This is the second entry in a series regarding our impressions during multiple Las Vegas trips. This entry focuses on our gaming experiences , most of which occurred at properties on the Las Vegas Strip. We restrict our gaming activities to slots, video poker, and blackjack. The quality of all these games and associated level of player – friendliness have all significantly regressed within the past three years ( at least ) in Las Vegas, particularly on the Strip.
Slots / Video Poker :
My wife and I enjoy playing penny or nickle slots, despite our complete knowledge that the casinos generally maintain prohibitive house edges on the majority of these mechanical / electronic devices. House edges on the lower denomination slots can easily average within the 8 – 15% category, with some machines scalding players beyond those levels. Despite these well – publicized house edges and numerous gaming expert warnings, slots are the most popular and generate the most revenue of all games in Las Vegas.
My wife is a classic low – roller ( average bet is 25 cents per spin ) unless she’s feeling wild (30 cents per spin ). Her major goals from slot play are to occasionally hit a free spin bonus and to find a machine at which she can stretch a single $5 dollar bill into a one – hour playing session. “Time on device ” is a slot machine metric that she and most slot players consider important since it directly relates to how long their bankrolls last over time at a certain average wager level.
My per spin bets average $1 – $1.25, but I use a 50% stop loss axiom. That is , when I reach the point where I’ve lost half of my buy – in amount on a given sit down session, I quit that machine. Often, I’ll quit much sooner than that on most machines. It depends on what is occurring at a given machine for that sit – down ( eg hit frequency, is it allowing reasonable time on device with an occasional return, is it hanging in there with me ?, etc ). It further depends on how exhausted I might be and how many cervezas I’ve recently consumed.
Despite the average slot expert’s opinion, I personally believe it is possible to identify individual machines with higher paybacks and / or hit frequencies ; the down side is the only way to locate such machines is by observing other people’s play or old – fashioned trial and error involving my gambling bankroll and sporadic southern – inflected vulgarities.
Video poker (VP) is one game that can be beaten because it is a true skill gaming option. VP players can study proven strategies that can mathematically enhance their odds with perfect play but it’s important to locate machines with acceptable paytables. VP players can discover the best and better payback machines in Vegas by checking the vpfree2 website.
I attempt to play video poker with the correct strategies and best paytables, but there are a very limited number of decent VP games on the Strip. Occasionally we’ll sojourn off – Strip to play the best VP games. I actually prefer to play higher payback slots versus VP because I enjoy them more, but I know I can find a mathematically better VP game with lower house edges and better player odds. It’s one of those dilemmas I enjoy fighting while in Las Vegas.
Some slot machine banks have average paybacks ( “up to ” 97, 98, 99% paybacks, etc ) posted on multi-colored neon signs above the bank area. This means that SOME of the machines within that bank will deliver that level of advertised payback in the long run ( over the life of the machine ). An individual slot player might sit down at a machine within this hypothetical bank and proceed to lose their entire bankroll at a rapid pace. Often, the better machines ( payback % ) within these advertised banks will be occupied even at weird times of day or night ( if there is such a thing in Las Vegas ). The Vegas locals who spend time at slot play have often already identified some of the better payback machines.
The trial and error approach still has application at these advertised high payback slot machine banks, and it’s still important to get a sense of what a given machine is doing at a particular session. Ultimately, the best approach for most slot machines is to get up and leave. However, despite the slot expert’s opinions, it is possible to locate a few machines that have reasonable payback percentages and time on device levels that offer players some enjoyment and a shot at actually generating a positive return. The key is locating them.
Stop – losses can help avoid a complete disaster where slot players lose too much money, their cool, and maybe even their significant other/s. I’ve seen several instances in Las Vegas where a single slot player is dropping money in and playing up to 4 machines simultaneously. There’s a problem of some sort there. All those references we’ve all seen regarding “problem gamblers” have merit…it’s amazing (and occasionally entertaining ) to observe a couple in a near – brawl state in the slot machine areas of Vegas casinos. An old gambler’s adage involves knowing when to leave ( or when to fold em ) and we feel it is among the wisest axioms a gambler can ascribe to. We are often successful at applying it ( we hope ).
