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More Wynn desperation

It appears that Steve Wynn’s definition of "honored guest" includes someone who visited his casino once, joined the slot club in order to eat a virtually free buffet and never returned.

Vij falls into that category and he just sent me a copy of this offer that he had for three free nights at Encore with $150 of gamblin’ money thrown in:

The choice of dates is only Jan 4th-6th or 19th-21st, but even so this is another amazingly desperate offer.

Encore hasn’t even opened yet.  I’m hoping to catch the fireworks – assuming they can afford some - on Monday.

I fly to Vegas on Sunday.  Not sure if I mentioned it :)  

Happy fucking Christmas from Royal Mail

This card is apparently a "large letter".  Miserable bastards.

I had to go and collect it too after they left me a card that suggested I had something important waiting for me.

The postman didn’t even knock to see if I was in.  I’m sure they try to avoid confrontation with this kind of festive penny pinching.

However I did get a good dose of Christmas cheer when I popped into Sainsbury’s on my way home, where I heard this announcement.  Probably for a dare.

"Having a Christmas party?
We’ll save you the mither
Cos we’ve got party food
Two for a fiver."

Brilliant.

The triple blind steal

I can rarely resist trying to steal the blinds when there’s extra dead money in the pot from a player who posts out of position.

However when there are two posters and you’re playing limit hold’em, I’m not sure exactly how profitable it can be to make a one-bet bluff into that kind of field.

All of the other players should be able to call one extra bet with pretty much any old crud when facing at least 5.5-1 pot odds.  After all, if they don’t like gambling, you’d think they’d wait for their big blind.

I still couldn’t resist having a stab when this situation came up though, and it only bloody worked.

It’s not the most spectacular hand history in the world ever, but I liked it.

iPoker Network Limit Hold’em $2.00/$4.00 (10 handed)

Preflop: Hero is Button with K 2
SB posts $1.00, BB posts $2.00, MP3 posts $2.00, CO posts $2.00
5 folds, MP3 checks, CO checks, Hero raises to $4.00, SB folds, BB folds, MP3 folds, CO folds

Total pot: $11.00

ECrooks Direct?

I thought I’d have a nice little piece to write about some seriously profitable bonus abusing.  Instead, it’s turned into a rant about me almost getting robbed by ECash Direct.  Allegedly.

I’d hoped the focus of the post would be about just how many magazines I’d bought this month to take advantage of a promotion by paysafecard (yes, it’s all lower case) that matched every £10 voucher you bought with another £10.

Foolishly, they had launched this offer without any restriction on the number of times any one person could use it.  You don’t need to give any personal details to buy a voucher, or to redeem a voucher.  All they seem to have done is to crudely banhammered my IP addresses so that I can’t ever deposit using paysafecard from home again.

That’s OK, I’m pretty resourceful.

However, I’m sure you’d agree that any chance of being blocked from redeeming the vouchers you buy does introduce an element of risk to the paysafe system.  I did a batch of these on my mobile phone, so anyone else trying to deposit through T-Mobile’s web proxy will be shit out of luck.

Every copy of Poker Player and Inside Poker this month carried the £10 bonus.  Poker Player costs £2.50 and Inside Poker is £3, so that means every magazine you buy is worth at least £7.

When I go shopping, I shop like a man.  No messing about.  I came back with a total of 154 magazines.

Don’t believe me?  Feel free to count.

I worked out the value of all this merchandise, after taking into account a few discount coupons and the cost of carrier bags at WH Smith, to be £1149.81 in my favour.

Certainly worth a couple of tanks of petrol and a few hours driving around to get them.

Hitting the major shopping centres and train stations is definitely the way to go: Manchester Arndale was a goldmine (30 mags) with Birmingham New Street an honourable second (24 mags).

While what I’ve been doing is clearly not within the spirit of the promotion it is certainly not against the rules.  I found an edge, and by jove I was going to maximise it.

I redeemed 25 paysafe vouchers at Dusk Till Dawn Poker.  That’s £250 of my own money and £250 matched with the magazine bonuses.  I tried my best to give them some action, but Cryptologic network is on its last legs (the last few remaining operators are actually moving to Boss Media in January) so it was a real struggle.  I played a bit, lost a bit then attempted to cash out.

I’d used my DTD account only once before, to pre-register for their opening night tournament.  My debit card had since expired so I called up ECash – the payment processor shared by all Cryptologic poker sites – to see how I could make a withdrawl.  Easy peasy, they said.  Just make a minimum deposit on the new card, then you can cash out the whole lot.

If only it was that easy.  I also needed to print and sign a form authorising that debit card transaction, and send them a copy of the card and a copy of my photo ID.

That’s not a big deal really, this happens a lot.  But usually once you complete the ID check that’s the end of it.  Then you can get at your money again.

The ID check was fine, but then they told me "your account is currently undergoing a deeper poker investigation that was issued by the DTD management".

This, I have since discovered, is complete horse shit.

