Seven Stars Insider – March Edition

Katherine McPhee Total Rewards Concert
Katherine McPhee

Here’s the latest edition of Seven Stars Insider. 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.


Sorry About That. . .

Gordon Ramsay Steak is located in Paris, not Planet Hollywood, as I wrote last month.  Also, unlike the others, the Diamond Lounge at Caesars in Atlantic City serves nuts.  Sorry for these errors!

Harrah’s Rincon North San Diego

Updates

I’ve updated the Web page to reflect some changes and new information regarding Harrah’s Rincon.  In particular, be aware that major renovations and new construction are taking place.  I stayed there last month and, perhaps because of where my room was located, construction noise was not a problem.  Also, unique to Rincon is a complimentary $50 media package for Seven Stars cardholders.  Rather than providing complimentary Internet access and unlimited in-room movies, Rincon allows you to decide how to “spend” your allowance. Internet access is $12.99 per day ($24.99 for property-wide access) and movie charges vary.  While food and service were “hit or miss” at Rincon’s “fine dining” restaurant, Fiore, one annoying aspect was an unadvertised $3 “split plate charge”.  Friends I took to dinner one evening asked to share a salad and, it wasn’t until the next morning when I had better light and a chance to review the check more thoroughly, that I discovered the cost of the salad increased from $13 to $16.  While I still think it’s a little cheap to levy this additional charge, customers should be advised about this either by their server or by a notation on the menu.  Also, when a specific brand of vodka was ordered, but not available, the server (or the bartender) took the liberty of replacing it with another brand – again without saying anything to the customer.

Harrah’s New Orleans

Diamond Lounge Relocated

The Diamond Lounge – formerly located in the High Limits table games area – has been moved to the location previously occupied by Bambu Restaurant.  Unlike some Diamond Lounges, guests order food from a printed menu; selections include shrimp and prosciutto bruschetta, a red bean onion dip, alligator, crawfish and Andouille sausage, international cheeses and prosciutto, mini muffaletta sandwiches, and fresh fruit with berries. In addition, there are a few desserts.  Diamond cardholders are limited to four cocktails and two menu items; Seven Stars cardholders have unlimited choices.

Harrah’s North Kansas City

Everything’s Up-To-Date In Kansas City

Thanks to a reader who recently visited there, Harrah’s North Kansas City now has a page on the Seven Stars Insider Web site: https://sites.google.com/site/sevenstarsinsider/harrah-s-north-kansas-city.  If you’ve recently visited a Caesars-owned casino not featured on the Web site, please feel free to send me your comments.  Also, if you see information on the site that requires updating, please send me that information as well.

Las Vegas

Hype, Hype, Hurrah!

A reader who lives on the East Coast (and about an hour’s drive from Atlantic City) sent me his latest offer from Las Vegas: Choice of a $50 Macy’s gift card or $50 in casino play – and three complimentary nights either at The Quad or Rio.  “Do Caesars marketing folks really think I’m going to hop on a plane and travel to Las Vegas for $50 and three free room nights (and at The Quad – yuk!)?  Plus, it’s over a specific set of dates.  This was a waste of printing and postage.”

Useless Surveys

Last month I received a second survey from Total Rewards about Las Vegas casino hotels.  [The first one had several errors and I just deleted it.]  This time I exited after the first two questions.  Doesn’t anyone test these on a sample base of customers before sending them out?  One of the questions on the survey was based on a laundry list of Vegas casinos.  I was asked to indicate when I last stayed at any of them, if I’d heard of them but never stayed, etc.  Problem was the list was so long that I had to keep scrolling to the top to be sure I was checking the right box.  I gave up after about 10 casinos.  The next question asked me where I stayed on my last visit to Las Vegas.  As it turns out, I stayed at three different hotels during my weeklong visit.  However, the only option I had was to check one.  That’s when I gave up again because I was sure the next set of questions was going to be based on whatever casino I checked, and would probably result in a bunch of false-positives, for lack of a better word.  I’m happy to give my opinions (just read this newsletter!), but send me a survey that asks the right questions and is in a format I can actually respond to.  I’ve rarely received a survey from Caesars/Total Rewards that I would actually take the time to complete.

Rio All-Suites Hotel & Casino

Before The Parade Passes By

The Rio’s free Masquerade Show in the Sky will end March 30.  This one-of-a-kind show featuring parade floats suspended from a track in the ceiling, as well as an accompanying stage show with singers and dancers, started in 1997, but over the years performances were cut-back to Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

Atlantic City

Seven Stars ‘Renewal Weekend’

Nothing official, but several sources tell me that the Seven Stars “renewal weekend” will be April 26-28.

1+1+1+1=1?

Instead of four different hosts – one at Bally’s, one at Caesars, one at Harrah’s and one at Showboat – I’m hearing that Caesars is considering assigning players just one city-wide host, similar to what they’ve been doing in Las Vegas.

Food, Glorious Food – and Wine

Caesars Entertainment’s Atlantic City Food and Wine Festival will return for the fifth year beginning July 25. Among the first celebrity chefs to be announced are Robert Irvine, Pat and Gina Neely, and Rocco DiSpirito. Total Rewards cardholders can purchase discounted tickets in advance at acfoodandwine.comticketmaster.comor by calling (800) 736-1420.  Ticket sales will open to the public at 10 a.m. March 8.

Room Service

Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa has become the first land-based casino in the United States where customers can gamble while inside their hotel rooms through the television.  The 90-day trial – which began in mid-February – allows hotel guests with a player’s card to play video slots and poker.  While Borgata eventually will allow guests to gamble on smartphones and other mobile devices by the pool or in restaurants, the trial period will restrict mobile wagering to television sets inside the resort’s hotel rooms.  Patrons must first check-in to a Borgata hotel room, where they will be given a password for the television gambling software.  To gamble on the TV, patrons must enter that password, which is valid only for however long the patron is checked in to the hotel, and the PIN associated with their player’s card.  Patrons must first walk to the cashier’s cage on the casino floor and deposit the money with which they will gamble.  Under New Jersey’s mobile gambling regulations, patrons can gamble up to $2,500 a day.

