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Betting on the World Cup for the totally clueless

Here’s my tip: use someone else’s money.

BedFred just waved a free £5 bet in my face.  It’s really rude to say no to such things.

I don’t know the first thing about football these days.  In fact, I think the last game I watched was probably the last time England played in the World Cup.

So, here’s how I’ve almost certainly managed to turn a massively +EV proposition (taking someone else’s fiver) into the least profitable play possible (stupid accumulator based on guesswork).  I just clicked around a bit until it looked like there would be something worth cashing out.

I don’t feel quite so clueless after seeing things like this though.  Matt Goss and international football on a boat.  Just one of a million things that makes Vegas great.  But they could at least try to find out a little about which team the USA is actually playing…

Caesars did quickly correct this in their next post.  And then went on to brag that in addition to Guinness the 9am drinking party would feature such other speciality English beers as KilkennyHarp and Smithwick’s.

So grab a lucky shamrock and cheer for O’England!

And come on whoever the fuck else I picked above too…

Terrible's new poker room, or something like that

I’m still not sure if this email I had tonight is genuine.

terriblespoker

For a start, if Terrible’s really has live poker, I’m quite disappointed that this mailer didn’t come with a picture of Mr Terrible wearing sunglasses and an iPod.  They usually make an effort to dress him up whenever possible, and this would be a perfect opportunity.

But let’s assume this is for real (they routinely spell my name wrong on emails this way, so that goes some way to verifying the authenticity).

How on earth did they find space to put in at least one poker table?  It’s pretty cozy in there already.

The sportsbook is so small it has about half a dozen seats and the pit is perfectly crammed into the middle of the action so that if you want to play Wheel of Fortune and roulette at the same time, I’m pretty sure you’d be able to.  And if there happens to be a line for the cashier (particularly likely on paycheck day) snaking through a tightly arranged grid of video poker machines at least gives you something to lean on while you wait.

They’ve recently moved the player’s club out of the broom cupboard next to the gift shop into a kiosk on the casino floor, but I can’t see that space being any use for poker.  It’s not much larger than six feet square.

The mailer says “see casino pit for details”, not “see poker room”.  They clearly don’t have any pretensions of being the Bellagio (thank goodness).  It might just be one table.  And you might have to ask for directions.

There’s just nowhere I can think that even one table could go without needing to get rid of either slot machines, table games or space in the bingo hall, and I can’t see any of those happening for a game that (according to the coupon on this mailing) has a $20 minimum buy in.

That would make it one of only two such recession-busting poker games in Las Vegas (the other is a single $1 blind no-limit Hold’em game at Bill’s).  I can’t wait to see what games are on offer, and what kind of clientele it attracts.

I can’t find any other details about this.  Nothing on Terrible’s own web site, or any of the usual suspect Las Vegas poker blogs.  I might actually be the first to break this massive poker news in the whole of the “blogosphere”.

Oh how I hate that word.

However, to be fair, I’d be surprised if any other bloggers were on Terrible’s mailing list, let alone had ever stopped by for a 99c coffee and Krispy Kreme special.

A money launderer's wet dream

If you’ve got any money that needs washing, Stan James are making it insanely easy for you this weekend.  Just bet both sides on the SuperBowl – with no juice!

stanjamesevens

A slightly less nefarious way to take advantage of this is through their £25 free bet offer.

Grab a partner, sign up an account each and bet £25 on each side of the point spread.  You can’t lose, and then you’ll both end up with a £25 free bet to play with next week.

There’s usually a way to cash in sports betting bonuses without any risk, but this one makes it pretty easy to explain how it works.

So I thought I would.

Click here to play and it's all over baby

Yesterday, quite randomly, I found myself at the London Affiliate Conference.

You’d never know from the modest name, but this event is an expo specifically for affiliates of online gambling sites.

You know what?  Other affiliate programs are available.

I wasn’t there for a conference, or as an affiliate – just for a meeting with someone who happened to be in the country because of it.

All the big names were there, which meant I was happy enough wandering around and gawping for a while.  These things are usually pretty fun for about twenty minutes, after which they get really annoying.  Fortunately I didn’t have to wait too long before my meeting.