I spoke to a manager at the Dusk Till Dawn club this evening who was extremely helpful, despite this not really being his problem.  He told me - as I suspected from the cracks that had begun to show in the yarns that ECash kept spinning me – that DTD would not ask for an account to be closed or investigated.

"That would always come from ECash", he said and confirmed that DTD did not carry out any investigations themselves.

He went to make a few calls and just minutes later my account was back online and all the money was there.

I can’t be bothered to compile and publish all their emails (most of it says the same thing over and over again anyway) but here’s the gist: ECash lie.

By email they told me:

This account will remain closed as it is being investigated by DTD, we can’t intervene until we have news from them.

Unfortunately, the DTD dedicated investigation team is not an internal department, nor does it operate in conjunction to our (or their) call centre.

However when I spoke to a supervisor at ECash he told me he had spoken to the security team, who were "just around the corner from my desk".

I don’t actually know which is the fib – that they are in the same building or that they are not an internal department – because I wasn’t able to speak to someome else who was apparently right next door, and he gave me an email address: fraudinvestigations@ecashdirect.co.uk.  So that’s for DTD and nothing to do with ECash, is it?

They kept hammering on about not being able to do anything until DTD say so, yet DTD knew nothing about it until I called them.

So why?  Well, I have a wild conspiracy theory.

When the Cryptologic network deals its last hand next month, ECash Direct may very well cease to exist too.  If my account is closed and therefore not migrated to Boss Media (who use a different payment processor) what chance would I have of getting at that money?  It could "just disappear" very easily.

I just can’t think of another logical explanation that makes any sense.

Sure, I abused a promotion.  But the victim was not DTD Poker or ECash, it was paysafecard.  It might have cost them a few quid in fees, in which case just make me generate a bit more rake before I can withdraw it.  Don’t call me a cheater and try to steal my money.

Did I collude or chip dump?  Of course not.  Their "deeper poker investigation" should not have taken long to see this either.  I counted my hand histories and I’d played one turbo sit-and-go and 173 ring game hands, mostly nitting it up at $1/$2 fixed limit.  It’s going to take a while to dump off £500 at those limits.

The whole time, I couldn’t get any explanation about what exactly was being investigated.  On the phone they told me it was most likely a "random security check".  How many poker sites do you know that randomly close their players’ accounts?

All I wanted to know was what they were looking for and how long it would take them to check it out.  They wouldn’t say so directly, but they were accusing me of something illegal.  I felt dirty. 

Bonus whoring should never make you feel dirty.

Anyway, if you want a copy of this month’s Poker Player or Inside Poker, just ask.  I have a few to spare…

Screw you BMI, I’m going home first class

This.

That’s how I’ll be travelling to Las Vegas next summer, thanks to the demise of BMI’s long haul routes.

I thought they’d rebook me onto Virgin Atlantic, it being the only remaining airline that flies direct to LAS from the UK.  Their reaccomodation procedures also says they should do exactly that.

But no.  It’s actually via San Francisco with United Airlines – but with a free upgrade to first class for the 11 hour stint.

The upside: how fucking cool is that bed-pod-desk thing?

The downside: Instead of arriving at midday, we now won’t get there until after 9pm.

Oh well, it’s not like I usually do anything useful on the first day anyway…

Freebies with a half life

Two years ago, Virgin Trains sent me an unexpected Christmas gift: port, cheese, biscuits and mince pies.

Last year, it was just the port and cheese.

Today I got another parcel.  This time it’s just half a bottle of wine and a corkscrew that looks a bit like a parrot. 

I don’t like moaning about free stuff, but if you’re going to make cutbacks like this just send me the bloody mince pies.

You’ll have to excuse my ignorance about wine.  I never drink it, so I don’t need to know anything about it.

But I did a little research and apparently Sauternes is usually sold in half bottles because it can be difficult to find the half-rotten grapes that it’s made from.

Sounds lovely.

I’ll either mix it with lemonade or use it for cooking.

Give the gift of Vegas

If you’re looking for some gambling toys to give the kids this Christmas, head down to Macro.

I saw these "Las Vegas" products in their store today among the 3ft boxes of washing powder and 12lb bags of nuts: slot machine, coin pusher and candy grabber.

Apart from the coin pusher and candy grabber, they are indeed all things you’d find in Las Vegas.

 

More top search terms

I’ve spent way too long looking at my web site stats.

Here’s another top ten.  Not questions this time, just search terms that Google in their infinite wisdom decided to send my way.

As far as I can remember, I have never used any of these phrases as they appear below on my blog.

10. "if donuts could talk"

9. "vicky coren tits"

8. "pokerstars fucks people over"

7. "the gold coast casino makes the bands work a ridiculous 6 sets"

6. "games where you can be a donut"

5. "shit foam"

4. "spork funny pictures"

3. "doughnut disaster shirt"

2. "cinnabon tree"

1. "sims 2 i have looked in the trash and there are not any donuts"

Also an honourable mention goes to whoever searched for "puts baby in -corner" for its combination of randomness and advanced search term formation.  Indeed, if you don’t exclude the word "corner" and just search for "puts baby in" all you get is quotes from Dirty Dancing.  But why?

