April 2009
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Clock this

The Palms is running their usual kind of swipe-and-win promotion this week.  Free gift cards, restaurant credit, random junk and point multipliers on offer – everyone wins something.

I’d play there regularly anyway, but the chance of some casino-branded junk or bonus slot club points is enough to make sure I turn up every single day in my awesome PT Cruiser.

I noticed the text on the points multiplier coupon I won on Sunday is now much more restrictive than it used to be:

For a while it’s been a bit of a grey area as to whether you would have your points multiplied if you played one of the 100%+ games on offer.  These machines have a label on them stating "not valid for any promotions".  In the past I’ve found that sometimes they’ve been excluded from point redemption offers and sometimes they just don’t seem to care.

With a multiplier, generally, as long as you didn’t play exclusively 100% machines, it seemed like you’d get all that day’s points multiplied.  So a quick session on 99.5% jacks or better (which actually becomes a 100% game with a 2x coupon, and a profitable game with anything better) usually did the trick.

Now the coupon specifically excludes all the good machines.  Some of the jacks or better machines have the non-promotional label but some do not, and after some experiementation I can confirm that, sadly, even the unmarked machines are excluded.

This is the first time I’ve ever seen a casino refer to a particular version of deuces wild as NSUD ("not so ugly ducks").  This particular variant is a 99.7% payback game which requires a quite different strategy than FPDW ("full pay deuces wild") because a flush pays 3 coins compared to 2, and four-of-a-kind 4 coins compared to 5.

Although a 99.7% paytable can provide some good opportunities when add the value of slot club promotions to the expected return, FPDW has remained my wild card game of choice because it pays back a much healthier 100.7% (before any other incentives).

Some casinos label their best machines with a "certified X% payback" banner (and a tiny footnote that reads "with optimal play") but I’ve only ever seen or heard the terms "full pay" and "not so ugly" used by players or strategy guide authors – never by the casinos themselves.

So anyway, the point multipliers are pretty much dead to me.  But there’s always the free shit.

On Monday, my ticket told me I’d won a "Tree Clock".  My reaction was (as, presumably, yours is too): "WTF is a tree clock?".  Fortunately it didn’t take long to find out:  it’s a clock with a picture of a tree on it.  Obvious really, I suppose.

At least the picture is a palm tree, but this isn’t Palms branded gear.  The label on the back simply states "made in China" and calls it a "CIOCK", which is pretty close.

Not only do I have no idea what the connection is between this piece of tat and "April Showers of Cash", but also, especially given that this promotion only lasts 5 days, I really didn’t expect to get the same gift two days running.  But sure enough, on Tuesday I won another super tree clock.

"I got one of these yesterday, is there any chance I can swap it for a t-shirt?", I asked.  I’d have traded it for almost anything on offer, but the man with the prizes wouldn’t budge.  It wasn’t until later that I realised my brand new tree clock actually had a slightly different design to the first one: two trees!

I can only hope that my run of luck continues so that I can end up with a whole forest of clocks before the week is out.


This was the view from our room at the Four Queens at sunrise.  The towers in the foreground are part of the Lady Luck, which was just about the only thing in town not lit up at the time.  It was closed "for renovations" in early 2006, but very little has actually been done to it since then.

No such thing as a free lunch – disproved

Just in case you needed proof of our VIP status at the Four Queens, here is the official documentation.

The inside of the "passport" outlines what you can eat for free (click to enlarge).

There’s absolutely no way we’ll eat close to the daily allowances – especially as yesterday’s late arrival cost us a free lunch – but it’s a pretty sweet deal nevertheless.

With all the stuff we’ve charged to the room so far, here’s what shows up on the bill.

We went slightly over the $15 allowance at the deli and only the difference appears.  There’s no trace of the other food at all – it just disappears!

I have to admit that I didn’t even realise that Four Queens had a deli, and having now experienced a fantastic pastrami sandwich I realise the best way to play this comp is to eat breakfast early, get a sandwich to go from the deli for lunch on the road and then get back to the hotel for dinner.  If only I’d realised that yesterday…

The long way home

I can’t remember the last time it was dark when we arrived in Las Vegas, but the unortodox choice of route for this trip made sure that this time we got to see the lights from afar.  MAN-PHL-PHX-LAS might have got us plenty of Diamond Club miles but it made the total journey time door-to-door more than 24 hours.

It was dark when we came in to land at 8pm, just as dark when we finally left the airport at 9.30pm and felt like it must almost be time to start getting light again by the time we finally made it to the hotel at 11.15pm.

It really didn’t help that US Airways put one of our bags (just one, mind) on the wrong plane.  With two changes of planes, and one with only about an hour stopover, I was expecting a fairly high chance of losing something.  However, it turned out to be the same plane all the way through from Philadelphia to Phoenix and on to Vegas (we left the hand luggage on board, stretched for 15 minutes and got back in the same seats) so at least the bags weren’t going to get lost in transit at Phoenix.

We’d even caught a glimpse of one of our bags through the window as they were being loaded in Philly, proving without a doubt that my idea to stick dayglo tape all over a suitcase does indeed mean you can see your bags from almost literally miles away.

