Advantage Play is so Much Fun…
In case the sarcasm is not implicit in the title, let me make it perfectly clear: The title of this editorial is meant to be sarcastic. If it hasn’t already been made apparent in some of my previous writings, and I know that it has such as in this one.
Advantage play in land-based casinos is not all fun and games, and sometimes, things go exactly the opposite of the way that they are planned. With that in mind, let’s take a look at twenty-four hours in the life of an Advantage Player, this Advantage Player, in fact, beginning with Monday morning of August 29th, 2016:
I awaken to a pattering on the staircase just a few feet from me and run a hand over my face. In my mostly still asleep state, I wonder about what the source of the noise might be, and then it occurs to me that the noise is coming from kids. My kids. They have school that day, and I’m the one dropping them off, but checking my phone and seeing 6:40, I can’t help but wonder what the Hell they are doing up.
Granted, I had to get them up at seven o’clock, anyway. In fact, that is precisely the time that my alarm was set for, but what they don’t know is that I am going to be driving a total of at least thirteen hours out of the next twenty-four. Not only would I really miss that extra twenty minutes, I could have really used that extra twenty minutes.
In any event, they’re up and the youngest (five year old daughter) is already clamoring that she wants breakfast. They say that there is no rest for the wicked, and I could certainly reasonably be called that, so that means that there is no rest for me. I half roll and half fall out of bed, and still quite drowsy, stumble into the kitchen to prepare something that resembles a balanced breakfast.
I’m killer at the breakfast thing on the weekends, but that’s because the kids usually sleep until eight o’clock. Finding myself up before seven o’clock, any thoughts of wanting to play chef are quickly overmatched by the desire for speed and efficiency, so I pour two bowls of cereal, pop two Toaster Strudels into the toaster, and unpeel two bananas. The kids are quite happy with the breakfast either way, there is simply no accounting for taste (or lack thereof) at that age.
I am planning a day trip to Atlantic City as well as another casino on the way that I won’t mention by name, but it is possible that I will decide to stay overnight as I don’t want to be rushed in coming back on the following day, so I hastily pack a toothbrush, (after brushing my teeth, of course) my cell phone charger and a change of clothes into my knapsack. In the meantime, I check on how the kids are progressing with breakfast.
The kids have finished breakfast, or at least, as much of it as they are going to finish and I guide them back upstairs to brush their teeth. After that, I struggle mightily with ponytailing my daughter’s hair, as I always do when confronted with the task, and eventually decide that I did a sufficient enough job. I request of both the kids that they put their school clothes on and, ten minutes later, find myself pleased that we are ahead of the game.
About fifteen total minutes later, the kids are both dressed and we are watching some TV pretty much just waiting around to leave. Their mom, my ex-wife, will be picking them up from school that day, and other than the fact that I am going to drop them off to embark on hopping from casino to casino several hours away, it is just a normal picture of a family that time of day.
Of course, one always has to forget something. In my case, I forgot two things: The first one was to give my son his after breakfast medicine, and the second was to pack lunches for both of the kids. I hurriedly correct both of these errors, and we are still ready with a few minutes to spare.
We walk around the house each doing our part to ensure all electronics are shut off and that there will be minimal energy in use while we are not actually in the house. I take a final inventory of their backpacks to make sure that they are bringing everything they need to school and check my knapsack to ensure I am prepared for an overnight stay, if that ends up happening, and we depart.
I return to the house because, as it turns out, I did forget to take a shower! The kids always gets a bath or shower the night before, but I prefer to shower in the morning. In any event, even though the plan had always been to grab a quick shower and brush my teeth while they were eating breakfast, I had forgotten to do any of those things. It hardly mattered, I had to wait for the bank to open at 9:00a.m. so I could grab some more money and I also had to stop at the post office for something.
Fortunately, after getting a shower and brushing my teeth, I was officially ready to go. I still had to wait for the bank and the post office to open, so I went to a nearby slot parlor and played ten cents at a time while I drank a cup of coffee. It wasn’t really that I felt a need to play keno, mind you, it was more because the coffee is free, I don’t have to make it, and the expected loss incurred while drinking the coffee is less than the amount of money that I would have to actually pay for a cup of coffee if I bought it somewhere.
