Did You Notice? – Gambling With An Edge

I wrote the following article (minus the epilogue which I added later) and then passed it by South Point management for a fact check. As a sponsor of my podcast and the place where I teach my free classes, I have a special relationship with that casino, and I don’t want to screw it up by getting things wrong.

Turns out, I did get a rule wrong. At the end of what I originally wrote, I’ll explain how that rule change affected my behavior.

For those of you who play at the South Point casino, a rare double-dip opportunity presented itself recently. I wrote about the same situation a few years ago, hoping to teach my readers how to think like a winning player. Now the opportunity happened again. Did you notice it this time?

In April, the monthly promotion was two separate casino-wide progressives going on at all times. One from $10,000 to $25,000, where non-winners received $25 in free play when it went off, and the second one between $1,000 and $2,500. Each jackpot started again immediately after it was hit. Beginning 12:01 a.m. May 1 (essentially midnight April 30), each jackpot would keep going until it was hit, and then it would not start again.

In May, the monthly promotion is half-price Walmart or Chevron gift cards. Play and redeem $8,334 (usually enough to earn $25 in cash or free play) and receive one $50 gift card instead, limit 10 per person.

That means if you played starting at midnight April 30, you were working on both promotions at once. You would probably only get an extra $25 because somebody else would hit the big jackpot. But maybe . . . 

It’s easy to evaluate how much the half-price gift card promotion is worth. Assuming you consider the cards as having the same value as cash, the promotion is worth 0.30%. Another way to say this is for the first $83,340 in coin-in for the month, you’re getting double points — namely 0.60% rather than the usual 0.30%.

It was not so easy evaluating the April promotion. It depended on how many players were playing and also what denomination you were playing. If a nickel player and a dollar player had equal chances to hit the jackpot (which I think is the case), in terms of dollars-per-hour, the returns were the same. In terms of percentage win, playing for nickels gives you 20 times as big of an edge as playing for dollars does (assuming the same pay schedules on the machine, which is not usually the case.) Also, if both progressives were active, it had to be worth more than if only one was active.

So, I can’t tell you how much that promotion is worth, but I can tell you it’s worth “something positive.” Playing for the gift cards, plus “something positive” has to be a higher-paying alternative than playing for the gift cards without this extra.

This doesn’t mean you had to be there at 12:01 a.m. on May 1. There are lots of reasons why you wouldn’t want to be. One of my regular readers lives in Switzerland. He’s not flying over for this double dipping. You might have a better alternative (like, perhaps, you were on a progressive with a higher EV than any game at the South Point even while including the two promotions.) You could be someone who doesn’t function well after midnight. Whatever.

Consciously choosing to neglect this opportunity this time can be appropriate for any number of reasons. Neglecting to notice that this double-dipping was possible (assuming you’re in Las Vegas and will be playing for the gift cards anyway) is not a good sign, assuming your goal is to make money playing video poker.

A winner at video poker constantly looks for double- and triple-dipping opportunities. That’s one thing that separates the winners from the non-winners at this game. It’s a mindset. (Or maybe it’s a disease!) 

I strongly believe that the players who notice this (and similar types of things at other casinos) have a better win rate than those who don’t. This has nothing to do with luck. This has everything to do with keeping your eye on the prize.

So, did you notice? 

When I passed this by the South Point management, I learned about a rule that I didn’t know. If either jackpot hit on the last day, namely April 30, it wouldn’t reset. Since the smaller jackpot hit about three times a day, it was almost certain that it would hit on April 30 and not still be active by midnight.

The larger jackpot, however, hit every two or three days on average. It could be active at midnight April 30. It may not be. The only way to know was to go in and find out.

I decided that I would go in. I would manage my sleep well enough so that I could play many hours, whether both promotions were active or just one. Since I choose to play at least $83,340 anyway, it doesn’t much matter when I play it. So, it wouldn’t be a total waste if the April jackpot was not active. It would be better, of course, if it was active. 

It’s important to read the rules to promotions. This was a case where I hadn’t read the rules recently because it was a regular promotion at the South Point and I assumed the rules hadn’t changed since the last time I checked them.

And you know what they say about “assume.” 

I got to the South Point at slightly before midnight. At the Silverado Bar, which is immediately inside the door from the parking garage, I saw that the smaller jackpot was surprisingly still active at $2,450 and the bigger one was at $19,500. By the time I got to my machine, the smaller one had already been hit, but the larger one was still active. 

I played. The larger one went off about noon, while I had been there a full 12 hours. I got my $25 bonus. But it could have been higher.

I’ll probably save some play to be done on May 31, when they will have a Hot Seat promotion. Every three minutes between 8 a.m. and midnight, some player will receive $100 in free play. I may or may not get $100. But hey! Looking to capture every bit of EV out of a promotion is part of the DNA of being a winning player.

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