There is NEVER a shortage of people who will willingly shell out on-average $20 to bypass the thronging hordes of party-goers and gain instant access to the throbbing, pounding sweaty action.

Out-Of-State ID

The Coupon-Rustler keeps his Texas drivers-license up to date so that he qualifies as an out-of-state resident for some of the offers, yet willingly shows his Nevada drivers-license where it suits his needs.

A good example of this dual-license situation is at the Orleans Hotel where they require out-of-state ID to obtain their Funbook, as opposed to

Terribles where a Nevada ID pretty much triples the amount and value of the offers that they grant to their local customers.

I count myself among the many professional players who do precisely the same thing. 

       The benefit of having an out-of-state license is in the tremendous amount of comped rooms/suites, major entertainment, sporting event and party invitations, plus multiple/overlapping match-play/cash-voucher offers.  

       The benefits of having Nevada ID is in the increased amount of comped food, show premieres/Grand Openings/Club events, intimate party invitations, closed-to-the-public conventions, improved instant cashback and bounce-back cash incentives, double (or triple) Players Card points and frequent waived-fee tournament entries.

Just How Far Will He Go?

I asked the Coupon-Rustler just how far he was prepared to go insofar as selling casino-benefits and comps.  He said that he will sometimes “sell” one of his room-comps if he knows his customer reasonably well.

What he’ll do is check-in at the hotel that is offering guest-only match-plays or cash-vouchers, but he’ll turn around and “sublet” the room to someone who just got into town.  He said that he has a group of people whom visit Las Vegas fairly frequently, and that they’re always looking for a bargain.  He simply replaces his always-required “incidental room charges” cash-deposit with theirs. 

He NEVER uses his own credit-card when someone else will be using the room. He then charges his out of town “friends” a much lower price than they could find for a comparable room, and everyone is happy.  He quickly added that he’s never been “burned” by any of his guests simply because he chooses from an older, more sedate clientele who are less likely to trash a room or steal the trash-can.

Whether it be selling the free Folies Bergere tickets that he wins off of the Tropicana’s daily free-spin, or saving up those “$1.00-off-a-$10.00 Race Wager” at Barbary Coast until he has enough to appeal to local punters, the Coupon-Rustler is ALWAYS on the hustle!

A Few More Day-Five Highlights

I spent the balance of Day-Five driving, parking, playing coupons, cashing out chips and then going to the next nearest target on my list. 

Here’s a couple of highlights:

       At The Cannery Casino I had a great hand, which started off with a $20 net-win from their $10 match-play.  I couldn’t get to any of my regular shooting spots, so I settled for the uncomfortable SL-Hook spot.   I had to shoot into the far opposite corner.   On these tables, the backwall is a FAR distance away and the layout can give you some unexpected hops, but the dice reacted without any amount of unexpected rebounding even though the amount of height, arc, and backspin was often way more than I thought the table (or the dealers) would allow.

       At the Sahara, I was able to do the “$50 in Non-negotiable Chips for $40” routine that we talked about in Part I, several times without retribution or admonition from the Table Game Supervisor.  The female Pit Boss did glance over occasionally, seemingly surprised that my rail of visible “play chips” didn’t seem to be diminishing, even though I had them in action on almost all of my rolls.  Keeping my rack replenished from the stashed supply in my pocket didn’t seem to arouse any additional suspicion.

       I played a few $10 m-p’s and a single $20 one out at the Baraka Casino in Hyatt Regency Lake Las Vegas.  The only reason I mention this is because I am continually amazed that this place is still open.  Staff-members and dealers easily outnumber the players by at least two to one.  I suspect that they will continue to cutback the operating hours of the craps table until it becomes a dusty piece of rarely used furniture.  Hell, it’s almost that way already.  If you like solo-shooting opportunities, then you can sometimes have this table completely to yourself for the entire casino-shift.  THAT is how empty the Hyatt is!

       We ended up having dinner at the Aztec Casino (near The Stratosphere) based on a short stack of free 16-ounce Steak Dinners that both of us had acquired along the way.   The food was nowhere near the “gourmet” category as had been indicated to me.  In fact, it scarcely squeezed into the “barely-fit-for-human-consumption” category by virtue of the unlimited steak-sauce that helped slide the grisly mass past my ever-reluctant tongue.  That meal was an excellent reminder of the shortcomings of relying on “cut-rate” food to fuel a discount-lifestyle.

       The Rustler said that I was certainly getting the hang of this whole coupon-swapping thing, when I managed to sell ten $5 blackjack-only match-plays for Jerry's Nugget.  By throwing in my four remaining free 16-ounce Steak Dinners from the Aztec Casino, I was able to get full 100% face-value for the BJ coupons.  I thought that was a real coup for such a novice trader as myself.  More importantly, it also meant that I wouldn’t have to endure another one of those “Are you sure this stuff actually came from a COW?” dinners at the ‘Tec.

       At Fitzgeralds, I tried out their newly-installed “Swipe Club” Kiosk Machine.  It allows you to custom-build your own Funbook based on your preferences and casino-play.  At a minimum, you can print out their $7-for-$5 craps and blackjack match-plays on a daily basis.

       I completed the circuit of my downtown haunts (MainStreet Station, Plaza, Golden Gate, Fremont, Four Queens, Fitz, and Lady Luck) in record time.   The combination of the time-of-day and a straight bee-line from one opportunity to the next made the entire hit ‘n’ run approach very efficient and VERY profitable.

       While I did throw a few “clunkers”, in terms of losing hands along the way, my batting-percentage was still climbing despite the huge differences between table-lengths, conditions, layouts and shooting positions, and just the sheer speed at which I was moving between casinos. I attribute the speed (and success) at which I was able to adapt to various table layouts so quickly, to the quick-reference Table Notes that I have been keeping updated on a session-to-session basis.  See my Mad Professor's Shooting Bible Part I and Part III articles for full details.


To Finish Off My Day…

I also booked into Sunset Station for a comped one-nighter that came with $50 in free-play and a $20 food-credit.  I cashed-out my instant $50 profit, but held on to my food comp for use on Day-Six. 

In the interim seventeen hours since I started Day-Five, I had decided to spend the night at Bally’s.  What convinced me was the fact that they had me booked into a Grand Suite on the 22nd floor.  That’s the home of their 22nd Club, where premium players receive complimentary breakfast, evening cocktails, and individualized concierge service.

Once retired to my suite, I stood there gazing out the panoramic window overlooking the Strip.  The Coupon-Circuit was giving me a keen insight into an entirely new facet of the Las Vegas experience.  The novelty hadn’t worn off yet, and I was actually looking forward to what Day Six would bring.

Good Luck & Good Skill at the Tables…and in Life.


The Mad Professor

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