Wynn Loss Statement

Speaking of Borgata, if you purchased My Borgata Vacation certificates with your comp dollars, you need to know that they no longer are accepted at Wynn and Encore in Las Vegas.  They are valid only at Main Street Station, The Orleans, Sam’s Town and Suncoast in Las Vegas; the Blue Chip in Michigan City, Ind. and Par-A-Dice in Peoria, Ill.; and Delta Downs in Vinton, La., and Sam’s Town in Tunica, Miss., and Shreveport, La. Unused and unexpired certificates may be returned to the My Borgata Card desk for credit.

Caesars

Boardwalk Buffet Still Open

It was supposed to close last month for renovations, but the buffet at Caesars is still open for business.  Perhaps someone realized that the folks in marketing printed and distributed coupons good at the buffet for the month of March, though one host reports that the buffet will, indeed, close mid-month.

Harrah’s Resort

Sounds Like. . .

They may not know how to spell it, but they sure know how to prepare it!  The “Coco Van” [coq au vin] on the menu at the Diamond Lounge last month was delicious, as was the marinated grilled flank steak.  Congratulations to the chefs!

New Menu At Seven Stars Lounge

Following in line with the lounge at Caesars, the menu has been changed at Harrah’s.  Some “old favorites” – like ice cream – may still be available, so ask your server.

Harrah’s Lights Up Your Life

Last month Harrah’s was offering a “Light Up Your Love” package that would spell out a proposal in lights on the Waterfront Tower.  Included was a 1 p.m. late check-out, free parking, VIP check-in, a $100 dining credit, limo ride and a bottle of champagne.  The cost?  $699 during the week, $1,000 over the weekend.

Quote Of The Month

Here it is, direct from the top of the menu at Luke Palladino – run-on sentences, unnecessary capitalization and punctuation, misspellings, and all:  “Dear Valued Customer: Harrah’s is very proud to have recently Introduced a newly Re-designed and Re-energized Total Rewards (TR) Program which offers rewards and benefits to it’s members, that are unparallel to any other gaming entity World Wide. As an extension of these rewards and benefits, when you present your TR Card while Dining at Luke Palladino, you will receive the benefit of a favorable enhancement in the form of special pricing.  Please note below the items indicated by the TR logo.” Translation: “Give the server your Total Rewards card and you’ll get discounted pricing on any menu item identified with the TR logo.”

Harrah’s Philadelphia

Two Hours Every Week Have Just Become Happier

Fridays from 10 p.m. to midnight, Harrah’s hosts a “Happy Hour” at the Cove exclusively for Seven Stars cardholders.  It’s in a trial phase to see what type of response and demand Harrah’s receives.  Currently, there are just complimentary cocktails, but, depending on response and demand, Harrah’s may add a limited food selection as well.

Third Time’s A Charm?

First it was the End Zone.  Then, last June, it reinvented itself as BarleyQue – a clever, but confusing moniker that really didn’t mean much to many customers.  In addition, the menu changed more frequently than Hillary’s hairstyles during the Clinton years.  This month, BarleyQue will become the Philly Tap and Tavern with, yes, another menu change, bringing back some of the popular items from its days as End Zone.  I’ve been suggesting this for months, but some high-priced restaurant consultant probably made a bundle off this.

Senior Days

Harrah’s is continuing its popular Senior Days this month – free valet parking, 30 percent discount at participating food outlets, etc. – but note that the day has changed from Wednesday to Tuesday.  Harrah’s defines “Senior” as 60 and older.

General

More Questions Than Answers

We’re two months into the new year, earning tier credits for a casino loyalty program that won’t tell us its benefits.  All we know for sure is that the “milestones” for the various tier levels have increased, we can get bonus tier credits if we earn 500 or more credits in a single day, that two new “Diamond Aspiration” levels have been added, and, effective April 1, Seven Stars and Diamond cardholders are going to get a more favorable rate if they opt to exchange comp dollars for free play.  Yes, we’ve heard that at 40,000 tier credits we’ll get a free four-night trip to any Caesars casino and, if we wait until we earn 80,000 credits, Caesars will throw in $750 for airfare and a “Diamond Companion Card”.  Then there’s this mysterious second trip – “offered as a Level I Signature Experience”.  Other than that, we really don’t know much, including any specific details about these aforementioned benefits.  Contrast this with Delta Air Lines.  In January Delta sent letters to its customers announcing changes and enhancements to its frequent flyer program, but they won’t take effect for a year.  Total Rewards customers should have received a similar courtesy and a little more notice.  At a very minimum, the new program’s benefits should have been spelled out at the same time the increased tier levels were announced.  It gives you the impression that they’re making this stuff up as they go along.  Would you deposit money in a bank or take out a loan without knowing the interest rate in advance?  [For more on this subject, see below.]

Question Of The Month

I became a first-time Seven Stars cardholder in November 2012.  Not wanting to miss out on anything, I’ve already taken my annual trip, scheduled my annual celebration dinner and ordered my annual gift.  I understand I get to do this all over again starting April 1, but I’m concerned about rumored changes to the Total Rewards program.  Will the benefits be different?  Good question.  They shouldn’t be.  After all, you and I earned our 100,000 (or more) tier credits between January 1 and December 31, 2012, when, among the promised benefits were an annual trip (with $1,200 in airfare, $500 dining credit, etc.), a gift and a dinner.  I think Caesars would have a lot of unhappy customers if, at a minimum, cardholders don’t receive these.  However, don’t be surprised to see changes in benefits for this year, meaning benefits you’ll receive for tier credits earned between January 1 and December 31, 2013.