However, only one shiny disco bag actually made it onto the plane, the other (identical, and also sporting fluorescent go-faster stripes) was left behind, then sent along on a later flight, leaving us to suffer 90 minutes of looped adverts for half a dozen different shows – all the self-proclaimed best in town and apparently unmissable – while we waited for it.

Otherwise the flight was fairly pleasant and the food was also edible, with a salad that was still crispy and a pork main course that hadn’t turned to rubber.  I was actually quite impressed.

US Airways’ business class seats aren’t as good as the fully flat recliners we had last year with BMI, but they’re comfy enough.  Apparently the cabins are being upgraded to lie-flat seats later this month.

In other US Airways news, they also start flying from Birmingham to Philadelphia in May which will open up a new route from the UK to Las Vegas to help spend all those lovely miles I accrued with BMI before they decided to axe all their flights to the USA.

Another thing that didn’t help with the overall travel time is that we had to wait in line for car rental for an hour.  This is pretty standard with Dollar when it’s busy but I thought it would be much quieter than it was.  Seriously, who arrives in Las Vegas late on a Saturday evening?  Apart from me, obviously.

Dollar has a huge desk but there’s rarely more than 3 people serving, and they’d all lose their job if they didn’t try to sell you a dozen more insurance that you haven’t heard of and don’t really need.  This is obviously much more important than trying to keep the queue moving.

An English guy just in front of us had reserved two week’s rental online for $400, only to be told the total was over $1200 when he got to the desk.  They obviously see us coming, unfamiliar with the insurance requirements and jargon, and too tired to argue.  This is why I always have a fully inclusive prepaid booking now, so you know what you’re getting up front and can just shake your head at any questions rather than have to try to construct a sentence after nearly 20 hours on a plane.

When we finally arrived at Four Queens, check-in was, thankfully, instant.  The room is nothing special, but it’s right next to the elevator for speedy access to and from the casino, and it also has a Fremont Street Experience stage view.

I’m not sure if that’s meant to be a premium feature, the kind of thing you might slip them a $20 to try to get, but there was just happened to be something different going on tonight: Leanne Rimes live!

Not one the usual tribute acts that entertains Fremont Street passers by, but actual Leanne Rimes who had the whole street watching her.

We heard The One From Con Air as we parked up and she was doing The One From Coyote Ugly when we got up the the room.

I think she’d been to see Blue Man Group earlier that evening.  This is Rock Concert Movement #6 :

We listened to the end of her show (to be honest, we didn’t have much choice) and crashed out.  Gambling and stuff would have to wait until the morning.

Monkeying around in Las Vegas

Here are my (let’s not say fake, how about visually creative?) pictures of the PokerStars monkey "in" Las Vegas.

The idea I had was simply to capture a reflection of neon in his eyes.  I started off with an extreme close up (this is the full frame from the camera):

This one fell out of contention pretty quickly.  I can tell what the sign is, but I doubt anyone else would recognise it.  It’s actually one of my favourite signs, which is from the side of the Golden Gate.  It simply states the three key selling points of the hotel: "Restaurant, Bar, Jackpots."

However, if you can’t tell what it is, the concept fails.

So for the second try, I picked Sassy Sally.  She’s not quite the icon that Vegas Vic is, but I thought she would still be recognisable – and sitting with her legs outstretched she is much better suited to the orientation of a monkey’s eyes than a standing cowboy.

So, tell me, if you squint really hard, can you see what’s going on here?

It’s not as clear as I’d have liked and you pretty much have to know what you’re looking for, but I think there’s enough of her reflected to recognise what’s going on.  However, I love how the picture turned out anyway.  It’s a decent portrait of my beloved Monkey, and the little bit of Vegas in his eye is just a bonus.

Here’s a close-up, in case you still don’t get it.

Eventually I realised it was going to be impossible to get something that was obviously Las Vegas to reflect recognisably in his tiny eyes.

The solution: sunglasses, of course!  The first pair I ordered online smothered the poor thing, but I dropped on some tiny mirror shades at Build-a-Bear workshop just in time.

You would not believe how difficult it was to get anything resembling a pink glow on his face using the equipment I had to hand (a pink light of some kind would obviously have been useful…), but persistence paid off and a few hundred exposures later I had one I was happy with.

Anyway, right now Monkey and I are in transit to actual Las Vegas.  Stay tuned for the usual ramblings.

He ain’t heavy, he’s my monkey

Here are some of the photos Claire and I submitted for the PokerStars "Monkey Madness" promotion, and some others that didn’t make the cut., from our trips to London and Salzburg earlier in the year.

Monkey at Buck House:

The weather was just grim the whole time we were there, which makes the photo a bit dismal really.  This was the best of a gloomy bunch.

If the sky looks crap, crop it tight to avoid the sky.  Fine in theory.  But in this one, somehow we managed to completely miss two girls with their heads up a statue’s arse. 

