Winning video poker players DO NOT think the same as casino managers. While there is no one "right way" to think, it's wise to remember that casino managers often are the ones who get toBob Dancer is one of the world's foremost video poker experts. He is a regular columnist for Casino Player, Strictly Slots, and the Las Vegas Review-Journa land has written an autobiography and a novel about gambling. He provides advice for tens of thousands of casino enthusiasts looking to play video poker. Bob's website is www.bobdancer.com
make the rules. Sometimes players need to shift their thinking cap in order to understand those rules.
In this article, I'm going to be referring to local casinos where the direct mail is a large part of their player-reward package. In the Las Vegas
area, these would including Station/Fiesta/Palms, and to some extent Sam's Town. Coast casinos generally do not fall into this category because same-day cash back is the largest factor at their casinos, but they do offer decent direct mail. I can't speak authoritatively about Arizona Charlie's as I don't play there. Through a fluke in geography, I can't get to either of their properties in less than a half-hour from my home, so there's no way I'm going to patronize casinos that far away that have a large part of their benefits tied into a "you must go there every day to collect" mode.
By direct mail, I mean such things as come in Tuesday and collect $10, enjoy a free meal on the casino one of these four days, come in Saturday for a free gift, bring a coupon in every day this week for a spin on a prize wheel or a grab into our money bag, etc. Many casinos offer these kinds of goodies. The exact package depends on what amenities the casino has.
For now let's focus on the bounceback cash. For many this is the most important. No player has too much cash, although depending on how busy you are, if you have only a day or two to drive over and pick up $10, you might decide it's not worth it.
As a player, I see this bounceback cash as a REWARD FOR PAST PLAY. At every casino I record how much play leads to how much bounceback. If $60,000 worth of play gives me $200 a month in bounceback, on average, then I calculate that it's worth 0.33 percent. That is $200 / $60,000 = 0.0033 = 0.33 percent. Plus I usually get to keep my points (which are worth something in their own right). This kind of system would lead me to conclude that a game that WinPoker
says is worth only 99.73 percent is actually an over-100 percent game if I play the amount that gives me 0.33 percent in bounceback cash.
Casino managers, however, tend to look at bounceback as an INCENTIVE FOR FUTURE PLAY. The reason they are giving me $200 in checks, perhaps spread out over eight visits, is that they want me to come in and play at least eight more times.
This difference is not a play on words. Stay with me for a while.
The biggest factor that determines how much bounceback a player receives is "theoretical', which I'll define shortly. To the extent that this is the dominant factor, the player's perspective and the manager's perspective are largely the same. Players who played big in the past will generally play big in the future, and players who played small in the past will generally play small in the future.
But even if how much you have gambled is the BIGGEST factor (and players think it should be the ONLY factor), there are a number of other factors. Some of these casinos prefer you play $20,000 over each of four trips than $80,000 all at once. Some might prefer you have an active line of credit (that is, you draw money out and then pay it off at the appropriate time) than not have this line. Some will prefer that you don't come in and collect the duffle bag they are giving away this week as an incentive to play unless you also play that day. Some casinos count the number of coupons you cash.
How much your monthly bounceback checks turn out to be is based on a point formula --- where the biggest factor remains the "theoretical", which is approximately the amount of money the casino makes off of the average player playing the amount that you played on the machines you played. Even collecting your bounceback without playing the same day subtracts points. Cashing extra coupons subtracts points. Having an active credit line adds points. Having several trips above a certain minimum adds points. At some casinos, winning jackpots
subtracts points and losing big amounts adds points. If you only play on multiple point days or special offer days, some casinos subtract points. Some casinos will totally cut you off from direct mail, no matter how large your theoretical, if you only (or usually) only play on advantage machines.
The exact formula varies from place to place, and even from month to month at the same place. It is also a closely guarded secret. I do not know the exact formula at any casino. If I did, I probably wouldn't be allowed to play. My business partner, Jeffrey Compton, has been told the formula at a few casinos. He is not allowed to play at those places, and he has signed a blood oath that he won't divulge the formula to anyone --- especially me. Casinos that do allow me to play consider me a worthy opponent without inside knowledge, and they certainly don't want me to have any extra knowledge.
So what does all of this mean? If you play a million dollars a month, it means nothing. You are on the casino's A+ list, period. But if you play $15,000 a month, you might be on the B list, perhaps B-, perhaps C+. Which of these lists you are on depends on these other factors. You might well find that if you aren't going to play that day, not coming by to collect that duffle bag one week and the picture frame the next might mean an extra $40 the next month in bounce back. These gifts cost the casino real money, even when they are practically worthless to you. (How many casino-logo baseball caps do you need, anyway?)
You might want to talk to a host and ask what it would take to get more benefits. At some places they really don't know, and at other places they really aren't talking, but sometimes you can get some insight into the process. They might tell you, "We're looking for four hours of play when you come in," or maybe "someone who is always asking for meal comps
gets lesser mail." Whatever. Once you know the rules at a casino
, you can decide whether or not the extra benefits you'll get are worth it.
And never assume that the rules at one casino are the same as those at another. They are all different, and successful players learn to differentiate and take advantages of those differences.