Yes, Resort Fees

A lot of signs came down, a lot of Web pages were changed and even a Facebook page was deleted.  After years of touting “No Resort Fees” Caesars Entertainment is now charging an extra $10 to $25 per night at some of its Nevada hotels, “in response to the increasing demand from our guests to provide a package price instead of the inconvenience of separate fees,” according to Gary Thompson, director of corporate communications.  Sure. Can’t you just see customers lining up at the front desk demanding to pay what is essentially a higher room rate? (For the record, reservations made before March 1 are exempt from the fee.)  The big question will be how players with comp rooms are affected.  It isn’t a problem for Seven Stars cardholders, since they’re already getting free WiFi and admittance to the fitness center, but what about Diamond and Platinum cardholders? According to Kristine Johnson, Total Service Representative, Caesars Entertainment, Western Region, Platinum and Diamond cardholders will have the option of adding the Resort Fee or simply selecting individual components of the package (Internet access, making local calls, etc.) and paying for them separately.  As far as the individual property charges, here is the breakdown:

 

Caesars Palace – $25

Paris and Planet Hollywood – $20

Rio, Harrah’s and Flamingo – $18

Bally’s – $15

The Quad – $10

 

In addition, resort fees also will be levied in Lake Tahoe; Harrah’s will charge $20 and Harvey’s will charge $25. No word yet on Laughlin and Reno.

Great Gift Wrap Up

The Web site was just updated.  Here are the dates for the 2013 Great Gift Wrap Up:

November 7-11: Flamingo
December 4-8: Caesars Palace

 

And, related to this, wouldn’t it be a nice idea to add a line on the monthly My TR eStatement with our Great Gift Wrap Up points? 

‘Communication, Communication, Communication’

In real estate, the mantra has always been: “Location, Location, Location”.  Too bad Caesars can’t take a lesson from that and communicate better with its players.  Some Diamond cardholders I’ve spoken to still aren’t aware of the changes to the Total Rewards tier levels, and most of us learned about Resort Fees at the Las Vegas and Lake Tahoe casinos from newspaper articles and online message boards.  I don’t care about “pre-sale” concert ticket announcements, but I’d like to know about the 2013 Great Gift Wrap Up, as well as the details about the new Resort Fees, without having to call or use the Contact Us feature on the Total Rewards Web site.  Ditto on the local level, had I not dropped in at Harrah’s Philadelphia and seen the sign, I never would have known about its Seven Stars Happy Hour.

Belated Happy Birthday

Several Seven Stars cardholders whose birthdays were in January are just now receiving offer for free play, comp dollars and room nights both at their “dominant property” as well as in Las Vegas.  In January they had received free play, comp dollars and other offers from several competing casinos in the area, but nothing from their local Caesars casino – where they spend most of their time and money.  The response when one player asked his host?  It’s not up to the local casinos any longer, he claimed.  “Corporate Direct Marketing is working on sending birthday offers via email.”  While the promised email arrived, for at least one player, it was too little too late.  “My wife and I just got back from Las Vegas, so there’s no way we’re going to return within a month just to collect a few comp dollars.”  And, considering that Seven Stars cardholders get complimentary rooms anyway, what’s the big deal about free rooms?  “These are pretty pathetic offers,” wrote one player.  And, similar to the reader quoted above, if I got this same offer, I would not make the trek to Las Vegas for a few comp dollars and a little free play.  As it has in the past, Caesars is making you spend money in order to get what it perceives as recognition for your birthday.

Survey Says. . .

Last month I asked:  Now that you know more about the “new” Total Rewards, will you be

  • playing more to reach the next “milestone”?
  • playing more, but just to maintain your current tier?
  • playing at your current level and “letting the chips fall where they may”?
  • switching to another casino’s player loyalty program?

 Here’s a cross-section of responses:

  • ·         Last year, I earned more than 300,000 points, with a daily average of 2,000+ points per day.  Even though the bonus system wasn’t in effect, Caesars claimed I would have totaled more than a half million points last year.  Therefore, the only effect the change will have on me is that I might stop with 1,000, or go on to 2,500.  Nothing significant either way there.  What will have a drastic effect is if Caesars starts reducing offers.  Last fall, my weekly offers dropped from $80 to $65.  For my birthday, I got nothing.  When I look at my future offers, I’m seeing dining credits and free buffets, but not the incentives that I used to get.  My spouse doesn’t play, so if there’s a play-up, I go by myself and play all day.  If it’s dinner, we go together, and I play very little.  If Caesars thinks it’s saving money by giving more dining credits and fewer rebates, my play will decline dramatically.
  • ·         We did not receive the information about the changes from our host.  We received a mailing on January 7!  Once, we learned about the bonuses, we should have no problem renewing our Seven Stars status.  The big issue for me is that Total Touch doesn’t give you an accurate total of your tier credits as you play.  How do you know if you have reached the threshold for the bonus tier credits?  You have to go over to the Total Rewards desk and check with them if they are still open.
  • ·         Last year I wound up with 25,000 tier credits.  With this new system I will try to play 20 times at 2,500 tier credits each day.  With the 5,000 tier credit bonus each time it will get me to 150,000.
  • ·         I don’t know if this new tier credit increase is good or bad, if it’s going to make me a Seven Stars cardholders next year or make me broke.  I was at Caesars January 1, 2 and 3 and got to receive an extra 1,000 points for each day since I made more than 1,000 each day and trying to get to 2,500 was just too hard.  On another visit I earned 2,550 credits playing penny slots for 12+ hours.  At 2,200 points I had spent $1,700.  Usually I would have quit way before this, but I had to go for the 5,000 bonus credits.  Who wouldn’t?  Well, I certainly won’t go for it again.  It just takes too much money to get.
  • ·         I don’t think I’ll be playing any more to maintain our Seven Star status, even with the 150,000 points requirement.  Why?  Because if my initial two experiences this year are indicative of how things will go then it will be fine.  If my math is correct, with the 5,000 point bonus for earning 2,500 points, it behooves a player to put 2,500 points on each day to get the best bonus.  For low level players who have to really work to make it to Seven Stars that seems like a good strategy.  So far, for each of three days of play, we have been able to reach the 2,500 points.  That gives us 22,500 points each trip (7,500 coin-in plus 15,000 bonus points). Using that strategy, 6.7 three-day trips will get us to 150,000 tier credits.
  • ·         My total yearly play will remain at my current level.  But if I do find myself relatively close (which I will need to define for myself) to reaching a bonus level then I would play to reach that bonus and stop.

