How a Degenerate Gambler Plans a Trip to Las Vegas

Hello, my name is Jennifer and I am a degenerate gambler.

I have been to Las Vegas a bazillion times.  Because of this, I often have friends ask me for help when they are planning a trip.  You would think that I would be good with giving Las Vegas advice.  But I am not.  I actually feel mental anguish when I am asked.  Why is that, you ask?  Because I am a degenerate and degenerates do not know how to simply book a flight and hotel and go.

I was going to take you through a typical trip planning.  But I was having great difficulty breaking down how I typically plan a trip.  It is way too detailed, even for me.  So then I decided to stick to JUST how I booked this one specific trip that I am leaving for TODAY.  I figured it cut it down a bit since it is only an eight day trip, rather than 21 nights.

But as I got into typing that out, it was still way more detail than any non-degenerate gambler would want to read.  So now I will attempt to just talk about my completed plans.

The first thing I did was book a flight.  I am going for Thanksgiving.  Flights are insanely high for Thanksgiving.  So the dates worked that I would have to fly home the Tuesday after Thanksgiving or else pay close to $300 more to come home any earlier.  Fine with me!

Once my flight is booked, it is time to book rooms.  I have a lot of comps at different hotels.   People always ask me how to get comped rooms.  The answer to this honestly  varies depending on who you ask.

The shortest possible answer is:  You are comped based on coin in.  If you have $1k coin in, that does not mean you put $1k cash into a machine.  If you gamble one dollar, and win one dollar, and bet that same dollar again, and win a dollar again, you now have run through $2 and you still have your dollar.

Most educated gamblers can tell  you exactly what you need to play in order to get comps.  This hotel = XXX through per day, that hotel = XXXXX through per day, etc.  I cannot and will not do this.  I do not keep track of my play.  This is considered a big error by educated gamblers.  But it works for me. I play what I want to and stop when I want to and then the comps follow.   I do not want to know that if I had just ran through one more $20, I would have made a comp list.   It’s the carrot dangling in front of your face.  Oh we know you lost your daily limit, but just $20 more will get  you a room.  Come on, dig into tomorrow’s budget today.  We know you want to.  NO.

I am a low roller.  My budget is $200/day total for everything.  It covers gambling, food, many iced coffee runs, transportation, everything.  I visit at least one spa per trip.  This also comes out of it, although i tend to just shave $10 off every day and pay for the spa that way, rather than cut $100 out of just that day.  Same with show tickets.  So on typical trips, with a massage and a show ticket, we are down to about $180-190/day to cover everything.  This action gets me enough offers to get me through a 3-week trip.

But back to this ONE trip I am taking TODAY!!!

I am arriving late on my first day.  My flight lands at 10:21 pm  I usually spend my first two nights comped at either Orleans or Gold Coast.   This time however, I changed it up a bit and now my first two nights will be at Aria.

Aria Las Vegas

Aria is a big fancy strip hotel/casino that I have never stayed at.  I would never pay for this room, and I would never be offered any comp here.  Comps here are reserved for people who gamble my entire trip’s budget on one hand of Black Jack.

Actually, let me give you some real numbers here:

At Aria, it takes $10 coin in to get one point on video poker.

100 points ($1000 run through on video poker) gets you $1 in comps AND $1 in free play.

To compare that to a downtown casino, I picked Fitzgeralds (now known as “The D” but I will not call it that since that name is stupid), since I will also be staying here this trip.  

Like Aria, at Fitzgeralds, it’s $10 coin in to get one point on video poker.  Sounds exactly the same, right?  WRONG!

At Fitzgeralds, for 100 points ( $1000 coin in on video poker) you get $1 cash back and $2 comps.

To make that crystal clear: For $1000 coin in at Aria, you get $1 comp and $1 free play.  For the same amount of coin in/points at Fitzgeralds you would get $2 comp and $1 cash back.  Twice the comps.  Cash back instead of free play.

Your comp dollars will get you a lot more at Fitzgeralds than Aria.  For a random example:  At Fitzgeralds, you can get a burger and fries for $10.  That same burger and fries will cost you $16 at Aria.  

So at half the comps and nearly double the price, your money will get you so much less if you play at a Strip property, than a downtown property.

That is even without understanding that downtown casinos have better pay outs.

