January 2009
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A year in review

I appear to have managed to bag a copy of my Harrah’s win/loss statement early.  On their web site, it says that statements for 2008 will not be available until 1st Feb.  Right now, that does seems to be the case, however last week it disregarded its own message and let me generate mine, and I saved a copy.

It’s hardly a major coup, but as I have the information already I may as well use it.

Obviously, my $10,000 jackpot at Harrah’s Laughlin helps a little bit.  Taking that extremely rare win out of the picture, it’s a total loss of $527; $241 in Las Vegas and $286 in Laughlin.

What I’m most interested in is how this compares to my theoretical losses over the course of the year.  After all, that’s the figure I used as the basis of the decision to go for Diamond status at the start of the year.

I started off by pumping $30,000 through on video poker to get Diamond in a Day (valid until March 2009), and made sure that number reached $110,000 to retain that status for another year.

I played the majority on 9/6 Jacks or Better (99.5%) in Laughlin, and the bulk of the rest on 8/5 Bonus Poker (99.2%) in Las Vegas with a smaller amount on 9/5 Jacks or Better (98.4%).

I can be a little obsessive about my video poker records, but it does mean that I have enough information to know that my theoretical loss this year is $691.70.  So even without the jackpot, I was slightly over-achieving.  (On the other hand, the machines at Palms that you’re meant to win on have killed me).

Breaking it down, I should have lost $360.90 in Laughlin from about $72,000 cycled through the machine and $330.80 in Las Vegas from about $38,000.  That’s virtually the same loss number from roughly half the action – every fraction of a percent counts!

$110,000 on video poker earns 11,000 base reward credits (worth $110 in comp) and most games award bonus credits – albeit somewhat randomly.  In total I earned another 26,000 bonus RCs ($260).

As it was easy to spend (what I hadn’t already eaten, I used towards the hotel bill at the Rio) I am treating this as real money.  In fact, it’s worth a little more than real money because you don’t pay tax when spending comp!

So, was Diamond status worth it for me this year, at a theoretical net cost of $321.70?  Absolutely yes.

Quantifying all the perks this lofty status has afforded me over the past year is tricky.  It’s hard to put a value on guaranteed valet parking on busy nights, lounge access or being trusted with glassware instead of plastic beakers at the buffet.

But I can add up all the lovely room, food and free play offers I’ve managed to take advantage of.  I’m aware that these are not necessarily related to Diamond status in particular, but as I had nothing but a dormant players card the previous year, everything I was offered is based solely on my play in 2008.  Here’s my total haul for the year:

Harrah’s Laughlin 1 night March 49.99
Bounceback cash for January play 27.00
Matched status and free play at Venetian 50.00
Rio 2 nights June 220.00
Harrah’s Laughlin 3 nights June 199.97
Imperial Palace 2 nights June 119.90
Harrah’s Rincon 2 nights July 258.00
Harrah’s Rincon food credit 25.00
Harrah’s Rincon slot play 25.00
Flamingo 3 nights July 285.00
Summerfest blackjack tournament 80.00
Second City show tickets 100.00
Harrah’s Laughlin 2 nights August 198.00
Harrah’s Laughlin free play 100.00
Caesars Palace 2 nights August 240.00
Rio 5 nights December 300.00

The Laughlin room rates seem high (I’d never pay $99/night to stay there) but I did get all these rates straight out of the Harrah’s reservation system by logging out and trying to book the same type of room for the same dates as an unknown user, and given their best rate guarantee it should be pretty accurate.

The amount I’ve put for the Rio was what it could be booked for in December (which had been reduced by more than $100 since I first booked it) and I’ve not included anything for the ability to get casino rate for an additional 6 days.  In total on that trip I actually got at least $1800 worth of hotel for about $400.

It’s also worth noting that some of these rooms were also upgraded at check-in (I got a Go room at Flamingo with a Deluxe room comp and a surprise suite in Laughlin), so in some cases the rates would have been higher to book that particular type of room.

I also only put $80 down for the summerfest tournament, which is the amount you had to pay to enter if you weren’t invited.  I doubt it’s worth anything like that, but I walked away with $550 so I should include something!

Anyway, the total of that little lot as listed: $2277.86.

Not bad for $321.70, even if I did only use the Caesars Palace nights to stock up my shampoo collection.

So, can I do better in 2009?  It depends on how long the offers keep on coming but I’ve made a fairly good start.

It’s extremely unlikely that I will earn 11,000 reward credits to retain Diamond status for another year, and if I do it will be exclusively through play in Laughlin as the one video poker game worth playing in Las Vegas has been removed.  That means there’s a chance that I could keep the shiny player’s card but lose the room offers once they realise I don’t play in Las Vegas any more.

So if I don’t plan to give them another cent in action, anything I get for free this year is all gravy.

Driving my privileges into the ground has already begun.  Right now, I have advance hotel bookings in the bag for 27 free nights.

There’s a 2 night stay at Caesars and 5 nights at Rio for my trip in April.  Value: $620.

Then there’s four separate 5-night midweek stays in the summer at Harrah’s, Paris, Flamingo and Rio.  Although I probably won’t use half of that, it’s $1375 worth of hotel accomodation that it’s just rude to say no to.

I’m checking daily to see whether I’m going to be able to nab something for next Christmas too.  It’ll be interesting to see if they manage to catch on to my flagrant abuse of the system before then.