This Month’s Survey

I’ll be the first to admit that I was pretty harsh this month in my criticism of Caesars and the “new” Total Rewards program, e.g., lack of information regarding player card benefits, Resort Fees, customer communications, marketing offers, etc.  While I am expressing my personal opinions (often from my own experiences and observations), many of them are formulated based on feedback I get from readers via email or in conversation. Should I stick to the facts, and stop editorializing?  What do you think?  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: Fabbz.com

Slot Machine Myths

I wrote an article for Gaming Today offering some basic slot machine strategy this week. As I mention in that article there really isn’t much strategy involved with slot machines since they are programed by a random number generator (RNG) chip. While each spin is random and independent the pay tables are predetermined and there’s little you can do to change the outcomes.

Gambling is as much mental as it is factual. See Blackjack Myths for great examples of that. I’m not the most analytical person but I like to know the facts. Any gaming myth just gets in the way the facts.

While doing research for the Gaming Today article I came across a list of slot machine myths from Wizard of Odds that should be common knowledge but aren’t.

  • Slot machines are programmed to go through a cycle of payoffs. Although the cycle can span thousands of spins, once it reaches the end the outcomes will repeat themselves in exactly the same order as the last cycle.
  • Slot machines are programmed to pay off a particular percentage of money bet. Thus, after a jackpot is hit the machine will tighten up to get back in balance. On the other hand, when a jackpot has not been hit for a long time it is overdue and more likely to hit.
  • Machines pay more if a player card is not used.
  • Using a player card enables the casino to report my winnings to the IRS.
  • The slot department can tighten my game with the press of a button remotely. Thus, you better be nice to the staff and tip them well, or they will use a remote control to have the machine take you down in a hurry.
  • The machines by the doors and heavy traffic flow areas tend to be loose while those hidden in quiet corners tend to be tight.
  • Slots tend to be looser during slow hours on slow days of the week. However, when the casino is busy they tighten them up.

I tell myself that I’m not much of a slot player but that’s a lie. I play more slot machines than most of my casino going friends. Slot machines are in the mix whenever I visit a casino, especially when I’m alone. I prefer the new games with bright lights and loud noises.

The only myth that messes with my head is about the time of day. I know that slot machine jackpots aren’t set to go off at a certain time but it never seems as if anyone hits a jackpot at 7am. 7am is probably my favorite time to stroll into a casino to play the slots. I sip on some coffee and ease into a day at the casino….Ahhhhhhhhh.

Photo: Finger Lakes Racetrack

Tweet me @eastcoastgamblr

 

Best Craps On The Vegas Strip

Craps Table At Luxor
Craps Table At Luxor

As the year ended I looked at the best craps in downtown Las Vegas and didn’t find anything too surprising. Main Street Station has the best odds for a craps game downtown.

Most gaming on the Vegas Strip is worse than those offered in downtown Vegas but that’s not entirely true when it comes to dice. Craps on the Vegas strip is almost the same at every casino but there are a few locations that stand out being better than the rest. Here’s the breakdown.

  1. 100x – The Cromwell
  2. 10x – SLS Las Vegas, Stratosphere
  3. 3-4-5x – Aria, Bally’s, Bellagio, Caesars Palace, Casino Royale, Cosmopolitan, Encore, Excalibur, Flamingo, Harrah’s, The Quad, Luxor, Mandalay Bay, MGM Grand, Mirage, Monte Carlo, New York New York, Palazzo, Paris, Planet Hollywood, Treasure Island, Tropicana, Venetian
  4. 2x – Circus Circus, Wynn/Encore

3-4-5 Craps is the norm on the strip and that’s fine. Regardless of the odds craps still has some of the lowest house edges in the casino. The difference between 3-4-5 and 100x odds is fairly small and not enough to make me go somewhere I don’t want. That said, if Cosmopolitan or somewhere nice had a 100x odds game they would likely find me at the table.

Note: If you know different odds at any of the casinos please leave a comment. This craps survey was updated 3/2018.

Photo – flickr jcnikon

Best Craps Games – Downtown Vegas (2012)

Craps Table At Luxor
Craps Table At Luxor

You may have noticed that I’ve been posting where the best video poker in Las Vegas is recently since I’ve had trips staying at Main Street Station downtown and at Encore on the Vegas strip. A few weeks ago I was asked where the best craps games can be found in Las Vegas. Interesting.

I thought I knew the answer but wasn’t entirely sure. I only know the craps odds at casinos I visit but I don’t know the craps odds at every casino in Las Vegas. I’m not that good. At least I wasn’t.

Countless searches showed only very old craps odds – like pre-2010 old. I finally found odds that seem fairly up-to-date on Wizard Of Vegas. Here are the breakdowns of the best craps odds at downtown Las Vegas casinos (sorted best to worst).

  1. Main Street Station – 20x Odds
  2. The D – 10x Odds
  3. El Cortez – 10x Odds
  4. Golden Gate – 10x Odds
  5. Las Vegas Club – 10x Odds
  6. Binions – 5x Odds
  7. Four Queens – 5x Odds
  8. Golden Nugget – 3-4-5x Odds
  9. The Plaza – 3-4-5x Odds
  10. California – 2x Odds
  11. Fremont – 2x Odds

You’ll notice that Gold Spike is missing from this list of downtown casinos with the best craps. I don’t believe they have craps. They have Sexy Blackjack and I don’t think they could promote Sexy Craps so they just stick with blackjack.

It should come as no surprise that Main Street Station has the best craps downtown. Craps at Main Street Station has almost even odds. Probably the best thing about craps at Main Street Station is that it’s affordable for most gamblers.

Playing full odds at a Main Street Station craps table is $100 on a $5 bet. This is one of the most affordable smart bets you can make in a casino. Full odds on 100x or 1000x times a $5 bet is pricey even though the returns are as close to even as you will find at a craps table.

The Wizard of Vegas survey hasn’t been updated since the D replaced Fitzgerald’s but most of the list seems up to date. Feel free to comment if know of different odds. I’ll be glad to update this list.