My wife’s single largest sit – down slot win in Vegas was $424 at Planet Hollywood. My single largest slot win at a single sit down session was $1014 at the Flamingo. Both wins occurred over three years ago and were on penny denomination machines played at the bet levels described above. We’d like to divulge the specific machines we experienced these wins at, but … alas…we simply won’t.
In 2010 we received a free , three – night room offer to participate in a slot tournament at the Venetian. This was back before the Venetian’s comp program went into the sewer and it was a free shot at a great room. This was my first experience in a slot tournament, we got lucky ( completely ), placed third, and pocketed over three thousand dollars after all was said and done. My family and I had a truly fab time playing the $3000 worth of slot credits won at the tournament… an ultimate example of Vegas bonding.
I maintain a perpetual love – hate relationship with 21. My wife, who exhibits more consistent wisdom than I in most things, will not play blackjack. Like most players, I enjoy the challenges of this game that can offer the lowest house edges and best player odds of all Las Vegas casino games. Initially, part of the challenge is locating decent low – mid stakes ( $10 – $25 minimums ) games to play, which are increasingly more difficult to find in Vegas.
I also participate in this game to accumulate comps at several Strip properties where I often play 4 – 6 hours per day on Vegas trips. I attempt to only play the better games ( more player – favorable rules and other positive playing conditions ) and devote considerable effort both pre-trip and after arrival to locate the limited few decent games available. I abhor blackjack games with those lousy 6:5 payoffs for player naturals and most any game that has more than a 0.5% house edge off the top.
I’ve studied this game quite a bit and routinely employ perfect basic strategies at a given game with a known set of rules and number of decks. Despite these and other technical study approaches beyond the scope of this article, this game is quite difficult to beat with regularity. Mathematical elements way beyond the reach of basic strategy such as standard deviation, variance, and wild swings ( volatility ) can make a player engage in and win cussing contests with most sailors. Regardless, there are times when I enjoy nothing more than attempting to beat the casino by playing blackjack. Though I usually restrict playing sessions to an hour or less, I can’t count the number of times I’ve uttered the words “I’m almost done” to my significant other as she has approached the same 21 table for the nth time on a given night in Vegas.
Though I will not divulge the amounts of actual wins / losses from blackjack play in Las Vegas, I will share those places that have consistently offered the best player – favorable blackjack games and associated comps on the Strip. The five best places to play for me personally include Mandalay Bay, MGM Grand, Mirage, New York – New York, and Wynn. Readers will notice that there are no Caesars Entertainment properties listed. In my experience, the MGM Resorts properties consistently offer better blackjack games and comps than their major competitor on the Strip.
Playing for comps :
One of the big motivators for our gaming activities in Vegas is to acquire comps. There’s no way around spending some time and money at assorted gaming options to accumulate assorted freebies from the casinos. As eluded to above, we would be typically labeled as low rollers.
For those individuals who believe comps are only for high rollers, our experiences beg to disagree. We haven’t paid for a room in Las Vegas for more than five years ( 12 trips ) and have enjoyed numerous free meals. The effects of the recession, however, has forced noticably reduced comps from most Vegas Strip properties, particularly within the past twelve months. Generally, off – Strip properties offer more player – friendly comp programs than their kitschy Strip competitors. We, however, prefer the Strip for a lot of reasons that extend beyond gaming.
Three basic keys to accumulating value – conscious comps involves specific knowledge of the chosen games played, playing the better games ( lower house edges ), and knowing when to leave a gaming situation when it heads south and is rife with consistent losses. All those obvious factors involve hidden values that directly affect how much cash remains in one’s pocket as opposed to leaving it with the casinos. Further, playing games of skill (eg blackjack and video poker ) that involve informed strategies and decisions can directly affect the overall monetary outcome of gaming and comp accruals.
Our comps have resulted from an average of 4 – 6 hours per day of blackjack at average bets of $15 – $20 per hand and slot play of 4 hours per day at the average per – spin levels described above. The selection of more player – friendly games, skilled play, and knowing when to get up and leave have all been crucial to our overall monetary gaming results on Vegas trips. Comp awards have been a big part of that overall picture for us.