Lower end hotels also going to send out future comp mailers to people who play far less than the people the fancy strip hotels send future offers out to.

But on this trip, I am indeed staying at Aria.  Why?  Because I am staying here for free via playing the My Vegas Facebook game.  This is a game associated with M Life properties (those would be Mandalay Bay, Luxor, Excalibur, MGM Grand, New York New York, Monte Carlo, Mirage, Aria, Bellagio and Circur Circus) that lets you earn real life comps for free play on Facebook.

Yes, there is a Facebook game that you play for absolutely free* that gives you real life rewards in Las Vegas.  No it is not a scam.  No, I am not a spokesperson for this game.

*You can also buy credits to play, but I do not see the point.

I had played for close to a year before redeeming anything so I have more than enough points to stay in a fancy strip hotel for free.  Even though I do not like the strip, I can’t pass up this chance.  I also do not like RESORT FEES.  Which you may or may not to pay even if you get the room for free through this game. The jury is out on whether or not the resort fees are mandatory.  It seems that you are supposed to be paying them, but plenty of people have reported that they were not charged.  So it’s a gamble and I am here to gamble so I will take my chances.

I booked two free nights via the game, but I booked them for my first two nights.  This way I am there on my first night, which is a short night since my flight does not arrive until around 10:00 pm.  Most people on vacation would probably not short themselves a stay in a fancy hotel.  Me however, I am there to gamble and I do not want to gamble in a casino where my money nets me half of what it would in a downtown casino.

Then for the next three nights, I am at Fitzgeralds. The Fitzgeralds offer is for 3 free nights, $50 free slot play and $25 in dining (there’s also some match plays in there, but I do not do table games)  As a bonus, there is also a coupon in the Las Vegas Advisor member rewards coupon book that gets you $5 in freeplay for every 50 points run up in a 24 hour period.  So you play however much you want to for 24 hours.  Then you  are given freeplay based on however much points you accumulated.  On my last trip, I did a heavy (for me) day here to take advantage of this.  I ended up with $35 in freeplay (which, on video poker, is 350 points, which is $3500 coin in)  How much did that $3500 coin in cost me?  Zero.  I played with a $100 bill.  I went up and down and up and down and up and down.  I probably hit $150 at my highest, but being a degenerate, I kept going.  Once I was far down, I had a good hit that brought me my original $100 back.  Time to cash out!    Then I played the $35 free play and left with $50 of that.

So to recap:

I budgeted $100 for a heavy day (again, for me) here.

I ended up leaving with my $100, plus an additional $50.  I also earned 350 points, which got me $3.50 in cash back and $7 in comps.  As an added bonus, my play here put me back on the Fitzgeralds radar, which I had dropped off.  Being back on got me an offer for three free nights with $50 slot play and $25 dining.  The mailers are sent out with two months on at a time and I can use it once per month.

Does this seem like too much math for you?  It does for me.  I actually had to ask for help to make sure my numbers were correct because my eyes start crossing when I have to keep track of my play.  So here is a little trick for you.   Downtown = good.  Strip = bad.

So now back to my planning of this trip that I am leaving for TODAY!

The last two nights, I had open for a bit.  I really struggled with this one.  I ended up double booking the Riviera and Orleans.  I love both of these places. Both sent me offers that were minimum two nights.  So I had to book two nights to get the rooms and the associated perks (which as a low roller, amount to $10 free slot play at each, and the Orleans also kicked in $10 in dining).  Most people would think it is the biggest waste of time to check in to get $10.   I think it would be so stupid to not check in and get the $10.  I would be visiting both of these places even if I were not staying at either, so why not take ten minutes to get ten dollars?

Now that the rooms are settled, it is time to work on the itinerary.  This is a crazy thing.  I spend so much time putting this together for each trip.  I figure out where I want to play on each day.  Some of this is based on point multiplier promotions.   These are really a big deal if you go in December.  The week before Christmas is the slowest time in Las Vegas.   A lot of places will offer big bonus point days to get you in their casino.   So if you play somewhere that is offering 5x points, that means that for every dollar you play, you get credit for $5.

My entire itinerary is created based absolutely not at all on things I want to do and see.  It’s created entirely as a guide to maximize comps and coupons.   This most likely sounds insane to anyone who has ever gone to Vegas for PAR-TAY!  But that is okay.  No one has to live their life like anyone else.