 Photo – flickr jcnikon (PS: I know this picture isn’t downtown, but the downtown craps table pics weren’t interesting)

Best Video Poker On The Las Vegas Strip

Royal Flush Video Poker at Red Rock Resort
Royal Flush!

I’ve been taking a look at the best video poker from Atlantic City to Las Vegas recently. Today I decided to look to see which casinos offered the best video poker on the Las Vegas Strip. The Vegas strip does NOT include places just off the strip like Palms and Hard Rock Casino.

Most casinos offer good video poker games in their high limit rooms with games starting at $5 so I decided to look at the best video poker games under $5 since that’s what more people play.

The good video poker games listed here are between 10 cents and $2 with max bets from 50 cents to $10. The pay table percentages are all based on max bets. Once again casinos are listed from best video poker to worst.

  1. Circus Circus 100.25% Aces and Eights
  2. Excalibur 99.58% Triple Double Bonus
  3. Luxor 99.54% Jacks or Better (JoB)
  4. New York-New York 99.54% JoB
  5. Treasure Island 99.54% JoB
  6. Mandalay Bay 99.20% Loose Deuces Wild
  7. Aria 99.17% Bonus Poker (BP)
  8. Casino Royale 99.17% BP
  9. Riviera 99.17% BP
  10. Tropicana 99.17% BP
  11. MGM Grand 99.11% DB
  12. Mirage 99.11% Double Bonus (DB)
  13. Wynn 99.11% DB
  14. Caesars Palace 98.45% JoB
  15. Flamingo 98.45% JoB
  16. Palazzo 98.45% JoB
  17. Planet Hollywood 98.45% JoB
  18. Venetian 98.45% JoB
  19. Bally’s 98.01% BP
  20. Cosmopolitan 98.01% BP
  21. Encore 98.01% BP
  22. Harrah’s 98.01% BP
  23. Paris 98.01% BP
  24. The Quad 98.01% BP
  25. Monte Carlo NA
  26. Stratosphere NA

The biggest surprises from this research is that there are positive returning machines on the Vegas strip (Circus Circus) and that the Stratosphere has absolutely no playable video poker games according to vpFREE. Monte Carlo has playable video poker but all are $5 machines.

All information from vpFREE2, the best place to research video poker. Each casino links to their respective page on vpFREE.

Also see: Best Video Poker Downtown Vegas. Best Video Poker in Atlantic City.

I practice video poker with the WinPoker app on my iPhone. It’s $9.99 and worth every penny. It’s the best way to practice video poker.

Odds Of You Busting At Blackjack

I don’t like doing math but I’m curious about the facts when I’m in the casino. Earlier this year I shared some of the Myth’s of Blackjack and earlier this week I added another myth to that list when I found blackjack dealer bust rates.

Now I want to look at the rate that players will bust when playing blackjack. Here’s the breakdown based on hands greater than eleven.

Player Bust Rate

It should come as no surprise that the higher your card total, the greater the odds that you’ll end up with more than 21 if you hit. Blackjack Age offers one piece of advice when it comes to potential players bust hands.

You don’t want to take the chance of busting yourself when the dealer is more likely to bust than you are.

Nice and simple advice.

I practice blackjack strategy and counting with the ODDcase app for iPhone. It’s the best blackjack app around and the full version is only $1.99.

Photo Elmo’s World Trip

Seven Stars Insider – December Edition

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

Seven Stars Insider – December 2012

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.

 

It’s now easier to find the Seven Stars Insider Web site.

Simply go to: 

>> www.sevenstarsinsider.com <<

 

Hollywood Casino St. Louis

Answers To Your Questions

There are a lot of questions regarding the transition from Harrah’s St. Louis to Hollywood Casino St. Louis. Answers can be found at this link.  Several readers have expressed surprise that their Total Rewards tier status was not matched by Hollywood’s Marquee Rewards program; however, if you read carefully – at least the way I interpret it, your tier status with Hollywood will be matched based solely on your play in St. Louis.  In other words, you might have a Total Rewards Diamond card, but if you earned only 5,000 of the required 11,000 annual points at Harrah’s St. Louis, your tier status with Hollywood would be based on 5,000 tier points, not 11,000.  Same with comp dollars.  You might have $1,000 worth of comps under Total Rewards, but Hollywood will match only the amount you earned at Harrah’s St. Louis.

Las Vegas

SlotZilla

Perhaps in an attempt to compete with the two new observation wheels under construction on the Strip, Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman has announced plans to construct a five-block zip line where riders are spit out the “mouth” of an 11-story slot machine.  Construction begins next month, with a projected opening in June. 

Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall & Saloon

Bye, Bye, Bill’s

Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall will close February 4 for a $185 million renovation.  Bill’s will reopen in early 2014 under a new name and theme, transforming the hotel and casino into a “boutique lifestyle hotel and club” – to use the words from a statement issued by Caesars Entertainment.  The conversion includes the complete remodeling of the guest rooms, the casino floor and common areas, the addition of a new second-floor restaurant, and construction of a rooftop pool and dayclub/nightclub.  The rooftop club will open later in 2014. 

Flamingo

Great Great Gift Wrap Up!

I attended the Great Gift Wrap Up last month at Flamingo and it couldn’t have been run more smoothly.  I was there on Sunday, the day before it ended, and there were no lines, as well as plenty of signage to direct people – not only to the event itself, but also within the ballroom, showing where different types of gifts were located. There also were lots of employees to help you find things, answer questions, etc.  The second leg of this popular annual event takes place at Caesars Palace and ends December 3. 

Paris

Evening In Paris

Not that it needs my endorsement or recommendation, but I can’t think of a more perfect evening than dinner at Gordon Ramsay Steak followed by a performance of Jersey Boys. For those of you who don’t mind eating early (6 or 6:30 p.m.) and seeing a show late (9:30 p.m.), check out this great combination on Tuesday nights.  [You also could see a 5 p.m. show on Saturdays, followed by dinner.]

The Quad

It’s Official!

The Total Rewards Web site has dropped Imperial Palace and replaced it with the new name and logo.  Plus, I just got my first promotion – a $100,000 bingo tournament – with the new Quad name and logo.