I wandered round admiring the usual collection of free giveaway tat.  Plenty of pens, t-shirts, calendars… that kind of stuff.  The chocolate dice were particularly appealing, although I couldn’t help wondering whether the stand giving away branded cigarette lighters was exhibiting in the wrong decade.

And then I noticed this.

scotty

Scotty Nguyen, baby.

There are not many well known poker players that I would stop walking to take a photo of, but Scotty is the man, baby.

But wait, round the corner there was more:

doyle

At first I thought this was a looky likey… any dude in a hat could be pretty convincing.  But it is your actual Texas Dolly, Doyle Brunson.

The godfather of poker, making a personal appearance because his online poker room has gone down the pan and they’re pushing a casino instead.

Quite a star studded line up for an event that I still haven’t really worked out why it exists.

After all, when your online business does online marketing for an online casino, what is the actual benefit of getting some face time – except to be able to pick up the odd Blue Square stress ball, or something.

You just make a web site that links to another web site and get people to read it, right?  And if banner A makes you more money than banner B, you run banner A.  You don’t run banner B because a pretty girl who was employed by them – probably just for the day – gave you a free umbrella.

It was only after I heard that one of the people I’d gone to meet – a gaming writer who relies on affiliate commissions to eat – had already interviewed Brunson that it dawned upon me: I was probably the only blogger there who had to sneak around with a camera phone to get pictures of these guys.

But along with that realisation came a reminder that I don’t write this rubbish for anyone other than myself.  That’s pretty obvious from the fact I haven’t even bothered trying to put a banner ad on the site in three years.  But I’ve come to realise what a world of difference there is between writing for fun versus writing for a living.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that (I’ve been paid to write before – albeit on a small scale, meaning I had plenty of freedom to choose the subject – and would do so again if the right gig came along) but it’s not what this blog is and I quite like it that way.

So to those of you that do actually bother to read this now and again and humour me when I talk crap or rant about things that aren’t really that important, I thank you.

Americans don't do irony: discuss

A cash prize monies?  I assure you sir it is totally legitimate.

harrahslaughlinsarcasm2

Oh come on, I thought that was funny… can I get a LOL?

While I can somewhat understand the sensible reply from the casino’s representative, the last poster clearly thinks I added Harrah’s Laughlin to my Facebook friends by accident.  Must happen a lot.

Everything you wanted to know about Caesars Palace but were afraid to find out the easy way

You can’t imagine how excited I was to see an offiical Caesars Palace iPhone app appear on the App Store recently.

It came with a big boast too: “The Caesars Palace Mobile application is a travel companion that can elevate your trip from ordinary to legendary”.

Sadly, I beg to differ.  It’s a bit of a turd.

The app weighs in at a tiny 0.4Mb, which tells you it’s going to have to fetch most of its data from the network.

This is good and bad.  It’s easy for them to update information when it changes (it’s Vegas – things change frequently) but it alienates iPod touch users and visitors from outside the USA who don’t want to get stung by horrendous data roaming charges, pay extortionate hotel wifi charges, or go to the effort of getting their iPhone unlocked and using a local SIM.

iPod touch users are also screwed over on the included gimmick to put your own photo onto a Caesars Palace sign.  It only works with the iPhone’s camera – you can’t use a picture from your photo library.  Although it’s a pretty piss poor effort at slapping two photographs together anyway.  I tried it with an old friend.

caesarsapp3

The other information you get is a subset of what you can find on the Caesars web site, thrown together in a style reminiscent of web sites from 1995, except without a hit counter or an animated “men at work” image.

caesarsapp4

The part I was really interested in though was how I would be able to “use Caesars Palace Mobile to find [my] way around the resort”, like they claimed.

Let’s face it.  If someone describes the floor plan at Caesars as “all over the place”, they’re being kind.

For what it’s worth, I actually find that meandering mess of a maze an endearing feature of a property which has evolved and grown in character over more than 40 years.  It’s just a nightmare to get to where you want to be.

So, what technological wonders that take advantage of the iPhone platform have they used to help you find your way?