Winner winner Christmas dinner

***

This post contains links to the 2008 Christmas menus.

If you are looking for the 2009 information, click here

***

I noticed that some of the Las Vegas hotels have published their Christmas Day menus now.

In fact, I’ve already found lots of places offering a special seasonal menu on the 25th.  Most of them even have turkey, which is cool because I didn’t think turkey for Christmas was a big deal in America.

Most of these restaurants are in Harrah’s casinos.  They seem to be on the ball with getting their menus out there, but it must help that everything is housed under one web site.  Whereas the MGM Mirage web sites are all over the place.  I found some info for the MGM Grand but nothing yet for any of their other properties.

The seletion at Paris is impressive.  Five different restaurants doing a Christmas menu (7 in total if you count the Paris/Bally’s complex as a single property) and that even includes a choice of turkey burger or turkey sandwich at Burger Brasserie.  I have to admit I’m intrigued, but I was looking for something a little more traditional.

Bottom of the pile has to be the Christmas Day buffet at Imperial Palace.  The $16.99 price tag is a good indication not to expect much from this – that’s still cheaper than a standard dinner buffet at all the other Harrah’s casinos.

Bally’s: Al Dente Sidewalk Cafe

Caesars Palace: Augustus Cafe Neros

Flamingo: Garden Buffet Steakhouse 46 Tropical Breeze Cafe

Harrah’s: Cafe Flavors Buffet The Range Steakhouse

Imperial Palace: Embers Emperor’s Buffet Teahouse

MGM Grand: Nob Hill Wolfgang Puck’s

Orleans: Canal Street Prime Rib Loft

Paris: Les Artistes Burger Brasserie Le Cafe Le Provencal Le Village Buffet

Rio: All American Bar & Grille Cafe Martorano’s Carnival Buffet

This list serves as a reference for myself as much as anything (although the Crown and Anchor is currently first choice, it doesn’t hurt to keep options open) but people may be seaching the net for “Las Vegas Christmas Dinner” and stumble on this.  I know I’ve done that search in the past and found very little so I hope it’s useful.

I’ll update the list as and when I find more info.

EDIT:

Crown and Anchor menu now online.

Go posh at Terrible’s buffet.

Not trusting your bank is +EV

I finally received a response from the Financial Ombudsman Service this morning about the fiasco I had trying to get a refund to my credit card after MaxJet went bust (which is now almost a year ago) and I had to rebook two flights to Las Vegas.

I’d paid on an MBNA credit card, and their position all along was that I couldn’t have a refund until I’d actually been unable to travel as planned, despite the airline telling customers that they absolutely would not be flying.  In other words, I had to wait for each departure date to pass before I’d get my money back.

In this respect, MBNA were true to their word and did post the refunds shortly after the start of each trip.  However it meant I was waiting three months for some of it and seven months for the rest and as far as I could tell there was no legitimate reason for them not refunding immediately.

I’d read plenty of accounts online about other travellers getting their money back straight away from reputable banks – including those who had booked on a debit card, which does not carry the same level of consumer protection as a credit card.

So I was having none of it.  After I made an official complaint and MBNA stood firm, I took it to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

FOS are slow.  I complained on March 10th, after which I had four separate letters telling me they were very busy and would look at my complaint eventually.  Which, eventually, turned out to be more than 7 months later.

I’d had all my money back in July but being the stubborn bastard that I am, I told FOS that I still wanted them to process the complaint.

I had also suggested that MBNA should still be liable for the difference in cost because of the more expensive flights I booked as an alternative under the Consumer Credit Act, which they have tried so hard to pretend doesn’t apply to them.

It looks like it was worth the wait.  The FOS adjudicator has sided with the law, rather than MBNA’s interpretation of "MasterCard guidelines".

Although they made an adjudication last month I only received a copy of it today because MBNA have (predictably) rejected this suggestion that they pay me money.  So it’s now being referred to an actual ombudsman, rather than a henchman, who will make a legally-binding decision.

This could still take months, but I don’t care.

It’s super satisfying (assuming the ombudsman does reach the same conclusion) because if MBNA had simply given me a refund straight away (like they were meant to) I almost certainly wouldn’t have bothered doing anything to recover the cost difference.

The adjudicator also decided I should have the amount rounded up by about £150 as compensation for having to wait for the refund.  Which is nice.

The only reason I still have this credit card is because I can earn BMI miles on everything I spend, but with the Lufthansa takeover looming and the possibilty of Diamond Club getting swallowed up by their programme as well as the cancellation of BMI’s transatlantic flights next year, I’ll probably be doing away with it soon.

Sadly, MBNA won’t miss me as a customer.  I’ve never paid a penny of interest on that card.

Anyway, if you’re interested in seeing what FOS had to say about these shenanigans, here are copies of the letter I had today and the adjudication sent to MBNA (click to enlarge).