[Human] Nature Calls For Last Time

If you planned to see Human Nature at the Imperial Palace – oops, The Quad – you’ll have to travel to Florida or Australia.  The group performed its final shows last month.  Las Vegas entertainment columnist John Katsilometes claims that Recycled Percussion will take the singing group’s place starting next month.

Atlantic City

Advertising Hope and Appreciation

Caesars is using some valuable real estate to welcome back customers and employees after Hurricane Sandy devastated parts of the area in late October.  Rather than advertising upcoming entertainment, celebrity chefs or other promotions, the billboards lining the causeway at the end of the Atlantic City Expressway, as well as other locations, offered messages of hope, as well as appreciation to those who risked their lives for others in need. Caesars also donated thousands of dollars to the Red Cross and other local charities.  Nice!

Cool Treat

Winter Sweet, a new 3D light and sound show that is projected onto Boardwalk Hall, has replaced Duality, the show that’s been featured on the outside of the hall since July.  Shows will play every half hour from 6 to 9 p.m.

The Early Bird. . .Gets Charged Extra

Perhaps taking a cue from the airlines and all their extra fees, but for those arriving before 4 p.m., Caesars Atlantic City hotels are now offering early check-in for a “nominal fee”.  (I wonder if Caesars will rebate a portion of the room rate when guests check-out earlier than noon.)  I know companies are looking for all sorts of ways to increase revenues, but this just seems a little cheap.  If a room is ready for occupancy, why not let a guest check-in and avoid a 4 p.m. rush at registration?

More Name Changes?

Several readers received a survey from Caesars asking “Which is your main casino for the New Jersey market?” Among the choices:

Borgota Hotel Casino

Harrah’s Restort Atlantic City

Buffets On Holiday Schedules

Caesars Boardwalk Buffet will open during regular hours this month, but Showboat’s Mardi Gras Buffet will be closed December 10-13 and 16-24, and Harrah’s Waterfront Buffet is scheduled to close Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays through December 24.  It’s always wise to reconfirm these dates before you show up, though.

Climb and Dine

Popular Harrah’s Resort chef Luke Palladino is partnering with the Absecon Lighthouse.  Through December 17, climb the lighthouse, show your “I Climbed” card at Luke’s Kitchen & Marketplace at Revel, and get a bowl of soup for $4, or a soup and sandwich combo for $8.  Details at www.abseconlighthouse.org or call (609) 449-1360. 

Bally’s

Diamond Lounge December Hours

The Diamond Lounge at Bally’s will be closed on the following days this month: December 3-4, 10-14 and 17-24.

Holiday Cheer

Be sure to stop by the Bally’s Diamond Lounge December 8 to sample its “mean” egg nog station.

Gift Shop Sells $1M Powerball Ticket

One of the eight $1 million Powerball tickets sold in New Jersey came from Picks and Wicks at Bally’s 

Caesars

December Seven Stars Lounge Hours

Unlike the lounge at Harrah’s (see below), the Seven Stars Lounge will be open Thursdays during regular hours – at least for the next two weeks; then the schedule will be re-evaluated.  Fridays the lounge will be open from 5 p.m. to midnight through December 21.  The Seven Stars lounge will be open on New Year’s Eve from 1 p.m. to midnight and New Year’s Day from 1 to 8 p.m.

December Diamond Lounge Hours

Unlike the other Diamond Lounges in town, Caesars will be open every day during regular hours.  On New Year’s Eve the lounge will be open from 2 p.m. to midnight, and New Year’s Day from noon to 7:30 p.m.

Chef Shuffle

Former Seven Stars Lounge chef Tim Davis is now in the kitchen at Nero’s.

Harrah’s Resort

Seven Stars Hours To Change

Starting this month and continuing through January, the Seven Stars Lounge will no longer be open on Thursdays.  In addition, the lounge will close the weekend before Christmas, December 21-23, but be open on New Year’s Eve.

Diamond Lounge December Hours

The Diamond Lounge at Harrah’s will be closed on the following days this month: December 10-13 and 17-20.

Up All Night – Not

Despite what it says on the Harrah’s Resort and Sammy D’s Web sites – “An all-day, all-night, all-you-could-ask-for eatery. . . .” – Sammy D’s is no longer the 24-hour outpost originally envisioned.  Currently, it’s open until 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, but closes at 10 every other night.  (There is a disclaimer on the site which says, “Hours subject to change, please call to verify.”)  The Sammy D’s Web site, though, publishes totally different hours (Monday & Tuesday: 7 a.m. – 10 a.m., Wednesday: 7 a.m. – 12 a.m., Thursday: 7 a.m. – 10 p.m., Friday: 7 a.m. – 3 a.m., Saturday: 24 hours, Sunday: 7 a.m. – 10 p.m.).

You Need To Get Out More, Mr. Reservationist

I’m not sure where I was calling, but when I spoke with a reservationist – supposedly working at Harrah’s Resort – he told me things were “pretty bad down there” (meaning Atlantic City) and that “the Boardwalk around the casinos was destroyed.”  I proceeded to update him on conditions, but this is certainly no way to bring back business if Harrah’s reservationists are painting such a glum picture of conditions at the Jersey Shore.

You Also Need To Get Out More, Mr. Smith

I pointed this out more than a year ago, but in “A Few Words From The General Manager” John D. Smith writes, “You’ll enjoy a dining experience where the delicious cuisine and attentive service are only surpassed by breathtaking ocean views.”  Which restaurants offer these “breathtaking ocean views”?

From Dust To More Dust

Apparently I’m not the only person to experience poor housekeeping and maintenance at Harrah’s.  A reader sent me photos, along with some commentary on his experience there:

I stayed in the Waterfront Tower last month.  There was no clock radio, only one ashtray in this “smoking room”, no pen/paper, horrible Wi-Fi service, and no do-not-disturb sign.  I was not spending much time in the room but I had mentioned to housekeeping a need for more ashtrays, paper/pen, clock radio and do-not-disturb sign.  I returned to the room at 4 a.m. and everything was the same.  Needless to say, I was awakened by housekeeping later in the morning at which time I then demanded a do-not-disturb sign.  I mentioned all this to the front desk when I checked out, but it didn’t seem like they were going to do anything, even making jokes about it.  I would hope they’d get someone to at least clean that filthy air filter before the next guest checks in.

