ZorkFest has been a passion project in the making for a long time.
I have always wanted to combine two of my interests into one amazing event. Casino Loyalty and Travel Loyalty. But, before I get to that, I feel I have to share some history.
I was always obsessed with airplanes from around the age of five years old. I was fortunate to grow up as an only child in a family that enjoyed travel. I was six when I took my first trip to Europe, that was 1976. From a very early age, I loved to research and book travel for my family. Back then, this involved calling all of the airlines on their toll-free number. I would later subscribe to the OAG (Official Airline Guide) pocket flight guide and pour over the timetables for fun. This aligned with my huge interest in TWA (Trans World Airlines). In those early years, I would frequently travel between New York and West Palm Beach (PBI). Back then, we mostly frequented National Airlines. I remember, on every flight, National would have a contest inflight to determine the speed the aircraft was traveling at and the winner would receive a bottle of Champagne. Yes, if memory serves National did serve Champagne on domestic routes in First Class. My father figured out the “trick,” to win the bottle of Champagne. At least, that is what I remember.
Travel Loyalty and Computer Geekiness
Parallel with my interest in travel was computers. This started with the Atari 400, and I would later go onto running my own bulletin board called Backstage BBS. I started with a 300 baud modem, and eventually “rigged” an Atari setup to also run the CP/M operating system with a 5mb (yes, 5mb!) hard drive. This was a very big deal in the early 1980s. At the same time, I also started an Atari Computer Club in North Jersey. I spent two summers at Atari Computer Camp in Pennsylvania. Atari computers were my life, but I still had a very keen interest in commercial aviation. My favourite place to visit was the airport. Especially the Eero Saarinen TWA Terminal at JFK. In the 1980s I played a lot of computer games, and spent countless hours searching for “back-doors.” I helped to setup the first computer lab at middle school in Fort Lee, New Jersey. I was the computer liaison for many of the teachers. I would go onto become President of the computer club at Fort Lee High School. Atari Basic, assembly language, Forth, Fortran and Pascal were the computer “languages” of the day. It was beyond a fun time for a geek. I was a geek. The memories still are fresh, even though this was over 30 years ago.
I joined the TWA FFB (Frequent Flight Bonus) Program in 1982, when I was 12 years old. I spent countless hours studying the program, and when the triple miles program was launched, I figured out a way to optimize. When people ask, “what was your best airline mileage redemption,” my first response is always redeeming TWA Royal Ambassador First class to take my grandparents to Egypt. (JFK-CDG-CAI). I will never forget that trip or my grandparents. Years later, when I decided to dive into the world of casinos at Argosy in Southern Indiana I still have fond memories of my grandfather joining me on those trips. At that time, Argosy had a big baccarat game with a $25 table minimum. I was always fascinated by baccarat, and I decided to learn the game (pretty easy) but also the history of the game. I went on to purchase every book ever written about baccarat. This is in addition to my collection of airline menus. I probably have one of the largest collections of airline menus in the world, including quite a few TWA menus spanning many years. I would often say that Argosy was 35 minutes front door to dice table. Other than the times my grandfather joined me; this was solo time for me. I went on to want to learn everything I could about baccarat and craps (dice). This would lead me to return to Vegas, and spend quite a few years playing big baccarat at The Stardust. My baccarat moments include playing what I believe to be the final day-shift big baccarat shoe at Stardust and the first baccarat shoe at Caesars Atlantic City after the historic shutdown in 2006.
I have often said, you can take the boy out of New Jersey, but you cannot take the New Jersey out of the boy. As my gambling interests grew, so did my interest in Atlantic City. Atlantic City has a fabulous place in travel resort and gambling history. Many do not realize that gambling revenue in Atlantic City exceeded the Las Vegas strip for many years. This was when there was only gambling in Nevada and New Jersey. Times have certainly changed. Casinos developed loyalty programs that rival the largest airline and hotel mileage and points programs. Over the years, my casino friends would ask me questions about travel loyalty programs and my travel loyalty friends would ask me about casino loyalty. I even tried to setup a FlyerTalk DO in Atlantic City based on Curb Your Enthusiasm back in 2007.
I hope to inspire people to approach their travel loyalty (airline, hotel programs) and casino programs (casino comp programs) with some fresh ideas. You will gain some new insights and meet others with similar interests. Everyone has their own style with how they approach loyalty programs. It is seldom black and white, and I have learned so much from others over the years. Even if you improve the way you approach these programs just a “little,” it can be quite valuable. We have a fantastic line-up of speakers, and I encourage you to visit the sites of Seth and Angelina. There is a Hard-8 Discount promo code available, so be sure to look for it. Eric and Catherine round out the program with some amazing insights regarding how to more fully understand casino loyalty programs and casino comps. Be sure to check out the ZorkFest website for even more details. If you have never attended an event like this, be assured this will be a comfortable and FUN learning environment.
ZorkFest begins with a drinks reception on Friday night, December 1st. The entire conference is on Saturday, December 2nd. Sessions will run approximately 45 minutes each. You DO NOT have to attend all sessions. You can mix&match whatever sessions interest you. Each 45-minute time slot will offer two sessions. One on maximizing value in a casino, and one session dedicated to travel and travel loyalty/award programs. Pick whichever is of more interest to you. For example, a session runs from 10:00 – 10:45 and a new session will begin at the top of the next hour. The actual schedule is confirmed about two weeks before the event. There will also be a 45-minute lunch break.
I am certain there will be a number of social gatherings that weekend, but I wanted to mention one in particular. After ZorkFest on Saturday night, there is the Everything Atlantic City (EAC) Holiday Social Meet with drinks for the EAC FaceBook group. TravelZork will be a sponsor of this event. This is a free event, everyone is welcome to attend, but they will have to RSVP on the EAC FB page in November before the event.