Use A Blackjack Strategy Card At The Table

Blackjack Strategy Card
Blackjack Strategy Card

 

A couple of weeks ago I played a little blackjack with Mark from the 360 Vegas podcast at The D in Downtown Vegas. We had a blast and I had my first winning blackjack session in far too long. My level of perfection with blackjack strategy is about 90%-95% accurate. It’s not perfect but good enough for me.

Mark used a blackjack strategy card as a reference every time he wasn’t sure what the right play was. I haven’t seen someone use a blackjack strategy card in a casino in a while and that’s silly. Blackjack strategy cards are legal to use at the table and cost less than $5 whether you buy in a casino or via amazon (links below).

$5 for blackjack strategy card is a small investment that you should recoup in your first session or two of blackjack, even if you’re playing at a $5 table. Over time you should learn the correct plays without having to use the card. This is a great item to keep on hand in Vegas if you’re unsure how to play blackjack perfectly or you’re drinking a few too many to think straight this comes in handy.

Over time it may not matter mathematically if you or others at the blackjack table play with perfect strategy but in the moment making the wrong play stinks when you lose. Making the wrong play also makes other players cranky.

Gambling should be fun. Don’t make people cranky.

Buy on Amazon
Single Blackjack Strategy Card (4/6/8 decks) – $2.67
Set of 6 Blackjack Strategy Cards (different rules) – $12.78

Why I Deleted MyVegas Blackjack

MyVegas Blackjack Game
MyVegas Blackjack

I play blackjack every now and again in the casino but unlike some of my friends I enjoy other games like 3 Card Poker or Mississippi Stud. When I do play blackjack in a casino I always want to play using correct basic strategy. Over time wins and losses will even out so I don’t really worry about other players. I just want to make sure I make the right moves – for me and for the table.

MyVegas Blackjack was introduced in the beginning of October (see details on Vegas Chatter). I downloaded the MyVegas Blackjack game to see what it was like. While MyVegas Blackjack is a game for fun it wasn’t as simple as a traditional blackjack game.

There’s a “Bold Play Meter” (aka “Wrong Play Meter”) which makes the game fun but rewards the player for making the wrong plays. This feature made me pause. I enjoyed playing MyVegas Blackjack more than I expected. However,

I had to delete MyVegas Blackjack from all of my devices.

MyVegas Blackjack was creating some bad habits in my blackjack game because of the ability to earn more points for bad moves. I enjoyed this feature a bit too much and had to stop. I have some friends coming to town that will play blackjack, almost exclusively, for a 4 straight days. I need my blackjack skills sharp for when we play.

Continue reading “Why I Deleted MyVegas Blackjack”

Lots Of Craps Talk On This Weeks “You Can Bet On That” Podcast

Golden Gate Sexy Craps Dealers
Golden Gate Sexy Craps

Craps is my favorite game in the casino. If there was only one game in a casino that I had to talk about it would be craps.

The most recent “You Can Bet On That” podcast (July 3) talks a lot about craps odds and strategy. You can stream or download for iTunes for free. Links are below.

Gambling Forums

Here’s a short lists of some gambling forums and websites to use as reference.

All Vegas Poker
BJ21
Gambling Teachers
Jeff Lotspiech’s Video Poker Page
Poker News Daily
Two Plus Two Poker
VP Free 2
VP Free 2 – Mobile
Wizard of Odds
Video Poker Forum
vpFree (Yahoo Group)

Tweet me @MeltzVegas with any forums you think should be added.

Surprise! ESPN Analysts Aren’t Actual Analysts

NFL Logo
NFL

ESPN on-air talent is mostly made up of former players disguised as analysts and communications majors as the play-by-play or “straight guy”. To be fair most sports on television is set up like this. Players are trusted by the general public to offer an educated opinion based on their experience. That’s a fallacy. The Linemakers shed light on this after analyzing ESPN’s analysis of the NFL schedule earlier this week.

ESPN asked each of the 32 team experts for their predictions of the regular-season records for the teams they cover. ESPN admits the predictions were made independently of other experts, and that’s great, because we want to see what each of these “experts” honestly and independently think without consulting with their cohorts around the league.

Still …. with 32 teams playing 16 games, there are a total of 256 games. Thus, there are 256 winners and 256 losers (ties aside). So when these reporters predicted the regular-season records, we should see exactly 256 winners and 256 losers. But of course, that isn’t what happened.

When the 32 “experts” predicted the each team’s 2014 record after seeing the NFL schedule released on Wednesday:

— There were 290 “wins” and only 222 “losses”

— Only five teams were projected to finish sub-.500: the Redskins (7-9), Bills (7-9), Jaguars (7-9), Browns (6-10) and Raiders (5-11)

–13 teams were projected to record double-digit wins

For comparison, over the last three years, an average of 14 teams per year finished sub-.500.

Furthermore, projecting 290 wins equates to 9.1 wins per team. Essentially, on average, these “experts” project the average team will be BETTER than 9-7! Again, ludicrous and impossible.

I’m not going to bash ESPN because they’re an entertainment network more than a place for analysis. In fact, most of what you see on TV is for mainstream entertainment. It’s a shame that we need to police what’s on TV but it’s great that people like Warren Sharp can analyze this information and share the truth.

Without getting too preachy, it’s important to be aware of what the mainstream media passes of as fact if you bet on sports – especially football. Football is the most popular sport on TV and most popular sport to bet on. The general betting public listens to these talking heads and bets based on this information. While some of the information shared by the talking heads on TV may be true it’s not all true and it’s not all based on fact.

Knowing when false information is being shared on TV is helpful. Use that information to your advantage when betting. There’s a place for mainstream information and a place for analytical information. When combined you have a powerful combination. You can see that by the podcasts I listen to.

