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Best of John Grochowski

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Gambler's Survival Kit - Part 1

17 May 2005

In the game of survival, casinos arm themselves well. The mathematical edge that's built into each game is plenty of ammunition to make sure house the bags its share of the wagers.

Players would do well to put together a little survival kit of their own. It can't guarantee you'll be a winner --- only a handful of blackjack card counters, video poker pros and other advantage players are going to come out ahead in the long run. But you should have enough in your own bag of tricks to ensure the good times will be worth whatever you spend in pursuit of fun and jackpots.

There are a few tangible items in the smart player's survival kit, but it must include a large dose of knowledge that you can't reach out and touch any more than you can close your fist on the house edge. No matter. The knowledge you need is easily available.

Over the next few weeks, let's open up the survival kit and see what's inside.

CASH

Let's begin with the obvious. Any survival kit for a day, or even an hour, in the casino has to start with enough money to cover whatever games you plan to play.

The amount required depends on what you plan to play. If you're just planning to pass an hour on the penny slots, betting one coin per line, a $20 bill will take you a long way. But on a nickel video slot or a quarter three-reel game, $20 can disappear in 10 minutes flat, and on dollar games, a $100 bill can be history just about that fast. The same goes for video poker --- slots and video poker move so fast, with 500 or more plays per hour, that a cold streak can gobble up the cash almost as fast as you can get it out of your wallet.

Table games don't move as fast --- figure 50 or so hands per hour on a full blackjack table --- but minimum bets are higher. Even at a $5 table, $100 can go fast in the bad times.

The amount in your survival kit depends on your entertainment budget --- no siphoning off funds needed for real-life, every day survival. And if you find the cash disappearing faster than you'd anticipated during a casino trip, be prepared to take time out from gaming or switch to a less money-hungry game for a while. There's nothing wrong with a dollar slot player on a cold streak who bides time on pennies for a while to preserve a little cushion in the survival kit.

PLAYER REWARDS CARD

Wherever you play, be sure to sign up for the player rewards card. It won't necessarily bring you freebies every time out, but as you play, you'll compile points that can bring cash back, free meals or discounts or other perks. In some casinos that charge admission, the cards can bring free or reduced admission, depending on your level of play. Some Native American casinos that don't give cash back on their cards give complimentary sessions in their bingo halls --- and if you're a bingo player, that's almost as good as cash. And some clubs give automatic discounts on meals or gift shop items just for having the cards. You may not get your lunch for free, but a discount of 10 or 15 percent of the price helps stretch the cash in your kit.

If you find yourself in a casino where you've never played, be sure to find out if there are bonuses for new members. Some will give logo merchandise, others give buffet comps, still others have been known to reimburse losses in the first hour of play, just for signing up.

Do keep in mind that comps and perks are not worth digging beyond the budgeted amount of cash in your survival kit. Take what's offered at your normal level of play, but increasing wagers in pursuit of comps can leave you wishing you'd bought your own lunch.

The benefits make the player rewards card a vital part of your survival kit. But there's more. The reason casinos give out the perks and bonuses is to keep you coming back. They want your name and address in their computers, so they can send offers by direct mail to encourage you to return and play again, leading to our next survival kit item …

COUPONS

All that direct mail that results from your signing up for a rewards card brings offers and coupons. Refresh those in your survival kit each month. There are eight casinos on my regular rounds, and each sends me mail each month --- some send more than one mailing a month. In those mailers are coupons for cash, 2-for-1 buffets, discounted hotel rooms, free admission, invitations to parties and tournaments, and more.

If you have a coupon for a free buffet, use it instead of redeeming points from your rewards card account. Use the points for something else. You can have your points, and eat free too.

That's a good start, but a real casino survivor adds some extra equipment. We'll check it out next week.

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:

Winning Tips for Casino Games

> 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:

The Craps Answer Book

> More Books By John Grochowski