I had arrived at 8:35, and I set my alarm for 8:55 to let me know that I could go ahead and start heading over to the bank.
I finally managed to leave the slot parlor at 9:20a.m.. I have a bizarre obsession with a ticket being a multiple of five dollars in order for me to cash it, and every time I was down to what would have been my last bet, I managed to win something!
At one point, I was up $5.70, said, 'Screw it,’ and made a bet of seventy cents just so I could leave and hit for $8.40. I continued to play that twenty cents at a time, but every time the next play would have been my last twenty cent play, I managed to hit for some kind of winning result.
Eventually, it was 9:10 and the bank had been open for ten minutes, at that point. For my part, I had still not left the slot parlor. It didn’t have anything to do with gambling, it had to do with my obsession with everything being a multiple of $5.00.
I’m one of those strange birds that will make purchases from the gas station, and finding that my purchases total $6.87, will immediately ask for $23.13 on whatever pump I’m on because the amount necessary to make the total a multiple of five simply always comes to me immediately. Unfortunately, this tendency of, ‘Hating change,’ also carries over into my gambling tendencies, as well, so I often play up or down until I hit a multiple of $5.
Just before leaving, I was $21.70 to the good, but I really had to be going, so I made a bet of thirty-four nickels ($1.70) and finally lost. It would have been cool to hit seven out of ten keno numbers on that, I would have still needed to play down to a multiple of five dollars, but I would have been extremely happy about it!
I went to the bank and the post office and reflected on the fact that the slot parlor was unwittingly kind enough for me to pay to send what I had to send with Priority Shipping, and then some. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that I was playing at an advantage in any way at the slot parlor, in fact, the exact opposite is the case! I just looked at the expected loss as a discounted cup of coffee.
This was just time spent driving with nothing worthy of note taking place. I stopped at a service plaza and filled up on gas, and that was about it. I thought about grabbing something to eat, but I have stomach issues that often make eating before the early evening hours not the best idea, and all of the lines were also too long. Instead, I grabbed a large bottle of Fiji (water) and completed the journey.
I would have made even better time, (my goal had always been to get there by four) but there was some serious traffic around the first casino. I had knocked out the first 330 miles of the trip (including the stop) in just under five hours and the last twenty miles took just under an hour!
The purpose of this stop was to run coin-in at this particular casino, but in the interest of confidentiality, I’m not going to say what casino this was at, how much coin-in was being ran, or why we were doing it.
In any event, an associate of the person for whom I was working was supposed to be working with me, and he was also the one carrying some of the money for the coin in that we were supposed to be running. For one reason or another, however, he was running late and his ETA kept getting pushed back ten minutes at a time until he ended up being fifty minutes late.
In the meantime, I vultured Ultimate X and lost about $20 doing that despite the fact that there weren’t very many plays. The plays that I did find were on quarters and none of the individual plays ended up being profitable. It was suggested to me that slot machines that were anywhere near positive would be preferable for running the coin-in compared to Video Poker because:
A.) The video poker there mostly sucks. (Less than 98% RTP)
B.) Slots earned players club points twice as quickly.
Therefore, if I could find any slots that even justified being played (mostly looking for must-hits in a decent spot) then that was something that I should do. I had found a must-hit by $400 sitting in the high-$380’s, but it was being played and, at some point, ended up getting it. I had also found a must-hit by $200 in the high $180’s, but that one also ended up being hit by the time the guy with whom I was to be playing arrived.
The two of us began running coin-in, but it was really only me playing. The most playable thing that was available was a must-hit by $200 machine that was now in the low-$180’s, but somebody was on that one. Instead, we opted for Spin Poker on an awful paytable.
Even though the paytable was awful, trust me when I say that we were running the coin-in at an advantage, it’s just one of those situations where you can’t enjoy the fruits of the advantage right away. In any event, playing nine lines on nickels denomination had me betting $2.25/spin, and the guy had brought $400 of the money that we were supposed to be running.