I read several Las Vegas websites every day.  I see when new promos are announced and collect tips and stuff.  Since I am gathering this knowledge over an extended period of time, it does not overwhelm me.  But it sure overwhelms someone who is fed it all at once.  Which is completely understandable.

Don’t have comps?  Want some?  It’s pretty easy.  Get yourself a copy of the American Casino Guide. (I am not in any way sponsored by them, I buy my book every year because it is way worth the money)

There are a lot of coupons in there for free play for new sign ups, which don’t apply to me.  There are also cool things like the downtown Boyd properties (these would be Main Street Station, Fremont and California) all have coupons for “play 250 points and get a free buffet”.  Simply go and run that amount through and eat free.  One point at Boyd properties = $1.  So 250 points = you run through $250.  You can easily do this with one $20 bill on video poker.  BONUS, you keep the points so you also have those comps (a whopping $.41).  MORE BONUS: Playing to get these points may very well earn you future comped nights.

Another great example of why degenerates use coupon books: Suncoast has a coupon in the American Casino Guide for 5x points.  You can get there on the WAX bus from downtown, in 20 minutes.  So for every dollar you run through a machine, you get credit for $5.

To put this into perspective:

Here, $1 coin in gets you 1 point on your card.
1000 points = $1 cash back or $1 free play OR you can use 600 points = $1 comp

So normally, for $600 coin in, you get $1 in comps.   With this coupon, you are earning 5x points.  So that $600 coin in gets you $5 comps.

So by running through $1000, here are the totals:
Aria = $1 free play and $1 comp

Fitzgeralds = $1 cash back and $2 comps

Suncoast with a 5x multiplier coupon = $5 cash back or $5 free play.  Or $8.33 in comps.

See that?

To put comp value back into “burger and fries” terms:

A comped burger and fries at Aria will take $16k coin in

At Fitzgeralds, it will take $5k coin in

At a Boyd property with a 5x multiplier coupon, it will take $1k in.

As a bonus, Suncoast is owned by Boyd Gaming.   They own the  Gold Coast, Orleans, Sams Town, Main Street Station, California, Fremont and Suncoast.  Any points you earn at any of these places, are all combined with each other so you have more comps you can use at any one place.  So you do not have to go all the way back to the Suncoast to use these points you accumulated.

I do the bulk of my downtown Boyd play at Fremont.  They have a 24 hour Dunkin Donuts AND nickel SuperTimes Pay, which is my absolute favorite video poker game ever.

Most people do not want to go all over Vegas to collect comps.  Who wants to be on VACATION using coupons??!  While Vegas is not in any way a typical vacation, I am definitely not suggesting that you start doing this.  I am only explaining how I do my own trips.

Here is an example of the craziest day of my itinerary.  This is what I like to call “free play day”.  I have one of these every trip.  I pick a day and spend it going all over playing free play.  I do not care if it is $5 or $10 or $50.  If I have it available, I will go wherever and play it.  I put it on a day where I am not doing any promotions like bonus point days.  I can’t see the point of going to a specific casino to run through only $5 free play when I would rather go there and play heavier on a day where I am collecting a point multiplier.

In theory, “free play day” is supposed to take place when I am mid-trip and should be used to run through and cash out.  So if I play $5 and build it up to $5 cash, I should cash out and run.  This does not often happen in reality though because I am a degenerate.

Yes, I color code my itineraries  Blue = meal, green = coupon/promotion, purple = thing to do (such as a show or spa treatment)

ACG = American Casino Guide coupon
LVA = Las Vegas Advisor “Member Rewards Book”
Mailer = From an offer I received based on my past play

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Breakfast: Main Street Station buffet – free with 250 points (ACG)
El Cortez $10 freeplay (ACG)
Binions $10 freeplay (LVA)
Four Queens $10 freeplay (LVA)
Las Vegas Club $10 freeplay ($5 ACG/$5 LVA)
Plaza $10 freeplay ($5 ACG/$5 LVA)
Fitzgeralds $50 freeplay – mailer

lunch: Fitzgeralds $25 dining credit mailer
Check into Riviera
Riviera $10 freeplay – mailer
Hooters $20 freeplay ($10 ACG/$10 LVA)
Orleans $5 freeplay mailer
Orleans $10 freeplay (LVA)
Gold Coast $10 free play (LVA)
Palms $40 free slot play coupon
Dinner: Orleans mailer $10 dining credit
Ellis Island $10 freeplay (ACG)

See?  What normal person would want to do all that traveling in one day, on public transportation, while on vacation?  That is the exactly my point.  If you have ever asked me for Las Vegas advice and did not feel like I was helpful, this is why.  Because I do this and I know you would not want to.  I do not know how to advise a normal person because I am not one.