It’s a map.

caesarsapp2

It’s the same map that you get when you check into the hotel or if you can pick up around the casino.

The user experience is somewhat different, however.  When they print maps, they tend to make sure that they’re readable, and they generally print them larger than three inches in size.  This is is pretty standard because, well, it just works.

Above is an actual size screenshot.  Tell me where Total Rewards is, or how to get to the Augustus Tower from the parking garage.

I’m being a little unkind.  You can actually zoom in enough so that the text size is almost the same size as it would be in print.  Of course, once the text is readable, you can only see a fraction of the map.

I guess it’s nice to have a map graphic on your phone though.  I’ve used that kind of thing before, with zooming and panning and what not.  I’d probably use this one too if it actually stayed downloaded to my phone long enough to use it – instead of requiring a significant download every single time you navigate away and come back.  It takes a good 5 seconds over wifi and 25-30 seconds on 3G.   (I didn’t bother trying over EDGE).  They should at least cache it within the app for a couple of hours.

I should probably have seen this coming, when the first thing in the product description is an attempt to claim that this is a “beta” release – despite being publicly available to anyone with an iPhone or iPod touch, and carrying a 1.0 version number.

Disappointing as the app is, it’s even more disappointing that Caesars Palace would put its name on what is clearly a work in progress.

The worst video poker game I ever played

The time has come to say a tearful farewell to my Diamond Total Rewards card.

The current card is still valid until the end of March, but as I won’t return to Las Vegas until the beginning of April, that does me no good whatsoever.  In order to retain it, I needed to have achieved the requisite number of tier credits by the end of last year.  I didn’t get there.

The number of tier credits required to achieve or retain Diamond is 11,000 – representing $55,000 of action on slot machines, or $110,000 on video poker.  Or some secret magic formula of time, money and whether or not the pit boss likes you when playing table games.

I’ve achieved this before, using a 50-line 9/6 Jacks or Better game in Harrah’s Laughlin.  It takes some commitment (and some balls to trust in the numbers when you run bad), but a 99.54% game with (usually) 0.3% returned as comp means it’s a decent proposition.  Cycle $110,000 on that game and you expect to lose about $500 in cash, but receive $330 to spend on food and stuff.  Net cost: $170.

Consider that most video poker on the Strip is in the 97-98% range.  A typical player qualifies for Diamond status with a theoretical loss in the region of $3,000 for a given year.  They still only get back the same $330 as comp, so doing it my way is a pretty good discount.

Yes, slightly better plays are available.  I just don’t have the bankroll for them.

Here’s one that you won’t find on the vpfree2 web site.  That could be down to a lack of casino monitors, the inability to actually find what you’re looking for since the site switched to it’s new craptastic format, or just that members of the so-called community are no longer sharing data like they used to (you know, the way most of them actually got started), just reporting a handful of so-so games but keeping the best information to themselves.  I liked the old site.  I miss the old site.

I may get death threats for talking about it, but Harrah’s Laughlin has a 9/6 Jacks or Better in a $1 Multistrike game.  Or at least it did in December 2009.  It’s a slant-top, just inside the high limit area, next to the poker room.

Multistrike video poker requires you to pay for four hands at a time.  If you win the first, you play the second with a 2x multiplier; if you win that you play the 3rd at 4x and – if you get there – the top line is paid off at 8x the regular win.  If you don’t win on the first attempt though, you’ve just lost four times the usual stake very quickly.

Yes, the swings are big.  But making some adjustments to the way you play the game teases the odds in the player’s favour.  You can get almost 99.8% payback (so it’s a profitable game when you add in other benefits) and at $20 per game it’s very quick to cycle money.  Perfect for a professional with deep pockets, but given that a not-insignificant part of the overall return comes from large 8x wins – including an extremely rare top line royal flush – I was only able to have a quick punt on this one.

How sweet it nearly was though.  One card away from thirty two grand…

multistrikeoneoff

I did actually abandon an attempt to achieve Diamond in a Day at Harrah’s Laughlin (requiring only 3,000 tier credits in 24 hours) on a $1 Deuces Wild machine.  Although it’s a solid play at 99.7% payback, I wasn’t familiar with the game and it was more volatile than I expected – and was comfortable with – so I bottled it, took the money and ran after hitting a lucky quad deuces.

