Picking up where I left off in Part II, in this final segment I shall continue to discuss how casino cards are different from hotel and airline loyalty cards.
5. Many casinos offer the option of having joint players’ cards — usually between a husband and wife, but not necessarily. This is an option, meaning you don’t have to do it. But for some folks it makes sense.
If both a husband and wife play at the A+ level, it’s stupid to combine cards. If the awards for playing at that level are a $5,000 cruise for two plus $10,000 a year in casino freebies, would you rather get that once, or twice?
If you each play at a far lesser level, it might make sense to join the accounts. You might earn a little from the club if you combine but virtually nothing if you don’t.
Also, if one of you is a player and the other is a consumer (perhaps using the golf course, using the spa), it can work for you both to be on one card.
6. It is much more difficult to learn how to play the casino games than it is to fly between two locations or to sleep overnight somewhere. People don’t automatically know how to play blackjack or video poker or any other casino game. It takes considerable effort to learn these skills. (It’s been 30,000 hours and counting for me. I’m still learning new things regularly.)
Knowing how to play these games is a separate issue entirely from learning about the players’ clubs. I don’t know whether it’s easier to figure out all the complexities of the Mlife system at MGM Resorts International or the SkyMiles system at Delta Airlines. But I’m positive it’s more difficult to learn to play the games expertly within the casino than it is to sit in an airplane seat.
7. Casinos bribe you more often than airlines do. Casinos often have a “gift of the week/month.” (Those of us who’ve been in this game awhile commonly refer to it as “casino crap,” but sometimes they give out something you like.) The casinos want you to come in and play again and again.
Although there are some business travelers who travel several times a week, most of us don’t fly 50 times a year. But there are millions of people who go to casinos once a week or more.
8. You have to find your niche. Just like the same people don’t frequent Four Seasons Hotels as those who go to Travelodge motels, the clientele at the top-notch casino resorts are not the same people as the ones who frequent the lower-end establishments. There’s room in the marketplace for all of these options, but where do you feel most comfortable? Where do you find the best value? Some folks always choose the cheapest place. Others always choose the most luxurious. But most of us choose options somewhere in the middle.
In addition, sometimes the best gamble isn’t at the nicest establishment. The Wynn in Las Vegas offers a number of first class dining options. But if you normally play for low stakes (say $5 per bet, or less), you’ll find the games there MUCH tighter than elsewhere. There are a number of local casinos in Las Vegas where the dining options aren’t nearly so elegant, but you’ll get a better gamble. No casino is the best at everything. What do you value?
9. Similarly, when you’re looking for value, often the lowest-priced bet isn’t as good as the higher-priced bets. Casinos offer video poker at 1¢ and 2¢ denominations. These machines contain games that may be 3% or so tighter than their 5¢ games, which in turn might be another 2% tighter than their 25¢ games.
In addition, for a given denomination, a casino might offer you 91% games, 93% games, up to and sometimes exceeding 99% games. If you don’t know what you’re doing, it’s easy to sit down at a game where you have no chance to win.
One of the things we’ll get to later in this series of monthly artilces is telling you how to know what a machine will pay on average BEFORE you play. I have no clue what the machine will pay over the next half hour, but I can predict fairly accurately what it will pay over the next 1,000 hours, assuming you know how to play correctly. Choosing less-than-the-smartest options add up over time.
Bob Dancer is the premier video poker writer and teacher in the world. He has created a number of how-to-win products available at bobdancer.com. He co-hosts a weekly radio show called Gambling with an Edge, which is also archived on his website. (The show is also available on iTunes.)