Ironically, less than a week after I received these photos I experienced the same problem.  When I checked into my room the thermostat was set for 50º, but the temperature was showing 73º.  I called the front desk and when the maintenance person showed up he found a similarly clogged filter.  Shouldn’t someone put these things on an ongoing maintenance program?  Harrah’s promotes these Waterfront Tower rooms as “premium”, but even basic rooms at most national hotel chains have clean filters, plastic laundry bags, sinks that drain properly, soap dishes, pads and pens, more than four hangers in the closet, and other basics – none of which did I have in my room. Also, once again, my room had a missing towel ring.  (Why not just remove these or replace them with something else?)  Admittedly, these are little things, but just reflect poorly on a hotel where rooms retail (plus tax) – on average from December 1-28 – nearly $105 (some nights as high as $183.20, and that’s not including December 29-31 where the lowest average rate is nearly $365 – $567.20 on New Year’s Eve).  Now let’s talk about all the dust on top of the Diamond Express sign at check-in.  I’m tall, so my eye level focuses right on top of that sign.  It was covered with dust. . .plus an earlier guest must have spotted the same thing and ran his finger across the top of the sign, even further emphasizing the lack of basic housekeeping.  This is not a good way to begin a visit.

False Sense Of Security

It’s bad enough that no one seems to care about all the drunk young ladies walking around without shoes outside The Pool.  Let’s talk about “security” going to rooms in the Waterfront Tower.  Unintentionally, to get into the elevator bank I showed the “guard” a key from a recent stay at the Water Club.  He waved me through, only for me to discover that I didn’t even need to insert my room key in order to ascend to my floor.  Why bother? 

Showboat

Diamond Lounge December Hours

The Diamond Lounge at Showboat will be closed on the following days this month: December 10-14 and 17-24.

Harrah’s Philadelphia

BarleyQue Finally Gets It Right

While I don’t know if it’s going to attract more business, the still unfortunately-named BarleyQue – clever and cute, but meaningless to a lot of people – has modified its menu again, bringing back items from its former End Zone days, and adding some variety to what was once all too dependent on smoked and barbecued foods. Opening the wall behind the host station also should help, as will moving the host desk out onto the casino floor.

General

Tier Jerker

Starting late last month word began circulating through the Internet (on message boards such asharrahscasinos@yahoogroups.com and on the Web site, www.vegastripping.com) that tier levels were being increased. The information is incorrect and, at best, incomplete. The lesson here is, “Don’t believe everything you read on the Internet” and its corollary, “Don’t further distribute information you read on the Internet without being sure of the source and its accuracy.”

Insider Out?

Frankly, it verges on false advertising. . .or bait and switch.  Anyone earning the requisite 10,000 tier points between July 1 and September 30 to qualify for TR Insider status in the fourth quarter of 2012 has been sorely disappointed by the lack of events and benefits.  [In Atlantic City, there was one cocktail party on November 10; there were no events at Harrah’s Philadelphia; and one event in Tunica.  (Those are the only lists I’m on, so if the situation was different in other parts of the country, please let me know.)]  After much hoopla last year – at least in Atlantic City where they had to add a second dinner to announce this supposedly great new program – it seems as though the TR Insider program is just going to quietly disappear.  Don’t such loyal customers – as we keep being told we are – deserve some sort of announcement on the status of the program or, at the very least, some closure?  And what about the people who qualified for fourth quarter 2012 “benefits”?  I know several, and they are not very happy.  Caesars owes these players something, in my opinion.

 Great Race Point Discrepancies

A number of people wrote to say they didn’t feel they got all the credits they deserve for this year’s Great Race. Check “Promotions” on your December My TR eStatement to see how many Reward Credits you received.  If that number is inaccurate, then use the “Contact Us” form on the Total Rewards Web site to send an inquiry.  If Caesars does this promotion a third year, perhaps they could add a line on our eStatements indicating how many checkpoints we hit during that month.  That way, if there is an error, the problem can be solved within a 30-day framework, rather than waiting until the program ends.  [A running total of how many Great Gift Wrap Up points we’ve earned would be a nice feature, as well.  MGM’s M life Web site shows a player’s current tier score, available comp dollars, Holiday Gift Shoppe points and free play right at the top of the Home page after log-on.]

Some Seven Stars Benefits Are Not The Same Everywhere

I’ve heard from several Seven Stars cardholders who were angry about being charged for local and toll-free calls, as well as in-room movies, and even angrier that they were not upgraded to suites on their annual Seven Stars trip (or any stay) – or never received any sort of in-room amenity.  None of these are corporately-mandated “benefits”; however, some casinos do extend these courtesies to Seven Stars cardholders.  Always check first to find out what the casino policy is regarding benefits you “think” you are entitled to.

Total Rewards Rewarded

Congratulations to Caesars Entertainment and Total Rewards!  The casino loyalty program won the 2012 Master of Enterprise Loyalty, an award which “recognizes one company that stands apart for having an enterprise-wide, holistic approach to using data to transform the consumer experience and improve both financial and customer performance.”  The award is presented annually by Colloquy, a collection of resources devoted to the global loyalty marketing industry.  Read details here.

Question Of The Month

I want to take five guests (six total) for my annual celebration dinner, but I’ve been reading that there is a limit of four people.  Is this correct?  No!  Once again, don’t believe what you read on the Internet – unless it’s in this newsletter.  (I know someone who took 11 guests to the Bacchanal Buffet at Caesars Palace.)  The only limit is the amount of the bill.  Caesars will pick up $500; if it’s more than $500, the rest you can pay with cash, credit card or Reward Credits.  (Some restrictions may apply regarding the purchase of alcoholic beverages at certain casinos.)  You’re also responsible for the gratuity, but you cannot use Reward Credits or anything left over from the $500 Seven Stars dinner credit.  My memory is a little fuzzy, but there might have been a four-person limit in the early years of the program, but it’s always been a $500 credit, which, considering how prices have gone up, is due for an increase.