Prepare For The NFL Season With Player Values

Peyton Manning Broncos
Peyton Manning Broncos

The NFL season starts in about 9 hours with the Baltimore Ravens playing the Denver Broncos. To say I’m stoked is an understatement. I was so ready to get ready for the season that I wrote about 9 great resources for betting football a few weeks ago on Vegas Chatter.

Do what I say not what I do. As much as I wanted to prepare for the season I haven’t studied a lick about the NFL. I’m going in fairly blind and I hate that. I’ll just ease into the season with some (very) light action.

While making the rounds on twitter the other day I found an article on Grantland detailing how the smart guys in Las Vegas value NFL players. This is information that you won’t typically find in the mainstream media.

Quarterbacks

Peyton Manning: 7 points
Tom Brady: 6.5 points
Aaron Rodgers: 6 points
Drew Brees: 6 points

Non-Quarterbacks

Adrian Peterson: 2.5 points
Calvin Johnson: 1.5 points
C.J. Spiller: 1.5 points
Arian Foster: 1.5 points
Jamaal Charles: 1.5 points

I look at this point value list as something similar to a gamblers individual football game version of WAR in baseball. The complete list is much longer for each group in the Grantland article. Knowing the approximate value of players to other gamblers allows you to adjust to any spread if/when one of these guys gets hurt. You may or may not agree with the numbers but it’s a good baseline to work from.

This article is written by RJ Bell from Pregame.com who recently started writing for Grantland. RJ knows a lot of sports bettors in Las Vegas and has a lot of betting specific information to share. RJ’s column seems like it will have some useful information if you’re looking for another resource to prepare for the NFL week. If you don’t need another 5 minute read follow @RJinVegas.

Photo: CBS 

Seven Stars Insider – September Edition

Maroon 5 Total Rewards Concert
Maroon 5 at Total Rewards Concert

Here are highlights from the latest edition of Seven Stars Insider. As always it has lots of information, especially for the Atlantic City players. This is an easy read and an excellent resource for Caesars Total Rewards players. It’s still long but full of information. Head over to Seven Stars Insider to sign up for the newsletter.

NOTE: While this newsletter was originally designed exclusively for Seven Stars cardholders, there is useful information for anyone who has a Total Rewards® player’s card and/or plays/stays at a Caesars property. Please feel free to pass this on to your friends. Back issues of the Seven Stars Insider newsletter are available online at http://www.sevenstarsinsider.com.

LAS VEGAS

‘Book Me On The Next Flight To LAS!’
Once again Caesars marketing folks have outdone themselves in the “dumb offers” department. Why would they offer complimentary accommodations and show tickets as a special incentive to travel to Las Vegas when, as a Seven Stars cardholder, I’m entitled to these benefits anyway?

LAUGHLIN

‘Toys’ Aren’t Us
Justifying the request by citing the increasing popularity of bachelor and bachelorette parties, inspired perhaps by such films as “The Hangover”, Caesars has petitioned Clark County to allow casino gift shops to sell a limited inventory of sex toys and other “marital aids”. However, members of the Laughlin Town Advisory sent a strong message to county commissioners by voting to deny the request. The issue will go before the Board of County Commissioners on September 18.

ATLANTIC CITY

Dream On
The fourth – and final – planned installment of the popular nightly light show at Boardwalk Hall is now on display. Titled “AC Dreamin’”, it features two people who, after taking a train ride to Atlantic City, discover a variety of things the city has to offer. It features the same assortment of animation, music, video and 3-D lighting as the three other shows that have been produced over the past year, but this time there is a story with people and narration. In the eight-minute video the two people stay in a luxurious hotel, enjoy rides and games on the Boardwalk, and observe an underwater beach.

Go East, Young Man
The “mystery man” I chose not to identify last month is Rick Mazer, a top Las Vegas gambling executive, who started his career 30 years ago as a craps dealer. According to several published reports, in a filing last month with the New Jersey Casino Control Commission, Mazer applied for licensing as a key employee, senior vice president and general manager of Harrah’s Resort.

In addition, Caesars spokesman Gary Thompson said Mazer will oversee the $125.8 million convention center expansion at Harrah’s and the company’s proposed $1 billion hotel-casino development Suffolk Downs Race Track in East Boston, Mass. He comes to Atlantic City after serving as president of Harrah’s, Flamingo and The Quad in Las Vegas, as well as overseeing the $550 million Linq project that will include retail shops, restaurants and a 550-foot “High Roller” observation wheel. Prior to his Las Vegas tenure, Mazer was general manager of the Horseshoe Hammond in Indiana.

No word on what role, if any, Mazer will have in the management of Bally’s, Caesars and Showboat, as well as Harrah’s Philadelphia in Chester, Pa.

Was It Something I Said?
The Boardwalk Buffet at Caesars will close September 16 for much needed improvements. In the meantime, those who crave a breakfast buffet will have to settle for the tasteless, rubbery pre-made omelets, greasy bacon and other abominations at Café Roma.

PHILADELPHIA

Get Into The Kitchen
If you’re in the Philadelphia area – or plan to travel there, Harrah’s has a unique venue to hold your annual Seven Stars celebration dinner. Its Chef’s Table in the kitchen at The Cove will dazzle you and your guests, and make the evening a truly special occasion.

The Chef’s Table can accommodate up to 10 people, and the menu can be tailored just about any way you want. Do you prefer an Asian or Italian-themed meal? No problem. Have a certain budget in mind? They’ll work with you. Have a particular entrée in mind? Chef Erick will prepare it to your specifications. Want to just order off the regular menu, but watch how your meal is prepared? Done!