After that, I got back to Vegas with roughly 3,200 tier credits showing for the year.  There was no way I’d get Diamond now, but I only needed to reach 4,000 to ensure Platinum for the next year.

Frankly, Platinum isn’t worth much.  At some hotels you can use the same VIP check-in as Diamond, but at others it looks like you have to wait in the pleb line.  There’s no queue-jumping at restaurants or for taxis, and if the valet is “full” you actually have to pull cash out of your wallet to make a space magically appear, not just a players card.

You do get some kind of show tickets offer though, and an invitation to the Summerfest tournament.  But mostly, well, I just wanted my players card to not be gold again.

Do you see why these tiered programs are so successful?…

It’s not (quite) all vanity.  I do like the idea of flashing a shiny player’s card when I sit at a poker table to let everyone else know I gamble.  I’ll then most likely turn to granite for two or three hours, by which time nobody is fooled when I check-raise with a sigh, but just in case I hit a monster early on it certainly can’t harm my action.

I wasn’t sure where that 3,200 number had come from.  In the summer, I used a Macy’s gift card promotion to play a few otherwise unfavourable games with an edge and Claire and I between us racked up about 1300 tier credits.  In December in Laughlin, we’d done a little more than 700 more in total.

So that’s 1200 tier credit that had to have come from somewhere….  Who knew it was from poker?

This is a new phenomenon, apparently beginning earlier this year and, according to Poker Grump, awards 28 tier credits per hour in addition to the usual 100 spendable credits (worth $1 towards eating).

A commenter on that post saved me some calculations by noting that you can reach Diamond status with 393 hours of play and Platinum with 143 hours.  That’s out of reach for me.  I’ve failed in three consecutive summers to reach my target of 100 hours play in a month-long trip.  I’m sure I could do it with a little more focus, but as I take real work with me on long trips, I don’t go to Vegas to make poker feel like a job.

It does actually sound like a great deal though. It seems that if you lived in Las Vegas and gambled recreationally, playing $2/$4 Hold’em would be a much less stressful way to get to Diamond than any other kind of low stakes gaming.  If you play poker with any kind of seriousness (and loyalty) you’ll do it several times over.

At least it feels like Harrah’s are being generous to poker players.  In fact, even using a conservative estimate of $10 rake paid per hour†, a Diamond poker player is worth at least $3,930 to Harrah’s.  That’s actually more than a video poker player who isn’t completely clueless about strategy, or a slot player who gets there by playing games with 93% payback or higher (which is about right for $1 slots on the Strip)!

[†20 hands per hour maxing out the rake at $5 per pot gives this number when averaged across a full table of ten players; it could be double this, which would put it on a par with penny slots].

Anyway, I’ll gladly take advantage of any opportunity to reduce the amount of machine play I need to put in to reach a player’s club tier, especially when the machines you can do it on just keep getting worse.

Last week, in a last-ditch attempt to try to salvage my Total Rewards status, I decided to play quite possibly the worst video poker game I had ever sat down at.  (Well, at least since I realised that not all games were created equal.)

Imperial Palace.  7/5 Bonus Poker.  98.0% payback with optimal stragtegy.  The last surviving 8/5 paytable (99.2% payback) is long gone.

Actually it was slightly better than that – it was a Super Times Pay game.  STP lets you play an extra coin on each hand for the chance of being dealt a multiplier card worth 2x, 3x, 4x, 5x, 8x or 10x on a winning hand.  The multiplier appears every 15 hands and averages 4.05x, and those numbers actually make it a slightly profitable bet.  Unlike Multistrike, no change in strategy is needed to benefit from the additional payback, but it’s still quite volatile.  Even on a 25c machine the long-term return accounts for hitting a 10x royal flush, worth $10,000.

Super Times Pay is a slight improvement – worth about 0.3% overall – which, unfortunately, made this machine the very best of a bad bunch.

The question was: would this gamble be worth it?