In any case, I ran pretty bad, but nothing beyond the realm of belief. After about 2 hours, my expected loss on the coin-in was probably in the neighborhood of $100 and I had managed to lose $250. While that’s certainly not good, when you fail to hit any royal flushes on a video poker game that barely has an RTP of 97% as it is, the RTP effectively drops to 94.5%, and then I ran poorly on other premium hands on top of that. The bottom line is: If you don’t catch some premium hands, it’s not going to go well.
In fact, 8.4% of the return of the game in question comes on the top four hands. The result of that is the RTP is going to look more like 88%-89% if you run poorly on those, assuming you run okay on everything else. In the case of this session, I only managed to hit one premium hand of any kind, and that was only on one of the lines as opposed to multiple lines.
With $50 left on that machine and another $100 that the guy had with him for this play, I decided to check on the must-hit that I had noticed in the low $180’s earlier. Before I could do that, I was confronted with a must-hit by $50 sitting pretty at $49.12, so I wasn’t going to walk by and risk losing it. I sat down and we hammered away at that one, eventually putting in the other hundred, and we broke even by the time it hit.
With that, we moved on to the must hit by $200 machine that had only been pushed up to $187. I first made sure that the meter move wasn’t some ridiculous number, and confirming that was not the case, I set myself to playing. We lost almost everything he had and hadn’t even pushed the meter up to $190 yet, but then it popped at $189 and change. We were back up to $200.
This entire time, I was of the assumption that the guy for whom we were working would be coming at 7:30 with the money for the rest of the play. I had been instructed to play the spin poker exactly as I had played it, and with respect to the slot machines, I had been instructed to bet anywhere from $1.25-$2.00 per pull in the interest of generating coin-in faster. The idea was that, even if we ran out of cash from the guy with whom he was sharing the play, he would be bringing more cash along anyway.
After all of this, I found a must-hit by $50 and $48.xx, so we set about playing that at $1.25 per spin, but ran like absolute garbage, and lost it almost immediately. Ironically, this happened on one of the very machines that I was specifically told to look for due to its supposedly low variance! Of course, I know that there is nothing low about the variance of that particular slot title, how one does in a short session is almost entirely incumbent on running well on bonus games.
Run well on bonus games I did not, in fact, I didn’t hit any of them. Instead, I managed to run about $400 coin-in before the rest of the money was tapped, an abysmal 50% return.
We spent the next hour going back and forth with the guy who was supposed to be coming to meet us with him saying that he was going to be late because he and his girlfriend were doing something and he couldn’t escape it. Initially, he said that he would be back in about an hour, so having worked with him before, I went ahead and threw a few bucks in on video poker to generate more coin-in, as the coin-in was time sensitive, but I ended up losing pretty quickly.
Eventually, he decided that there was really no purpose in us waiting around for him, especially since I had to go to Atlantic City for something else, anyway. He told the other guy just to head home for a bit and that the two of them would meet back up later on that night.
I had been saving battery on my cell phone, so I had it off while we were playing. It turns out that the person for whom we were playing said that he was stuck on a play a few states away and had no idea when or if he would be coming. He couldn’t understand why I had put any of my own money towards the play, but I suggested that it was because I knew I would get it back, anyway, and besides that, he said that he was going to be there shortly.
Ultimately, he said that he thought it was possible that he wouldn’t make it back that night at all. He had only told the other guy that he would because he knew the other guy would be pissed off about running that coin in for essentially nothing, and even though he would get paid back and compensated for his time, would be upset that they hadn’t finished the play.
For my part, I was a little bit irritated because, even though I didn’t put very much at all in, I wouldn’t have played anything if I knew it was more likely than not he wouldn’t make it. In fact, if he had proposed that he might not be coming at all, I would have suggested not to even waste the time playing because $400 was severely underfunded for the amount of coin in that he was hoping to run. I also pointed out that we could have hoped to grind longer on the $400 (make smaller bets) to generate more coin-in so at least something could be salvaged from the play.
He agreed with most of my points, but then he pointed out that he had planned to make it. While it ended up being a PITA for all involved, the simple fact is that he ended up finding a better play. When someone has a better play, he has a better play, so there was nothing to argue.