If you’ve never witnessed a professional restaurant kitchen in action – short of “Top Chef” or one of those television reality shows – this is your opportunity.

You just need to give them advance notice so they can work out the menu and other details with you. Contact your host to get things started.

Special Seven Stars Benefits
Harrah’s knows how to treat its Seven Stars
cardholders:

  •  Look for the special Seven Stars-only cashier at the main cage. You can’t miss the sign over the entrance to two dedicated windows. You may have to ring the bell to get some service because they’re not always staffed, but, while you’re waiting, you can always enjoy a delicious piece of wrapped chocolate with the Seven Stars logo. You might even want to slip a couple pieces of the delicious morsels in your pocket – just don’t forget or you’ll find a gooey mess once you return home. Yep, I’ll admit it, I did just that! What a mess!
  • To check into the Diamond Lounge, look for the dedicated path leading to the desk where you’ll be the next person called if there’s a line. (I’ve heard staff members warning of up to 45-minute – or longer – waits to get in on a busy weekend night.) Someone also comes to greet and escort you to special reserved tables by the windows overlooking the racetrack.
  • The Seven Stars Happy Hour is still held on Fridays, but the time has changed. It’s now from 5 to 7 p.m. in the lounge at the Cove. In addition to complimentary cocktails for the Seven Stars cardholder and a guest, passed hors d’ouevre are served.

AND IN OTHER INSIDER NEWS. . . .

Love Boat
With few exceptions, nearly everyone I heard from raved about their Signature Experience cruise to Bermuda last month. There was some minor quibbling about an overly crowded cocktail reception at the hotel in New York the night before the cruise, but, overall, it sounds like Caesars earned its “A+” on this one. A second and third cruise have been scheduled for this month and next, respectively.

Getting To Know You – Part One
If there is one question I get most often, it’s: “Why can’t casinos better tailor their offers to my schedule?”

Players frequently complain that their mailboxes are filled with offers of free food and bonus slot play, but they’re valid on days when they never travel to their favorite casinos. “I get offers for $50 in food and $150 in free play all the time, but they’re good only Monday through Thursday,” one person told me. “Can’t they tell by my play that I only travel here on weekends? It’s like they know I can’t use these offers, but they think I’ll be impressed just by receiving them. Guess what? It just angers me and makes me
want to play someplace else.”

Getting To Know You – Part Two
Speaking of tailoring offers to customers, one Seven Stars cardholder sent me his offer of a comp room in Atlantic City, as well as the chance to convert Reward Credits into free slot play. “Considering that, with 48 hours’ notice, I’m supposed to be able to get comp rooms anywhere – OK, I know there are some exceptions – why can’t my mailer from Harrah’s Resort recognize my Seven Stars status and include some other sort of promotion or ad?” he writes. “Also, as a Seven Stars cardholder I’m supposed to be able to convert my Reward Credits for slot play at a discount – $5 for 675 Reward Credits (a ‘retail value’ of $6.75), yet my mailer is telling me it’s $5 for 1,000 credits (a ‘retail value’ of $10’).”

Door Stop
Companion cardholders who have access to a Diamond Lounge based on their own play should show their Diamond cards when they check-in. I’ve heard several reports of players being embarrassed when they were told they couldn’t bring a guest into the lounge. The person at the door just didn’t pay attention and assumed that these Companion cardholders weren’t eligible for entry based on their own play.

Gifts That Keep On Giving
How many more sets of luggage, pots and pans, or manufacturers’ close-outs do we really need? Last month, for example, Bally’s and Harrah’s Resort in Atlantic City gave out pancake makers and breakfast sandwich makers. Do any of us really need these? I don’t know about you, but I’m trying to reduce clutter in my kitchen. If the casinos are going to continue to dole out gifts, how about something useful like the ubiquitous gas cards or Visa gift cards?

At least these don’t have to be shipped across country, warehoused and delivered to ballrooms for distribution – and then schlepped home by us. Code Green, anyone?

Hold On
Apparently no one from Total Rewards has been subjected to the monotonous – and out-of-date – “on hold” message you get while you’re waiting to make a reservation or calling with a question. For approximately three minutes – and then it repeats – you hear blurbs about Lake Tahoe, Atlantic City, Tunica, etc., as well as the newest addition to Total Rewards, Horseshoe Casino in Cincinnati “which will open this spring”

Survey Says. . .
Last month I asked you whether you preferred attending city- or casino-specific events open to all Seven Stars cardholders, e.g., the events in 2012 held in Atlantic City and Las Vegas, or having your choice of several different types of events. The responses fell into two categories: those who were able to reserve space on the August cruise to Bermuda and those who didn’t. Those who went on the cruise hope another one is scheduled next year, not only because they really enjoyed themselves, but because they also felt the entire package had a much greater monetary value than any of the other choices. The rest preferred the types of weekend events which were held in the past.