Monkey at the foot of Nelson’s Column:

I really like this angle, but the picture could benefit from just the slightest hint of colour in the horrible English sky.  It’s one of the reasons I’m finally learning to use Photoshop…

Monkey at Thorpe Park:

I thought we’d have big fun taking him on some coasters.  Two problems though: not only the shitty weather (surprise) but also half the park was closed, so this was actually the only photo op we got.

Monkey in Salzburg:

Nothing says Salzburg like a statue of Mozart.  In fact the whole town is nothing but Mozart Street, Mozart Museum, Wolfgang’s Bar and Grill, the Amadeus toothpaste factory, etc.

The only other famous thing associated with Salzburg is The Sound Of Music.  So why on earth wouldn’t there be a painted lifesize cow to celebrate this?

Of course, I would have taken some photos of Monkey in Las Vegas if the competition had allowed for it.  Unfortunately, the closing date was this Wednesday, so the timing was just slightly wrong.

However I did use a little trickery to try to create some "Monkey <3 Vegas" shots.  I’ll set those to post on here tomorrow while I’m on a plane, and then try to take the real thing next week.

I’m actually packed now too.  So is monkey.  Vegas here we come!


Dun Roman

I must really have more hotel rooms than I know what to do with if I’m actually cancelling a reservation at Caesars Palace that cost me nothing.

It’s a reluctant cancelation.  I’m sure it’s a fine room, and I already know the toiletries are worth swiping.  Caesars lemon grass shampoo was one of my favourites from the big bag of stolen soap-n-stuff, and sadly I’ve now run out.  But it just doesn’t fit well into the trip when other freebies will work much better.

T-3, by the way.  We fly on Saturday on a route that seemed a great idea at the time (MAN-PHL-PHX-LAS) but I’m sure we’ll end up regretting.


Four Queens had sent Claire a flyer for a special Chinese New Year promotion, with a great 3-night deal valid until March 31st.  In addition to a jeweled ox (which would go nicely with the jeweled rat we got with the same deal last year).  They’d feed us the whole time, including one meal in Hugo’s Cellar, and give her some free money.


Then we also had a letter addressed to us both offering the same kind of deal for the weekend after we leave town (click image to view full letter).

This is both good and bad.  It’s a great package – free room, unlimited free food and free gambling money is better than anything we’ve ever had before – but this letter does show that they’ve figured out that our accounts are connected and are offering us a joint package.

We deliberately never ask for a joint player’s club account and we’ve already had some mailers twice.  It looks like that might not last now though.

Anyway, if you don’t ask you don’t get.  So Claire emailled a random host to ask whether they could be flexible on the dates for either deal.  In fact, there was no need because apparently a mailer has gone missing somewhere along the way:

Hi Claire,
You did receive a mailer that gives you 3 free nights with room and food at Magnolia’s ($30/day), the Deli ($15/day), Chicago Brewery ($40/day), Room Service ($20/day), and at Hugo’s ($150 one time only) plus $250 in Free Slot Play for the dates of April 1- May 31, 2009.


With $250 free play, it’s actually an even better offer than the other two!  Not only that, but she spells out exactly how the food allowances work, which is very handy to know.

It’s definitely going to be a challenge to eat my way through four different daily food allowances and one meal in their gourmet restuarant.  You can tell Hugo’s Cellar is a classy joint when the menu writes out the prices in words.  Steak with extra crab legs on the side?  Yes please.

Then there’s the Wynn.  We’re accepting their invitation for 3 free nights and $200 in slot play.  We really won’t appreciate a 5-diamond hotel, and the choice between this Wynn offer or using a comp at Casino Royale was closer than anyone could ever expect, but $200 in free play just about swung it.

Finally we have 5 free nights lined up at the Rio, which I booked before Christmas.  At least I hope we still do.  I received an email this morning, following up one that had apparently been sent last month that I missed:

Dear Mr. Newman,

This is in regard to your reservations for Las Vegas. Currently you have 8 future reservations at Paris, Caesar’s Palace, Rio and Harrah’s. Unfortunately you can only have 5 future reservations in the Las Vegas area. You will need to cancel at least 3 reservations . I will be happy to assist you I will need the dates of the reservations you want to cancel. I look forward to your prompt response regarding this matter.

Thank you,

Kathleen Carroll
Harrah’s Entertainment
Internet Auditor

Firstly, if you work for Harrah’s you should know there’s no apostrophe in Caesars Palace.  I know these things matter way too much to me, but get it right, please.

Secondly, "Internet Auditor"?  What a waste of a job.  Why not just block me from making more than 5 advance bookings?  The system can tell whether I make a booking within 2 days of an existing reservation and tells me to go screw myself if I try it.  It wouldn’t be hard to prevent the 6th booking.

That’s if they actually wanted to do it.  However, I very much doubt that this is a blanket policy.  If the reservations were for rooms I was paying for, I’m sure there’d be no issue.

As I somehow missed her first email, Kathleen has threatened to cancel my latest 3 reservations if I don’t sort it out by the end of the week.  It’s not like I need the rooms, but it’s definitely not good that a human has noticed my "excessive" (her words, and I can’t really argue) reservations.  I’m sure you’ll hear more about this if it ends in tears.