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Best of John Grochowski

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Gambling Without Much Cash

26 January 2000

LAS VEGAS You've probably heard it a thousand times: If you don't gamble, Las Vegas is a great place for a cheap vacation.

Here's a little secret: You can sample the gambling, too, without risking much other than a few stares from bigger players. With a little luck - not much is needed - you might even leave with a few extra bucks with the help of a few coupon books, matchplay vouchers and casino freebies.

Some coupon books are there for the asking at casino promotions desks. Others require a voucher from easily available free magazines such as Showbiz and What's On? Some of my best vouchers came with a subscription to the monthly newsletter the Las Vegas Advisor ($50 a year; call 800-244-2224). Others came with a subscription to the monthly magazine Casino Player ($24 a year; call 609-641-3200).

I funded my recent coupon tour of Las Vegas with a single $20 bill. When it was over, I'd made a profit of $85. Here's how:

Vacation Village: I always start trips to Las Vegas with a stop at this little spot on Las Vegas Boulevard, about three miles south of Mandalay Bay. Bring your airline ticket to the promotions desk within 12 hours of landing, and you get a spin of a wheel for cash prizes ranging from $1 to reimbursement of one-way airfare. I once hit the airfare reimbursement for $162. Not this time. I won a buck.

While there, I brought out a Las Vegas Advisor coupon for double pay on a straight, flush or full house on a quarter video poker machine. I slid my $20 bill into a Double Bonus Poker machine that paid 10-for-1 on a full house. Betting five coins per hand, I got lucky.

On my fifth hand, I hit a full house, good for 50 coins. Now I had 110 coins, or $27.50, to cash out of the machine, and an attendant gave me another $12.50 in exchange for my coupon.

With $1 on the wheel, $7.50 on the poker machine and $12.50 for the coupon, my profit stood at $21.

Imperial Palace: On to the Strip. I had three $5 matchplay vouchers, two from the Advisor and one from Casino Player. Table personnel sometimes frown on using more than one voucher per day, but a kind supervisor allowed me to use two. I made a profit even though I split two $5 bets. The one winner paid me $10; on the loser I dropped $5. See how a little coupon wizardry works? Win one, lose one and you're a winner.

Profit at Imperial Palace: $5. Total profit through two casinos: $26.

Sahara: Including my original $20, I now had $46. I used $40 to take advantage of an Advisor coupon offering $50 in gaming chips for $40. The catch: You have to play the chips until you lose them. Each chip was worth $5 at the table, and I bet them one at a time, collecting winnings and re-betting the bonus chips until I lost. It took about 20 minutes to play the chips, and when I totaled everything up, I had $55 - a $15 profit.

The Sahara also offered a funbook for the asking at the cashier's cage. It included a free Ace to start a hand of blackjack. I bet $5, and the dealer put a 10 on top of my coupon. That's a blackjack, and I collected $7.50 in winnings.

Profit at the Sahara: $22.50. Total profit for three casinos: $48.50.

Stardust: Vouchers for the Stardust funbook were easy to find in the freebie magazines, redeemable at the Logo Shop. Included were six vouchers that paid $7 for winning $5 bets. I lost two at the blackjack table, then lost another at craps. My first setback of the tour.

Loss at the Stardust: $15. Total profit for four casinos: $33.50.

Circus Circus: Like the Stardust, Circus Circus offers easy-to-find vouchers, redeemable at the Ringmaster Club booth. Here I won a $5 matchplay at craps for $10 in winnings, and lost one at blackjack for a $5 loss.

Profit at Circus Circus: $5. Total profit for five casinos: $38.50.

Stratosphere Tower: It was back to an Advisor voucher here, with a $7 payoff for a $5 blackjack bet. My 20 beat the dealer's 19. A good ending as I left the Strip.

Profit at Stratosphere: $7. Total profit for six casinos: $45.50.

Golden Gate: As I shifted to downtown Las Vegas, I used a $10 matchplay voucher from the Advisor. I busted my blackjack hand and lost my $10. Ouch.

Loss at Golden Gate: $10. Total profit for seven casinos: $35.50.

Fitzgerald's: I picked up a voucher for a funbook outside the casino, then redeemed upstairs at the Fitzgerald's Club booth. This one included a $1 matchplay - bet $1, win $2. I won this one, then cut my stay downtown short. There were some locals places I wanted to get to, and time was running short.

Profit at Fitzgerald's: $2. Total profit for eight casinos: $37.50.

Texas Station: In northwest Las Vegas, there's a little cluster of casinos sometimes called the Rancho Strip. There's Texas Station, the Fiesta and the Santa Fe, all with good playing rules and great buffets.

At Texas Station, I used a $5 Advisor matchplay coupon and hit a blackjack - a two-card total of 21. The dealer treated it as a $10 bet, so I won $15 with the 3-2 payoff for a blackjack.

Profit at Texas Station: $15. Total profit for nine casinos: $52.50.

Fiesta: Just as at Texas Station, I had a $5 matchplay coupon from the Advisor. This time, my 16 won when the dealer busted, and I had a $10 win.

Profit at Fiesta: $10. Total profit for 10 casinos: $62.50.

Santa Fe: My coupon clipping had netted enough profit that it was time for the big plunge. A Casino Player voucher offered $75 in play for a $50 buy-in. Just as at the Sahara, I had to play the chips till they were gone. It wound up taking 29 hands, with 14 wins and 15 losses. One of the wins was a blackjack that paid $7.50 for my $5 bet. So when my $75 in bonus chips were gone, I had 14 regular $5 casino chips plus $2.50 in change - a total of $72.50 - to take to the cashier's cage.

Profit at Santa Fe: $22.50. Total profit for 11 casinos: $85.

With that, I ended my little venture. I hadn't had extraordinary luck, but I'd made a little money because I'd played all day with the mathematical edge on my side. It had taken all morning and most of an afternoon, and I was hungry. Time to check those coupon books for a dinner bargain.

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:

The Craps Answer Book

> 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