This Month’s Survey
My guess is that the staff at Total Rewards is already working on the details of next year’s Seven Stars (and Diamond and Platinum) program, hopefully tweaking some rules and considering suggestions from its many surveys. Here is a portion of my “wish list”:

  • For the annual retreat and Level I Signature Experience, allow the $500 folio credit to be used for food and beverage, as well as other charges such as spa treatments, in-house show tickets, etc. Many of us travel alone and cannot possibly use that amount of money on meals. Plus, if you’re staying at a casino that does not allow Reward Credits to be used for alcoholic beverages, or you don’t drink alcoholic beverages, that makes it all the more difficult to spend the $500.
  • Offer an option or some sort of alternative for those who don’t like to travel or travel by air. The annual retreat and the Level I Signature Experience each currently includes up to a $1,200 airfare reimbursement. While I know that concessions have been made “privately” for some customers, why not codify this “officially” with some alternatives that might include a mileage reimbursement for those who prefer to drive or offer some variation of the popular “stay-cation” where someone can choose a retreat at his/her “home” casino and get the transportation credit in the form of free play or a gift card?
  • For those who are comfortable making their own travel arrangements, let us skip the “middleman” [a casino host] and make our own travel arrangements with Passport? And, while you’re at it, waive that $10 per ticket charge that Passport imposes. After all, you’re forcing us to use Caesars own travel agency, then you take $10 per ticket off whatever amount you’re giving us as a reward for our play.
  • Don’t force us to have that one-time $500 celebration dinner. Many of us have a difficult time organizing a group for dinner, or don’t live near a local casino where we can invite our friends and family to dine. Just add extra Reward Credits to our account, and let us spend them as we choose.
  • We all have different “needs” and tastes, so offer free play or a gift card as one of the options for the annual gift. I know you’re trying to give Seven Stars cardholders a variety of benefits, e.g., a trip, a dinner, a gift, etc., but, at this stage in our lives, most of have just about everything we want or have the ability to purchase it.

I could go on and on, but I’d like to hear from you. What changes would you make to the 2014-2015 Seven Stars program? Send me an email and I’ll share your thoughts – anonymously, of course.

 

Word Of Advice To Slot Players

Hot Hot Penny Slot Machine
Hot Hot Penny!

One of my go-to references for gaming odds and strategy is Wizard of Odds. I often reference their strategy guides when I’m unsure of the specific math behind game strategy. While looking for some information on slot machines over the weekend I found something that I needed to share.

Most players play penny video slots. Based on past research, I find the house edge on those to usually be set from 6% to 15%. In general, the nicer the casino, the tighter the slots.

I’ve noticed this over the years on both ends of the spectrum. Even though casinos have to meet specific return minimums from slot machines within legal parameters of their respective gaming commissions but I’ve noticed that all hotels cater their slot machines to their customer.

As the quote states I’ve also noticed that the nicer the casino the tighter their lower denomination slot machines tend to be. At the same time the higher denomination slot machines in those high-end casinos tend to be a little looser. The same can be said for some of the lower end casinos who cater to penny slot players. Their penny slot machines will likely return a couple more percentage points.

Casino companies are just marketing to their customer. Wynn, Encore and The Venetian want a higher end customer than Circus Circus, Luxor and Excalibur and their gaming reflects that.

This is just low roller and high roller hotels catering to their customer. There’s nothing shady going on but it is something to be aware of when choosing where you gamble. 

Don’t Chase

Video Keno Game At Red Rock Las Vegas
Video Keno

Poker has taught me a lot of lessons that I can apply when gambling and in the real world. Knowing when I’m on tilt, slow playing and not chasing come in equally as handy with friends and business associates as they do when gambling on other games. One thing from poker that comes up way too often in other casino games is chasing. Chasing losses specifically.

Losing sucks. There’s nothing we want to do more than avenge our losses. It’s human nature. After listening to so many smart gamblers say not to chase losses I finally buckled down and stopped. Playing poker on tilt and chasing losses rarely turns into making good decisions. Chasing losses in the casino can happen anywhere from the sportsbook to the blackjack table.

We all gamble to hopefully make money but chasing losses rarely turns into money. Making irrational decisions is rarely fun and rarely profitable. Fool me once shame on you, fool me 100 times, shame on me. Chasing losses is out of my system but chasing isn’t.

Over the weekend I was drinking coffee and doing a little work on the photo blog at Red Rock Resort (more on the photo blog another time) when I decided to play Keno while taking a break. I don’t play Keno because it’s boring and has a huge house advantage. I only played because I saw that a jackpot that had to hit by $100 was up to $93 and there was nobody playing. I figured I can play a few minutes and snag a few bucks. Not so fast my friend.

2 hours later (yeah, 2 hours!) I was down almost $100 and a little old lady sat down and snaked my bonus in about 3 games. Not only did I lose money but I was now cranky. However, I learned a valuable lesson – Don’t chase progressive jackpots. 

Like 99% of gamblers, I’m not a professional. I gamble to have fun. Sure I want to win but I want to have fun. Chasing never leads to having fun. Results from chasing losses in sports betting are rarely fun and don’t usually pay off over time. The same can be said for chasing bonuses.

Lesson learned.

No more Keno, no more chasing losses in sports betting and no more chasing jackpots. Sometimes it takes real life experiences to realize something that should be obvious.

Seven Stars Insider April Edition

Cat Deeley at Escape to Total Rewards
Cat Deeley

Here’s the latest edition of Seven Stars Insider. It’s a big one with lots of information, especially for the Atlantic City players. This is an easy read and an excellent resource for Caesars Total Rewards players. It’s long, but full of information. Head over to Seven Stars Insider to sign up for the newsletter.

Happy New Year!

I know this is April, but for Total Rewards it’s a brand new year of benefits.  The next 12 months will go fast, so consider making your plans early for the annual trip, oh, excuse me, “Retreat” (see more on this below) and celebration dinner (or dinners – yes, you’ll get a second valued at $100 once you earn 40,000 tier credits this year).  While you’re at it, go ahead and select your annual gift.

Benefits?

Spending 125 comp dollars for $1 of free play is great if you use your Reward Credits that way, but some of the other benefits being touted are a little pathetic:

  • In order to offer complimentary early check-in (which was never a problem as long as a room was clean), Caesars instituted a charge for everyone but its best players.  That’s like adding an extra charge for daily housekeeping, but telling Seven Stars and Diamond cardholders they get it for free.
  • Advance notice and the ability to purchase tickets for certain concerts and shows?  Just about any casino, stadium, theater, arena or similar venue offers that – all you have to do is give them your email.