I spent the next hour or so travelling to a casino in Atlantic City that shall remain unidentified by name. I was also a bit irritated by the fact that I had not brought a sufficient amount of money with me and would eventually have to hit an ATM. The original plan was I was to be getting paid $300 for the day, in cash, so I had decided just to travel with enough money to cover my expenses one way plus $100 in case I needed it for something. Of course, I had lost that $100 trying to keep the coin-in going.
I arrived at the casino in question to reset the PIN on my players card and pick up some free play. It was essentially from the free play that I would ideally (mostly) get paid the $300 as I was to keep 100% of the proceeds. Unfortunately, there was a message on the computer stating that the PIN was not to be reset under any circumstances, and so, I was informed that I could play at the casino, I could even use my card if I wanted to, but I would no longer receive any offers of any kind.
I reported this development to the guy with whom I had been working and he suggested that, if I wanted to wait a little bit for him, then he might have the $300 in cash to give me. I really had thee time to wait, too, because my cell phone was just about dead and needed charged. I did a cursory check of the Ultimate X machines and didn’t find anything, (you usually won’t in Atlantic City) so I went to the elevator lobby.
My cell phone was down to 7%, and I had purchased a car charger, but the damn thing doesn’t actually work. I needed my cell phone just to get back, so I plugged it in and hung out in the elevator lobby on the floor upon which I was parked for a little over an hour. Naturally, this was a long and boring process, but I decided that, since I might end up waiting on the guy to get back to pay me, I might as well fully charge my phone.
In the space of the hour and a half it took my phone to fully charge, I probably smoked three or four cigarettes. There really wasn’t anything better to do, and I wanted to minimize what I was using my phone for so that it would charge faster. People came and people went, one person, who was leaving, commented that he had seen two or three other people milling about here and there also charging their phones. We both laughed.
I had considered staying the night in Atlantic City, but the hotel I would have stayed at was the very one that said I would not receive any offers anymore, so that idea was definitely out. There are a few other casinos where I probably could have gotten a free room if they weren’t booked up, but I still felt reasonably awake and did not feel like calling around to try to get something set up.
The time had come to leave (my phone was finally charged) and I indicated that I could go to him to pick up the money if he wanted as it wouldn’t add significantly to my overall time to get back. He protested and pointed out that he might need every cent he had to do the play he was working on as it was also a coin-in play. For my part, I ultimately decided to start heading back and stop along the way to use an ATM.
I still had some cash left, so I briefly contemplated stopping at the first casino that I had been to that day and checking the Ultimate X machines because strong multipliers occasionally get left behind there. It was late, though, and I wanted to one-shot the five hour drive (go without stopping for any meaningful amount of time) so I decided against it.
I began the drive back shortly after this and, yawning before even getting out of New Jersey, I knew that it was going to be a tough one. I was also annoyed with myself for not carrying more cash, but this was the first time I had worked for the guy in question and had not gotten paid at least some part of the promised money before leaving, so I really had no reason to believe that I was going to need more cash than I took.
I eventually stopped at a service plaza and ate the stupid $2.50 ATM fee. With the kind of tolls that get paid on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, you would think they could find a way to offer fee-free ATM’s. (The gas station and convenience store chain, Sheetz, offers fee-free ATM’s, and you’re not paying to go there!) I was also slightly perturbed that the most I could withdraw was $200, I certainly had no immediate need for more money than that, but figured if I was going to be paying the ATM fee anyway, I might as well withdraw the total amount of cash I expected to need for the week.
Eventually, the taillights of the other vehicles had started to seriously blend together and the effect was messing with me. Fortunately, what little traffic that there was dissipated even further after a few hours, at about 2:00a.m., and I spent long stretches as the only vehicle on any part of the road that I could see. While I usually pride myself on making good time, I needed an emergency transfusion of caffeine and stopped at another service plaza.