My itineraries are basically a very well thought out plan on where to eat and play on specific days in order to maximize my comps.  Don’t get me wrong.  My trips are not scheduled as rigid as it may seem.  Lots of times, the itinerary goes right out the window the second I am in Vegas and see all the pretty lights and get instantly hypnotized by the pretty video poker machines.  There are times when I pull it out and look at it for the first time in days and see things like “Oh hey, I was at that place the other day and I forgot to use my coupon”

There are also days where I wake up and do actually look at my itinerary and think “I do not want to go there/do that today” so I don’t.  It’s that easy.

I have been writing Las Vegas trip reports for years.  This time, I am going to try something new.  I will post that day’s itinerary at the beginning of every day and we can see if I stuck to it or not.

8 thoughts on “How a Degenerate Gambler Plans a Trip to Las Vegas

  1. Jennifer Whitley

    Love this. Was planning on hitting Suncoast in January after reading a glowing trip report from someone on Vegas Message Board. And I wouldn’t have known about the 5x points coupon in the ACG if not for this blog post!! May I ask where you purchase your ACG – I was just going to go order one on Amazon for $13.13 unless there’s a better price elsewhere.

    Also, as far as stating that it takes gambling your whole budget to get comps at places like Aria, that’s not necessarily true. I checked my MLife offers the other day and have 2 free nights at *any* Vegas property (Sun-Thurs only), plus $75 in free play, plus 2-for-1 Cirque tickets. I was honestly shocked that Bellagio and Aria were included in that, but when I called they said that’s their standard marketing offer. Trust me, I gamble a lot less than $1600 on a single hand of blackjack. ; )

    1. jenniferjennifer Post author

      Oh I was not being literal about needing my entire budget to get comps at places like Aria. I don’t even know how much you need to play in any of the places I actually get comps at. I just know that whatever the amount is to get comped at any M-Life property may as well be a million dollars in action per day. Because I am just as likely to wager a million dollars a day as I am what the actual requirements are.

      I always get my ACG through pre-order on their website. They offer a discount for early bird buyers every year. And because I need to have the book in hand asap, I always order as soon as it’s up!

      1. Jennifer Whitley

        I know you were using hyperbole there… I just think you might be surprised if you gamble there a bit, what kind of offers you might start getting! And, I’ve always had very good luck at Aria. There’s a couple Invaders of the Planet Moolah machines there that I low roll (20-30 cents a spin) and always make out well on!

        So the Suncoast 5x coupon, can that be used on any day of the week? Just trying to plan out my January trip!

        1. jenniferjennifer Post author

          I have played at M-Life properties mannnnnnnnnnnnyyyyyyyyyyyyyy times before I worked out the comp game. So. Many. Times. Especially back when I was on a mission to stay in every Las Vegas hotel. I would play and play and play and hope for ANY sort of offer. I have never once gotten anything other than the generic discounted rates that anyone can get by signing up for offers on their website.

          I have to get back to you about the Suncoast coupon. Mine is buried inside my suitcase right now. I feel like it is good any day, but I will check for sure once I get to Vegas TONIGHT!!!!!

          1. Jennifer Whitley

            Really? OK that stinks!! What’s really weird in my situation is that I used to stay/play at Mirage for many many years until 2012 when I just stayed at CET properties… and now I’m getting better offers from MLife than ever before! After stiffing them for two years!! LOL!

  2. John

    I am now hooked on your Vegas trip reports. You are such a talented writer who can convey the exact emotions that all of us low rollers feel and go through on our way too many trips to Vegas!!

    1. jenniferjennifer Post author

      YAY Thank you so much for the kind words! If there is anything I am an expert on, it is being a losing low roller in Vegas.


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