Dress Code

Guys, if you’re lucky enough to receive an invitation to one of the Caesars-sponsored New Year Eve parties, please dress appropriately.  At last year’s party at Caesars in Atlantic City, I saw several men wearing baseball caps, shorts, T-shirts and flip flops, or some combination thereof.  A friend received an invitation to a New Year’s Eve party at Wynn in Las Vegas.  At the bottom of the invitation was this caveat:

“Cocktail party attire is required. Dress code strictly enforced.”

I wish Caesars would do something like this – and enforce it.

Holiday Hours

Don’t assume that your favorite restaurants and lounges will be open during regular hours this month.  Many will observe reduced hours due to the holidays.  Call ahead before making plans.

Leaving Macau

Caesars has given up on efforts to open a casino in Macao.  Five years ago Caesars paid $578 million for a golf course in Macau, hoping to use the land for a casino, but the company still hasn’t received permission to build the casino.  Consequently, Caesars is now trying to unload the money-losing golf course and leave Macau. 

Caesars Financial Report

Here’s a link to a transcript of a conference call with Caesars executives regarding third quarter earnings.

Survey Says. . .

I may unintentionally have skewed the results of last month’s survey because Total Touch was by far the number one biggest irritant that Caesars puts in front of its customers.   “I’ve had to go to as many as six machines before the system recognized my card, sometimes getting to the point where I thought I could download my free play, only to be ‘told’ my request couldn’t be completed.”  Beverage orders were another sore spot.  “Have you tried to find coffee with Bailey’s?” one person wrote.  Another said she ordered a cocktail, but, after winning a big jackpot, wanted to move to a different machine.  “There went my drink order!  At least if I’d ordered from a ‘real person’ I’d know who to tell that I was moving.”  Diamond and Platinum members chimed in with the second biggest complaint – not enough cashiers.  Third was from Seven Stars cardholders who wanted exclusive lines at events and restaurants.  “Why should I share with Diamond and Platinum cardholders?” was a common complaint.

 This Month’s Survey

The Total Rewards Web site has gone through more “facelifts” than Joan Rivers.  In my opinion, I think they finally got it right, but what do you think?  Do you use the site to check your tier points and comp dollars, plan future trips, get answers to your questions?  Or, do you even use the site?  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 – Got Celeb

 

Blackjack Dealer Bust Rates

Blackjack Dealer Bust Hand
BUST!

Most people know blackjack myths but I prefer to look at blackjack facts. You know, the stuff that actually happens and not stuff that people think is true but isn’t.

One of the biggest myths is to always assume that the dealer always has a 10 in the hole. That’s only true around 30% of the time (16 tens per 52 card deck). Here’s a fact about dealer hands. According to math provided by Blackjack Age the dealer busts more than 28% of the time.

The dealer has an average bust rate of 28.36% on any given hand and, as you can see, based on this chart, 4, 5, and 6 are the dealer’s biggest bust cards. However, how do you know whether or not you should hit or stand and hope for the dealer to bust in a given situation? Your best bet is to take your own bust-out rates into consideration and then stand only when your chances of busting are greater than the dealer’s chances.

Here’s a chart with the dealer bust rate based on the card they have showing.

Dealer Bust Rate BlackJackAge

Looking at this chart you can see the math behind why a blackjack dealer is more likely to bust when they have a “bust card”. The dealer is almost twice as likely to bust when they have a 2 through 6.

This also show that a common phrase heard at blackjack tables, “a 2 is the dealer’s ace“, is not even close to being true as the two bust 3 times as often as an ace. Chalk that up as another myth.

I practice blackjack strategy and counting with the ODDcase app for iPhone. It’s the best blackjack app around and the full version is only $1.99.

Photo Elmo’s World Trip

Best Downtown Las Vegas Video Poker

Royal Flush Video Poker at Red Rock Resort
Royal Flush!

I haven’t done a video poker check in a while and since I’m spending a night around Downtown Vegas next week I figured that I’d see what games are available in the area.

When I go on a solo trip to a casino I tend to play more video poker than table games. When I’m with others I tend to be more social and play blackjack, craps, etc.

If you’re a video poker player in Las Vegas then you want to play downtown. There are games with positive returns in almost every casino. If you’re like me and prefer to play perfectly instead of playing a game with plus EV, there is 9/6 Jacks or Better (99.56% return) or 8/5 Bonus Poker (99.17% return) readily available.

Here’s the rundown of the best video poker in downtown Vegas beginning with the casinos that have the most options for good video poker games.

  1. The D – Long Bar video poker is not on this list. That game has about 94% returns.
  2. El Cortez
  3. Las Vegas Club
  4. California
  5. Four Queens
  6. Main Street Station
  7. Plaza
  8. Golden Gate
  9. Golden Nugget
  10. Fremont
  11. Binions
  12. Gold Spike – At least they have “Sexy Blackjack

All information from vpFREE2, the best place to research video poker.

I practice video poker with the WinPoker app on my iPhone. It’s $9.99 and worth every penny. It’s the best way to practice video poker.

What’s Your Best Bet At The Sportsbook?

Earlier this week Dr. Dave Schwartz released a research paper on Sportbook income in Nevada. While there was little new, or surprising, information the data is always fun to look at.

Sportsbooks win the most money from betting on basketball and make the least from baseball. Here’s the data.

  1. Average casino win percentage on baseball since 1992: 3.01%
  2. Average casino win percentage on football since 1992: 4.53%
  3. Average casino win percentage on basketball since 1992: 4.69%

The baseball season is long and not very popular so it takes a back seat to the more popular sports in the sportsbook. That lack of focus on baseball leaves it vulnerable to smart bettors who have the patience and stamina for the entire season so that they can prey on bad lines.

This serves more as a reminder to me, but it’s a good excuse to not slack on that baseball research. There’s much more information on sportsbooks in Nevada on the full report. I’ll be pulling the items I find most interesting and sharing them throughout the week.