Signature Events

While it’s a nice change from the past, the first word that came to mind as I was reading the list of options was “leftovers”.  Jazz Fest, the 4th of July Celebration and a Forum Shops shopping spree were – and still are – among the Signature Experiences Caesars offers.  Plus, a lot of Seven Stars cardholders can probably get their hands on complimentary tickets to the Vegas Uncork’d event or Shania Twain without “wasting” their Signature Event.  And getting complimentary rooms shouldn’t be a problem.  In addition. . .

  •  Anyone who wants to go to Jazz Fest will hopefully be within driving distance.  With such short notice, airfares – which already are inflated during this time – are through the roof.
  • The Fashion Weekend is over Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year and the first of the High Holy Days.  Rosh Hashanah begins at sunset Wednesday, September 4, and ends at nightfall Friday, September 6.
  • I can’t blame Caesars for this, but it seems a little insensitive of the Miss America Organization to schedule this year’s pageant over Yom Kippur, considered by many as the holiest day of the year.  Yom Kippur begins at sunset Friday, September 13, and ends at nightfall Saturday, September 14.  Friday is the first of two rehearsal days and Saturday is the “Show Us Your Shoes Parade” (not “Parade of Shoes” as Caesars calls it) on the Atlantic City Boardwalk.

By the way, you won’t find the Signature Events on the Total Rewards Web site yet, but you can access them by clicking here. 

Retreating From A ‘Getaway’

One change from last year’s Seven Stars program is that the “Annual Getaway To Any TR Resort or Casino” has been renamed “Annual Retreat To Any TR Resort or Casino”.  Did anyone bother to look up the definition of the word “retreat”?  Among them are “a movement away from danger or a confrontation, back along the original route”, “a withdrawal from a position or point of view to one intended to lessen conflict”, “a period of quiet rest and contemplation in a secluded place”, and “a quiet secluded place where people go for rest and privacy”.  Not sure any of those accurately describes a trip to a casino.  Or is Caesars suggesting we retreat from its casinos and play/stay elsewhere?  In any event, it’s an unfortunate choice of words.

The Fine Print

Among the “Rules & Regulations” – printed in a typeface about half the size of the rest of the book, is “Movie benefit is available at participating Total Rewards casinos only.  Please check with your host or Total Rewards for more details.”  This is the first and only reference I could find to movies.  Seasoned Seven Stars cardholders will be familiar with this, but those new to the program may be scratching their heads.  Related to this, there is no mention of complimentary Internet access or boarding pass printing – benefits which Seven Stars cardholders have come to expect.  Some properties, but not all, also provide complimentary local and toll-free calls.  Word to the wise: If any of these benefits/services is important to you, ask at the front desk when you check-in.

A Little More Notice, Please

In addition to learning about the Jazz Fest Signature Event about a month before it begins, my invitation to a Seven Stars Renewal Event at Harrah’s Philadelphia arrived a little more than two weeks prior to the dinner. (The return address was Total Rewards in Las Vegas, but it’s not unusual to get invitations from Harrah’s Philadelphia as little as two or three days before an event.  Kind of makes you feel like not enough people responded and you were an after-thought to help fill the room.)  In Atlantic City, many Platinum cardholders got a similar two-week notice for a coupon book giveaway.  We all know that these events are planned far in advance.  At a minimum, Caesars should consider a “Save The Date” email.  Contrary to what it may appear, some of us do have “a life” that includes weekend activities other than gambling.

Left Hand, Meet Right Hand – Part I

I probably received more than 30 emails from readers who called last month to book one of the 2013 Signature Events, only to get what was essentially a verbal “deer in the headlights” reaction at the other end of the telephone.  Here’s a good example:

“I called the toll-free number and the operator didn’t seem to know anything about these.  She asked me for an offer code (I assume she means on an invitation she thought I received in the mail) which I do not have.”

When I called to inquire about the cruise, I was put on hold for about seven minutes, only to be told that no one knew anything about it, that “it hasn’t been loaded into our system yet”, and “a host or someone from Marketing will get in touch with you.”  (Someone did call me back four days later.)

Left Hand, Meet Right Hand – Part II

In addition to the emails from players, I received several more from Caesars employees – especially those who work at properties where the Seven Stars Signature Events are being held.  None of them was aware of any of these and added that, more often or not, they learn about what’s going on in the company from my newsletters and emails.  What was it I wrote about last month?  Communication, communication, communication.

In Memoriam

Since it’s the beginning of a new year for Total Rewards, like the Oscars, the Grammys and other awards programs, it’s time to look back on some of the things we’ve lost over the past 12 or so months.  (I’m sure you can think of more!)

