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Best of John Grochowski

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Funbooks' Coupons Can Better Winnings

13 September 2000

I usually play slots on the riverboats, but I recently went to Las Vegas for the first time. I went with a friend who had been there several times, and we took the opportunity to do a lot of casino-hopping and see as many different places as we could.

Wherever we went, my friend kept picking up these little booklets of coupons. In some places, she'd stand in line for 10 or 15 minutes. Not me. Let me at those slots! Anyway, she'd show me the coupons, and I wondered why she bothered. They were for an extra dollar for blackjack here, or an extra $2 for craps there, and she doesn't usually even play blackjack or craps. For four days, she made a point of playing her coupons before joining me on the slots.

At the end of the trip, I'd lost $600, but had a great time. My friend had lost $300 on the slots, but she said she'd won more than $150 playing her coupons.

Now I'm wondering. Was she just lucky, or are those coupons worth more than I thought they were? Is that a smart way to play?

There's serious playing power in those coupons, provided you're a low roller with the patience to use them.

Many Las Vegas casinos offer funbooks at a promotions booth, the cashiers' cage or the hotel desk. Sometimes an out-of-state ID or a voucher are required to get the funbooks, but sometimes they're free for the asking. Vouchers for funbooks often are available in free magazines such as What's On in Las Vegas.

The funbooks usually include meal discounts and gift shop offers, along with gambling coupons. Big bettors will have little patience with the gambling coupons -- usually they're for a $2 payoff on a winning $1 bet, $3 for $2 or $7 for $5.

But for those with the patience to squeeze a small profit from low-stakes bets, the coupons actually yield a mathematical edge over the house.

Take roulette, which has one of the highest house advantages among casino table games. Of every $100 you wager at American double-zero roulette, you can expect to lose $5.26.

Let's say you're playing without coupons and bet $5 on red each spin of a perfect sequence of 38 spins in which each number on the wheel turns up once. You risk $190. You lose on the 18 black numbers, and on the green 0 and 00. On each of the 18 red numbers, you get back your $5 bet and collect $5 in winnings. That leaves you with $90 in bets returned to you plus $90 in winnings, for a total of $180. You've lost $10.

Now let's say you bet the same sequence, only this time each $5 wager is accompanied by a $7-for-$5 coupon. On each of the 18 red numbers, you still get your $5 bet back, but you also get $7 in winnings. Multiply by 18, and at the end of the sequence you've had $90 in bets returned to you, and you have $126 in winnings. That gives you a total of $216. You've won $26.

You've won no more bets than before, but you're a $26 winner instead of a $10 loser. That $7-for-$5 coupon has given you a 13.7 percent edge over the house.

If you never played without coupons, you would win money in the long run. In fact, there are coupon hustlers in Las Vegas, locals who scratch out meal money playing with coupons.

That requires tons of patience. There are only a few gambling coupons in each funbook, and players usually are restricted to one funbook per day, or even one per week. Dedicated hustlers might scrounge unused coupons, but pit supervisors can stop you from using extras.

Most vacationers won't go to those lengths. At the most, they'll do what your friend did and pick up funbooks wherever they visit while casino hopping. Scratching out a profit that way is a long, slow process, but as you've seen, over a few days the wins can stretch a low roller's budget.

Recent Articles
Best of John Grochowski
John Grochowski

John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

> More Books By John Grochowski

John Grochowski
John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

> More Books By John Grochowski