The Roy Rogers (fast food place) at this service plaza was open 24/7 even though they said they were only going to make burgers. Fair enough, the employees are mostly there to clean up and prepare for the next day, so the presence of any overnight customers (I understand) has to be an absolute pain in their ass. I decided to get myself a double bacon cheeseburger, possibly the least healthy selection available to me. In fairness, it was now technically Tuesday and I hadn’t eaten anything, it occurred to me, since about 7:00p.m. on Sunday evening.
I ate my burger and purchased two bottles of Dr. Pepper. I considered grabbing a Monster, but those things can cause one to crash when they wear off. I got back on the road and, other than a few overnight riding trucks, was basically the only vehicle for about a hundred miles.
With both of my Dr. Peppers gone, I decided to stop at another service plaza, this one actually within forty miles of my destination. On this stop, I opted for two bottles of Cherry Coke. I usually drink water (other than when I am consuming alcohol) all of the time, but I really needed to keep the caffeine flowing.
I only ended up drinking one of them by the time I got to my girlfriend’s house, but I knew that would happen. The only reason I bought two is because one of them is $1.99 and you get the second one for a buck if you buy two. I figured I would drink the damn thing eventually, and would just put it in the fridge when I got back.
I walked into my girlfriend’s place at 6:10a.m., but I didn’t go into the bedroom right away. She had to work the next day, so I didn’t want to wake her up. I eventually received a text from her asking where I was at in my travels, so that naturally told me she was awake and I walked in.
I went to the kitchen and decided to fix a drink because I believed it would help me fall asleep quickly. I threw three ice cubes into a whiskey glass, followed it with two shots of Black Velvet, and filled the rest of the glass with some amount of my remaining Cherry Coke. I made my way back upstairs where she was getting ready for work.
We talked about how the previous day’s trip went, and I admitted that everything basically sucked and this was one that I would have just as soon stayed home as opposed to doing. She laughed and told me that it wasn’t worth it to go all the way out there, anyway.
Personally, I think that it is. I didn’t really have anything pressing that I needed to do that day, and the expectation is that I would clear $150 for the day after expenses. In retrospect, I could probably spend the same amount of time, ‘Casino-Hopping,’ at the three or four casinos closest to me and come up with about $150 (or more) in value, so maybe the trip wasn’t worth it, but there was also an element that I was trying to do someone a favor by getting that PIN fixed.
She was in mid-sentence about something to do with her job that day as I laid on the bed, something about one of her co-workers, I drifted off to sleep my drink untouched.
The simple fact of the matter is that not everything goes as planned when you are engaged in advantage play in brick-and-mortar casinos, even when it is just a small play. I spent that twenty-four hour period driving more than any person should really have to and having plans for what was to be done changing on a minute-by-minute basis.
The other aspect of it that kind of sucked is that I had to go through all of that hassle for a paltry $300 that I didn’t even end up getting that day! Between gas and tolls, of that $300, only $150 is in actual profit, but you can usually count on the first casino I stopped at to have some decent value on Ultimate X, so that always adds a little bit to the expectation.
After all of that, we came nowhere close to running the desired amount of coin-in on the first play, but if that was the goal, then attempting to do it with $400 to work with was just patently stupid, and I would have said as much. Furthermore, the PIN I was supposed to be getting fixed ended up resulting in me finding out that the card was permanently locked. It’s a shame that casinos won’t just tell you that when you call them, that would have saved me the entire trip. We wouldn’t have been trying to run the coin-in at the first casino if I wasn’t there to go to Atlantic City, anyway.
In fact, I was basically being paid to go to try and fix the card and running the coin-in was essentially a favor. Even if we hadn’t tried to do that, albeit in a stupid way, I would have gotten paid the $300 just to go to Atlantic City and back to try to fix the card.
Such is the exciting world of Advantage Play!
Either way, I think that I am officially done with any single-day trips all the way out there unless there are at least a few hundred dollars to be made in profits. I’ll probably set the cut-off at $300 in profits to even go all the way out there anymore. Even for me, that kind of drive isn’t worth it, but the amount of money involved is not worth staying overnight and having to carve two days out of my schedule. Like I said before, I could casino hop in my immediate area for twenty hours (even though I wouldn’t) and could all but guarantee I would find $150 (my profit from the 24 hour trip) in value on straight up machine plays.