  •          The Range at Harrah’s Las Vegas (now a Ruth’s Chris Steak House)
  •          BarleyQue at Harrah’s Philadelphia (now Philly Tap and Tavern)
  •          Don Marrandino (formerly Eastern Division president of Caesars Entertainment)
  •          Canal Street Bread & Sandwich Co. (now Earl of Sandwich) and the Mansion Café (now banquet and meeting space) at Showboat Atlantic City
  •          Food and beverage outlets that accept comps on a 1:1 basis (too many to mention)
  •          Show in the Sky and Lucky Strike Bowling Lanes at Rio
  •          Café Cappuccino (now Café Tazza – where comps are accepted, but at 2:1) and Temptations at Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City
  •          The Imperial Palace (now The Quad)
  •          Human Nature at the Imperial Palace (now at the Venetian)
  •          Being able to purchase the Press of Atlantic City at any Atlantic City casino gift shop
  •          The Virginia City Buffet at Wild Wild West in Atlantic City
  •          PNC ATMs in all Atlantic City casinos
  •          Bradley Ogden’s (now Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill) and Nero’s Steakhouse (now The Old Homestead) at Caesars Palace
  •          The President’s Lounge at the Summit at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe
  •          Complimentary early check-in (all Caesars casino hotels)
  •          An extra hour (from 11 p.m. to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays) at the four Diamond Lounges in Atlantic City
  •          Shrimp served Sundays through Thursdays in Atlantic City Diamond Lounges
  •          Monday and Tuesday opening of Bally’s Atlantic City’s Diamond Lounge
  •          Thursday opening of Harrah’s Resorts Atlantic City Seven Stars Lounge
  •          The TR Insider program
  •          Complimentary soft drink refills at 6ix a Bistro (Bally’s Atlantic City)
  •          “No Resort Fees” at select Caesars Nevada casino hotels.
  •          Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall & Saloon (to become next year the Gansevoort Las Vegas)
  •          The Bank of America Total Rewards Visa credit card (now issued by Comenity Bank)
  •          Most of the Wild Wild West at Bally’s in Atlantic City

Ak Chin

Drinks On The House

A reader reports that Seven Stars cardholders may now get coupons for free drinks to be used while actively playing in the casino.

 

Harrah’s New Orleans

Diamond Lounge Returns To Original Location

It was nice while it lasted.  The way-too-small Diamond Lounge at Harrah’s has returned to its original location in the High Limits area.  The move to what was formerly Bambu restaurant was only temporary due to the anticipated larger crowds in town for Super Bowl and Mardi Gras.  During Jazz Fest, which begins later this month and continues through the first weekend in May, a special Seven Stars Hospitality Lounge will be set-up.

Las Vegas

Gansevoort Las Vegas (formerly Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall & Saloon)

Movin’ On Up

The Las Vegas Strip will join the Caribbean resort islands of the Turks and Caicos, as well as Park Avenue in New York and that city’s Meatpacking District when a $185 million redevelopment will transform Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall & Saloon into the Gandesvoort Las Vegas.  Expected to open in early 2014, the hotel will have 188 “Parisian apartment-style rooms” – including 19 suites.  The building is being remodeled to include a new lobby area, a redesigned lobby bar, ultra-lounge, retail outlets and a 40,000 square-foot casino.  A restaurant overlooking the Strip also will be developed, as well as Drai’s Beach Club and Nightclub, a 65,000 square-foot indoor-outdoor nightclub and rooftop pool area overlooking the Strip.

Atlantic City

No Sale

The Pier Shops at Caesars thought they found a buyer in Michael Kohan, a New York real estate investor who specializes in taking over distressed shopping centers.  However, the deal fell through, according to an internal memo from mall General Manager Harry Geety.  Kohan said he wanted to keep the mall’s upscale appearance, but would add more lower-priced stores to make shopping more affordable for Atlantic City tourists.  According to an article in the Press of Atlantic City, Kohan said he remains “ready, willing and able” to close a deal.  But Geety’s memo indicates that the mall has ended negotiations.

The Unfairness Doctrine

It seems a little unfair considering it happened in Las Vegas – and in 2007, but New Jersey has fined Caesars Entertainment $225,000 for a drugs, sex and gambling scandal at Caesars Palace and Rio.  The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement claims that the company’s alleged misconduct in Las Vegas had the potential to harm the reputation of the casino industry across the country.  The case involved a Nebraska businessman who gambled away millions of dollars and was indicted by a grand jury for failing to pay $14.7 million in gambling debts.  The charges were later dropped in a settlement with Caesars.  The high-roller then filed a civil lawsuit alleging that Caesars allowed him to gamble even though it knew he was incapacitated by drugs and alcohol, further alleging that Caesars Entertainment personnel plied him with alcohol and repeatedly gave him pain killers without a doctor’s diagnosis or a prescription.

Throwing The Book At Them. . .If They Can Be There To Catch It

Those annual coupon booklets, so popular with new and renewing Diamond cardholders, are being given out this year April 19 and 20 (April 12 and 13 for Platinum cardholders).  Several Diamond and Platinum cardholders have contacted me to express their disappointment because they’ve already made plans and can’t change them – one couple has booked a cruise through an offer from Caesars.  I agree. . .it doesn’t seem fair.  You spend all year earning this benefit, then Caesars gives you a few weeks’ notice and eight hours over two days to claim it.  (Also, the Friday giveaway times are 2 to 6 p.m. – difficult for most “working people” who have a 9-5 job Monday through Friday.)  In my opinion, it’s one of the best Diamond and Platinum card benefits.  I wish there was something similar for Seven Stars cardholders.

R.I.P. TR Insiders

The final Insiders event took place March 15 to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.  Aside from the deafening music – when is Caesars going to wise-up and turn down the volume at its events? – the staff at Showboat got it right. The promised cocktails and hors d’ouevres turned out to be a complete dinner buffet that was frequently refreshed and looked extremely appetizing.  (Because I expected only cocktails, I made other dinner plans, so I didn’t get to sample anything.)  And there was plenty of seating.  I was a little put-off by the “little person” dressed as a leprechaun who greeted guests at the door, but if he didn’t object, why should I?

Is Anyone Out There Listening?

A reader got a “Host Survey” from Caesars Atlantic City casinos only to be surprised when the questions centered on a host he never knew he had.  He made it clear he was pretty unhappy that this person had never contacted him, and expected someone from the casino would have responded to his concerns.  He’s still waiting. Another reader sent me an email describing a similar experience.  Kind of makes you wonder if anyone ever reads these surveys.