I had to give Harrah’s $8,000 more action in order to retain my level.   Add on roughly 0.3% in comp credit to the 98.3% game payback and I stood to lose 1.4% of the total amount bet.  That’s an expected loss of $112 – too much to pay just for a free afternoon show (of someone else’s choice) and entry into a $40 tournament (if the dates worked out right).

But because I was doing it at a Strip casino rather than out in Laughlin (where being able to count the spots on two dice is generally enough to get you a free room) there was the possibility of that action being enough to qualify my account for the much more valuable Las Vegas comps again.

It’s not surprising that I had lost my free room privileges, but it’s surprising it took so long.  Nearly a year after I began booking weeks of free hotels at a time, doing little more than stealing the soap (or at least trying) and not gambling a penny in Harrah’s casinos in Las Vegas, they finally caught up and decided I needed to start paying to stay there.

What’s even more surprising though, is that it only took a couple of days after this short stint at Imperial Palace to get those freebies back again.  They started showing today!  It looks like almost any dates for five free midweek nights are available for at least one of: Flamingo, Bally’s, Harrah’s or Rio.  It only takes a couple of nights to cover that $112 loss in full!

I don’t really care that my offers don’t include Caesars or Paris, or even the “Luv Tub” rooms at Imperial Palace that had tempted me so much in the past.  Rio suits me down to the ground.  It’s within walking distance of places I actually want to gamble at (Gold Coast, Palms) and close to the freeway for getting places.  If I want to play poker on the Strip, I can be at Caesars Palace in about 5 minutes.

A good result then, but fortunately so this time, I think, rather than being a brilliantly calculated advantage play.  Even that 1.4% theoretical loss on a game is too high to justify retaining Platinum – and certainly too high to justify shooting for Diamond – for next year.  I’ll either have to find a better game that I am comfortable with, increase my tolerance to risk significantly, or just play lots of poker at Harrah’s casinos to bump up the numbers.

There is one more option.  A cunning backup plan.  It involves one of the spare copies of my old Diamond card that I started stock-piling last week and a black marker pen.  Can you tell what it is yet?

On the shelves, in the pub

My tiny video poker book is actually on the shelves of a book store.

It’s only one book store, but if I had to pick just one place to sell it, this would be it: The Gamblers Book Shop in Las Vegas.

It’s round about now that I’m starting to wish I’d bothered designing a cover for it.  But still, it’s there and I’m even told that the staff have even been briefed on how to read the strategy charts so they can demonstrate its awesome power to customers in the store.

Strongly considering an incognito visit when I’m back in Vegas in December :-)

If you happen to be heading that way yourself, the new GBS location is about 300 yards from the Crown and Anchor so you can buy my book and then head over to the pub, stick $20 in a video poker machine and play perfect strategy while you get a totally free lunch (currently #7 on the Las Vegas Advisor top ten) and a pint of Old Speckled Hen.

How can you go wrong with that?  Seriously?

Update: Also on Amazon now: http://www.amazon.com/Ultimate-Video-Poker-Pocket-Book/dp/0557120454

A genuine expert – fact!

"A genuine expert on the game, in fact a genuine expert on all things casino".

That’s how I’m introduced on the telly, so it must be true.

I have finally seen the blackjack TV show pilot I recorded in September, and it can’t be that bad as Poker Channel Europe have put the whole show online.  You can watch it in its entirity here:

http://www.pokerchanneleurope.com/videos/casinojoy_tv_episode_1.htm

There’s talk of recording more shows before Christmas, but they’re waiting for some updates to the replayer software which are needed in order to reduce the production time so they can put together a show quickly enough to feature games played in the previous week.

The Ultimate Video Poker Pocket, err, App?

The electronic version of my video poker book for iPhone and iPod Touch is now available for download on the App Store.

For those that don’t have iTunes, or just can’t be bothered to click through, here’s a screenshot that really doesn’t tell you much at all, and actually looks a bit poo when it’s not on a white background.

Blog readers will be like "yeah, that looks a bit poo", but if you’re reading this on Facebook or through an RSS reader you’ll be like "what’s he on about".

Anyway, there’s a bit more info and more screenshots here:

http://www.lightwood.net/ultvp.php