People-watching at McCarron International Airport in Las Vegas can be a fascinating exercise.
Those who just touched down on the tarmac have a certain bright-eyed optimism before they depart into Sin City, while most of those heading to the departing flights look like they just got their asses kicked.
This is a town, after all, that wasn’t built on winners.
We all know the odds are stacked against us when we put down wagers in Vegas casinos, but we can keep a few things in mind as we formulate our plan of attack that will increase our chances of escaping the Nevada gambling mecca relatively unscathed, and — if we’re lucky — a little extra cheddar in our pockets.
If you’ve got a Facebook account, try the myVEGAS game/app, which lets you built a virtual strip of MGM-Mirage properties, collect chips, and spin reels to earn loyalty points. You can then redeem these LP for freebies at MGM-Mirage resorts and partners in the game, such as the Madame Tussauds wax museum or the Las Vegas Monorail. You can even use your points for free slot play at some of the MGM-Mirage casinos.
In several trips to Vegas since the game’s introduction I’ve enjoyed a few thousand dollars worth of comps, including rooms at Aria, Mirage, Luxor and Monte Carlo, premium tickets to the Cirque du Soleil show Beatles Love and several free or discounted meals. The key is to avoid those annoying pop-ups that attempt to sell you chips. You’ll pay more for those chips than you could ever get back in freebies. Just make sure you spin the reels daily and you’ll earn enough LP in just a few weeks to get a comp or two.
There is also a mobile version of myVEGAS that includes a blackjack component that complements the desktop version, but you can’t earn nearly as many LP on your phone.
You should also look into two casino/Las Vegas guides (one a book and the other a membership program) that are well worth the cost because they pay back many times their cost in slot play, match play and food discounts.
American Casino Guide serves as an almanac of casino options in each state. What makes this a big seller every year are the plentiful vouchers in the back of the book you can redeem for food deals, slot play and more. For the $15 or so you’ll pay for ACG you can get plenty of 2-for-1 meals and several $5 or $10 slot play or table match play vouchers. The caveat here is most of the deals in the book are for casinos either downtown or off the beaten path, so if you plan to stick to the Strip you won’t find much value here.
Perhaps an even better value is Las Vegas Advisor, a membership program with a newsletter component. It’s similar to ACG in the types of coupons you get for a membership (and for some casinos you’ll get deals in both guides), you just get more of them, including for more properties on the Strip than ACG. An annual membership of $40 gets you a wide selection of vouchers. Consider the voucher that gives you 50 percent off of a meal, hotel room, bar tab, and more at the Palms, up to $50. You could have a nice meal at the N9NE steakhouse and your membership has already paid for itself.
I invest in both LVA and ACG before my every-summer trip to the World Series of Poker and the combination of the two always saves me both plenty of money on dining and gives me a slight edge at the blackjack tables or video poker machines. I’ll just duck into a casino, use the coupons while betting barely above the minimum, and then head to the next property. That’s the key to making a profit with these various match-play and slot-play vouchers: you must be nimble and willing to hop from casino to casino, with Fremont Street being the best place to use them.
The final tip for gaming success is to use WIN cards. These promotional cards and accompanying casino chips are the hidden secret for advantage gamblers seeking a little extra edge at the tables. (Just don’t ask me why WIN is in all caps as it doesn’t appear to be an acronym. Perhaps they don’t want you to realize you can still LOSE.)
At a few select casinos, you can go to the players’ club booth and inquire about them. The current participating locations in Vegas are Circus Circus, New York New York, and Mandalay Bay. You’ll sign for a voucher that you then take to the cashier to redeem to get the non-negotiable promo chips. Depending on the property, you can get $15 worth for $10 or $30 for $20. You’ll also get cards explaining rules and strategy for blackjack, craps and roulette if you need some helpful hints.
Use those chips to make even-money bets at any of those three games, at which you’ll be paid with regular casino chips when you win. The promotional chips are good until you lose them. Maybe you’ll even make a run like I once did at Circus Circus, turning my $15 in promo chips in to $100 in actual casino chips with $5 bets before I lost the promos.
Of course, that win (or should I say WIN) was an anomaly, but you can expect, on average, to make between $2 and $8 in profit when you take advantage of this promotion at each stop.
And in a town where it can be hard to make a buck, every dollar counts.