Ban The Scan

Depending on the day of the week and where you park, Seven Stars and Diamond cardholders may no longer be able to scan their valet parking tickets to retrieve their vehicles.  The scanner was working at Harrah’s on a Monday morning, but the cashiers at Caesars and Showboat told me that so many players were giving their Total Rewards cards to friends that cashiers were told to check IDs and manually process the tickets.  While it really doesn’t delay things that much, it was a nice convenience.  Be prepared to show ID at the self-parking garages too – again, these generally are spot checks, but it’s happening more and more often.

Diamond Lounge Hours

Don’t count on the Total Rewards Web site for accurate information on the hours for the Diamond Lounges in Atlantic City.  The actual hours are

Sunday: Noon to 8 p.m.

Monday – Thursday: 2 to 8 p.m. (Bally’s is closed Mondays and Tuesdays)

Friday: 2 to 11 p.m.

Saturday: Noon to 11 p.m.

Last admittance is a half hour before posted closing; last call is approximately 20 minutes before posted closing. Food service on Fridays and Saturdays ends at 10 p.m.

Disappearing Act

Magician Steve Wyrick may be making things disappear over at the Golden Nugget, but I’m pretty sure he had nothing to do with the fact that the local Press of Atlantic City newspaper has disappeared from the shelves of Caesars four casino gift shops, and you no longer can pick up a complimentary copy of the weekly At The Shore– also published by the Press.  [Full disclosure: I write a biweekly column for At The Shore.]  According to one employee who wished to remain anonymous, this is “retaliation” for the unflattering article the Press published last month about Bally’s (see below).  How childish and unprofessional!  Didn’t anyone consider how this might inconvenience hotel guests who would enjoy reading the morning paper over breakfast?  Caesars also has cancelled its advertising in the daily newspaper.  Caesars pulled a similar stunt at its Las Vegas hotels a few years ago when the Review-Journal published something it didn’t like.  The ban lasted about a year, as I recall.

Bally’s

‘Casual Dining’

While the list of “casual dining” outlets on the back of a promotional mailing from Bally’s lists Nanking, Primo Pizza, Harry’s Oyster Bar, Noodle Village, Wild Wings, Johnny Rockets, Corner Café and Sack O’ Subs, don’t try to use the coupons in that same mailing at any of those places.

 The coupons say “Select Caesars, Harrah’s Resort, Showboat or Bally’s casual dining outlets”.  For the record, the coupons are good at the following places:

Bally’s – Preview and 6ix a Bistro

Caesars – Café Roma and Kwi

Harrah’s – Sammy D’s, Bill’s Bar and Burger, and Waterfront Buffet

Showboat – Crossroads and French Quarter Buffet 

According to Mary at Harrah’s Room Service, the coupons also are good for Room Service at any of the four properties.  As always, check to be sure the listed outlets or Room Service will accept the coupons before placing your order.

Not Much Ballyhoo Over Bally’s

Bally’s doesn’t fare so well in an article published last month in the Press of Atlantic City.  “It’s an eyesore.  It’s a shame,” the article quotes a Maryland tourist.  The article relates how Caesars Entertainment began sealing off parts of the Wild Wild West last year to replace some of the casino space with new retail and entertainment attractions.  To date nothing has been built, and Caesars says it has no updates to announce on any redevelopment.  I receive several emails every month about conditions at Bally’s, and I experienced the less-than-standard accommodations myself earlier this year.  Though The Reserve and Arturo’s still are among my favorite Atlantic City casino restaurants, I won’t be back for any more overnight stays.

Just Change SAMM To BALL

This summer it will just be Bally’s Beach Bar, not Sammy’s – as in Sammy Hagar.  Hagar and Caesars could not reach an agreement over the Hurricane Sandy-damaged bar.

Crummy Deal At Sammy D’s

At breakfast, Seven Stars cardholders get a complimentary half of one of those wonderful “Extra Crummy Coffee Cakes” Sammy D’s serves – a whole one if you have a party of four.  If your server doesn’t offer it, be sure to ask.  Another tip, if you order the Complete Continental, select the muffin or bagel, since the coffee cake comes free.

Bill’s Bar, Burger. . .& Breakfast

Bill’s Bar & Burger is now serving breakfast on Saturdays from 8:30 to 11 a.m.  For those staying in the Atrium Suites and the Harbour Tower, it’s a long walk to Sammy D’s.  Plus, during construction of Sammy D’s, Bill’s proved it could serve a mean breakfast.  (By the way, maybe it was “new restaurant” jitters, but the hamburgers at Bill’s have improved immensely since the place opened.)

Going, Going, Gone

For the third time now, my host has left and no one bothered to alert her customers.  Because I was suspicious that two emails were returned with the message, “Your message can’t be delivered because delivery to this address is restricted”, I picked up the phone and Harrah’s operator gave me the news.  In the past, emails went through as if the person were still working there, so at least there’s some improvement in the system.  But, how difficult is it to send a quick email advising customers their host has left, that someone new will be assigned shortly, and here is an interim contact until that happens?  This happened at Caesars a few years ago, as well, and probably at Bally’s and Showboat too.

Showboat 

Welcome Back, Carl!

Popular Diamond Lounge bartender Carl is back after an extended medical leave.

Rocket Fuel

Johnny Rockets has the best deal in town for casino breakfasts: $6.59 three-ingredient omelets (including bagel, English muffin or toast and potatoes), three pancakes and breakfast meat for $5.99, four strips of bacon for $2.49, and $5.99 for two eggs any style, bagel, English muffin or toast, and potatoes and breakfast meat.  Compare that to prices across the way at Crossroads where you’ll pay $13 for that same omelet, $6 for a side of bacon, and $10 for three pancakes (with no breakfast meat).  Plus, if you’re lucky you might snare one of the tables up front that looks out over the beach and the ocean.  Johnny Rockets accepts comps on a 1:1 basis, but unlike other casino outlets, the sales tax will not be waived.  It’s still a bargain.  [NOTE: Johnny Rockets at Bally’s accepts comps, but at a 2:1 ratio, but the basic pricing is the same.]

Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati

Pitching Horseshoe

Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati has opened.  The $450 million casino features 2,000 slot machines, 87 gambling tables and a 31-table World Series of Poker Room.  The complex has six sit-down restaurants with a seventh on the way.  Click this link for a variety of local articles relating to the casino.  In addition, here’s the link to a video about the casino.

Thistledown Racino 

Racino To Open

Located in the Cleveland suburb of North Randall, Thistledown – which originally opened in 1925 – is one of seven horse-racing tracks in Ohio, and the second to open as a “racino”.  It’s expected to open this month as a new Total Rewards casino – minus any name (Caesars, Harrah’s, Horseshoe) that would indicate so.  Rock Ohio Gaming, a joint venture between Rock Gaming and Caesars Entertainment (which also operates the Horseshoe Cleveland) spent $88 million on renovations and additions.  The racino is limited to video lottery terminals (1,145 of them), which to the average gambler look and play like slots.

Harrah’s Philadelphia

General 

Wheel Of Misfortune

If you’re a “Wheel of Fortune” fan, wouldn’t it be fun to attend a live taping in New York City?  Certain Total Rewards players got that opportunity last month, but, according to one person who accepted the offer, it wasn’t exactly what she expected.   “We stood on the ‘VIP’ line for over an hour with our heavy coats, not being able to leave to get food because there were no concessions open, and no ‘re-entry’ allowed anyway.  Our seats were so bad, we couldn’t even see the board. . .we were too far to the left.  We walked out before the second show taped (forfeiting the ‘gift’ which we heard was a sparkly Wheel pen) and just felt foolish for believing (or hoping) that Caesars might actually offer something special!  All in all, between transportation to and from Madison Square Garden, and two drinks and two mini-sliders at a nearby pub, I spent $90 to take advantage of this silly free offer.  I don’t know why Caesars runs such dumb promotions that only aggravate me more than make me feel appreciated being a ‘valued customer’.”

Total Rewards Web Site 6.2

I’ve lost track of the number of times the Total Rewards Web site has been revamped.  While there’s much to like about the latest version – particularly the consistent look of each casino’s individual Web page, isn’t it time to retire that lame Jimmy Kimmel video?  For one thing, it’s out of date – at the end it says to play the “Escape To Total Rewards Game” which ended last year.  For another, it’s just a stupid premise, having Kimmel inside a prison talking about Total Rewards benefits to a bunch of inmates – not to mention the unsafe driving practices at the beginning where Kimmel takes his hands off the wheel to thumb through cards in his wallet.

Question Of The Month

If a player new to Total Rewards (or even a current Seven Stars cardholder) reaches 150,000 tier points any time before December 31, 2013, will he/she get all the benefits of Diamond Aspiration Level 1 ($100 celebration dinner), as well as 2 and 3 (trip with $750 airfare and four nights’ accommodations, a Diamond companion card, etc.), AND the two retreats, the Seven Stars companion card, etc., etc., that he/she gets as a Seven Stars cardholder?  Excellent question. . .I didn’t know, so I went right to the “top” at Total Rewards for an answer: All players will achieve a Diamond Aspiration and/or Seven Stars Signature Experience as they pass each tier threshold.  In the example below, players will receive all Diamond Aspirations and the Level I Seven Stars Signature Experience, in addition to the Diamond and Seven Stars benefits that come along with tier status. Privileges associated with Aspirations and Experiences are made available to players as they achieve the tier threshold, as outlined below:

  • At 15,000 tier credits, players receive the $100 celebration dinner.
  • At 40,000 tier credits, players receive the complimentary stay.
  • At 80,000 tier credits, players receive a trip with $750 in airfare credit, a Diamond companion card, early check-in/late-check out, etc.
  • At 150,000 tier credits, players have reached Seven Stars Signature Experience Level I, which provides access to a trip, including a $1,200 airfare credit.  Since these players have also achieved Seven Stars status, they also get the “retreat” benefit.  That gives Seven Stars players two trips.
  • If players are already Seven Stars cardholders, but did not achieve the 150,000 tier credits this year, they would still receive the retreat benefit, but would not receive the additional trip.
  • Once players achieve 150,000 tier credits, they would also receive a Seven Stars Companion card, but this companion would be the same companion they’ve selected as their Diamond Companion.

Survey Says. . .

Last month I asked a question regarding the contents of this newsletter: “Should I stick to the facts, and stop editorializing?”  Thanks for the vote of confidence.  Everyone who wrote me – and there were many more than usually respond to these mini-surveys – said to keep calling it as I see it.  Typical of the emails I received: “Don’t question what you are doing or saying, and continue as always!  You are our voice and doing a terrific job of speaking!”

This Month’s Survey

I realize this particular example applies only to those of us whose “dominant casino” is in Atlantic City, but I just learned from another player that I could use my quarterly $100 spa credit to purchase items like shampoo, hand creams, or anything sold in the retail section of the four casino spas.  You just ask your host for a “shopping certificate” instead of a regular spa credit.  How about you?  Do you have an “inside tip” like this that you’d be willing to share with others?  Send me an e-mail (sevenstarsinsider@gmail.com) and I’ll share your thoughts – anonymously, of course. 

Darryl D. McEwen, Publisher

Seven Stars Insider

 

Photo: Hawt Celebs

Tweet me @eastcoastgamblr