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Fall 2013 - Going cross-eyed playing $50K in video poker

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Joined: 19 Jul 2012
Posts: 59

PostPosted: Mar Sun 16, 2014 9:10 am    Post subject: Fall 2013 - Going cross-eyed playing $50K in video poker Reply with quote

I missed the forum! Last year, I started a new job in Sacramento and still live in San Francisco. The logistics of the commute (including a commitment to use public transportation as much as possible to not clog the roads) is almost as complex as determining the comps earned at Cal Neva.

This has not stopped us from taking monthly trips to Reno. Weíve been alternating trips from Siena and Peppermill. The Siena and Peppermill have treated us well will plenty of comp offers for free rooms, free play and food. We typically upgrade to the Spa Suite at the Peppermill. With their fantastic restaurants, pool and comps itís hard to not have a good time there. In fact, one reason why I havenít been posting is that while at the pool this summer, I put my iPhone under my leg thinking it would keep the phone from the sun. Unfortunately, the phone still overheated and my camera lense melted. Of course, it took me a while to figure out that it wasnít the software so I wasnít able to take photos for the entire summer.

Our big event last fall was going to Diamond at Total Rewards. I usually donít play for comps but with a week-long trip to Vegas in January, it made sense to try it. I broke down the math for my wife making the 15,000 tier credits required for Diamond. The best way to earn diamond is over two days, to cycle $25K through a video poker machine each day. (In 2014, Total Rewards changed their rules so you can cycle through $50K in one day and make Diamond)

The game I decided on was Jacks or Better. It has a payback of 99.54%, and a standard deviation of 4.42 (the lowest standard deviation slot at Harrahs Reno) . Deuces Wild has a better return but a higher standard deviation. But I thought a slightly higher theoretical loss was a good trade for a lower total loss risk.

I decided that we should play at the $1 denomination ($5 max bet) because anything less would take us over 8 hours to cycle through $25K, and the variance was too risky. The theoretical loss is -$115 per session but variance is a killer I decided on playing $1 Jacks or Better since at our slow rate of play that would take about 8 hours to cycle through $25K. Since Iím a pessimist, the loss from a single session of $25K coin in could be from -1,677 or less with a 68% certainty (one standard deviation). The loss could be -$2,324 or less with 95% certainty (two standard deviations). Because the royal flush is a large part of the payback, the swings in Jacks or Better are brutal.

I was going to do this alone but talked to my wife about it. I ran the math and the benefits. In January we went on a weeklong trip to Vegas. Making diamond at Total Rewards would likely just pay for itself in savings.

Hereís the breakdown of the savings on the Vegas Trip because of being Diamond members:

-$1K from a week of free rooms and no resort fees (There are cheaper rooms, but my days of staying in the pet rooms at the Quad aka ďthe worst room in Vegas are overĒ)
-$100 resort credit for our coin in (should have been $150 but we missed out on one multiplier day)
-$100 comp dinner for making Diamond
Free show tickets: $150 (ended up seeing Penn and Teller)

There are other soft benefits as well.

-Future bounce back cash and offers
-Getting to use the Diamond Lines at Caesar Buffets which saved us a lot of time
-Free access to Diamond Lounges with free alcohol
-Express check-in lines at Caesar properties (Iíve waited nearly an hour during long check-in lines so this was really worth it)
-Possibilityof upgraded rooms in Vegas
-Priority Taxi and Shuttle Lines
-Priority Valet service (this is amazing when you roll up to a line a 10 people and get your car first)

First session:

I find Jacks or Better mildly interesting. . But when compared to slots, itís the only game I should be playing. On the other hand, my wife finds it entertaining. The downside of it is that we are slow players and cycling in $25,000 at the $1 denomination level ($5 per) it would take us at least 8 hours to play 5,000 hands. I also would log our coin-in, win/loss and photograph some larger wins. We also agreed on some rules including loss-limits at different points of the play, so that we wouldnít lose our shirt.

The big day came and we sat down. We start a trend of high-fiving on every hand flush or higher which would not only keep us awake but cause our hands to eventually get sore on this saga. I keep records of coin-in, win/loss, and frequency of flushes or higher. We both double-check the draws to ensure we are not making strategy errors and double-check my Jacks or Better app to reference borderline plays.

Our first $5,000 coin-in was brutal and we immediately went down $-780. This was a pretty big deal since we were on pace to lose $3,900. We went to Hash House to stew over what to do. We decide to keep going but adhere to the loss-limit margin.

My wife played from $5K to $8K and hit some big hands and we fought our way back to -$180. I then take over from $8K to $11K and kill us to go back down to -$650. We then ride out slowly bleeding to $24K to end up -$1100.

Being $1100 down wasnít so bad considering got beat-up pretty bad in the beginning. Then my wife took over for the last $1K of play and gets hot to make up for our 4OK drought. We work our way back to -$695. This is huge because not only did we not lose our shirts but we are exactly on our projection. I count up the winning hands on my phone and find out our loss is mostly because we didnít hit a Royal Flush, Straight Flush and short one 4OK.

But we made Bronze tier and halfway to making Diamond.

How do we celebrate after 8 hours of video poker play? We go back to Siena and play some slots and more video poker. I go the craps table and hit win pretty big. In retrospect, that was a pretty sick day.

Second Session:

It got super cold in November causing snow at Donner Pass. We didnít think weíd make it back to Reno before the end of the year. But there was a break in the weather during a weekend and we decided to finish what we stated.

Got there Saturday night and played some slots and video poker at Siena. We won a few hundred to cushion our BR. The next day we have a great breakfast at the remodeled cafť at Siena. This fuels us up for the upcoming 8 hours of play at Harrahs.

We get into Harrahs and my wife goes to work. Within the first 50 hands she holds 2 to a Royal Flush. Iím just casually looking over and go back to reading my phone when this draw happens.

I had no idea it happened until my wife stats tugging my shirt and pointing. Iím literally in shock and she stands up and says, ďIím going to shit myself!Ē. HA! Weíre small players so this is the biggest jackpot weíve hit. I start see people wonder over and staring at the machine in awkward silence. It was a surreal.

The probability for a Royal Flush is 1 in 40.2K hands. We had little less than a 25% chance of hitting it and less if we had played at the $5 denomination. Obviously, we are now on the positive end of the variance. We decide to forge through our plan and finish going through the second $25,000 cycle and get Diamond.

For some reason, the second session felt like it took longer than the first. My eyes got really tired halfway through the session where I couldn't even focus on the cards. Luckily, our losses during this play was much more predictable than the first session.

Without the Royal Flush, our second session lost $1,065. We were short 4OK and FH on our second session. Our total loss without the Royal Flush is $1,760. Include the Royal Flush and we are up $2,240. This is right at the edge of two standard deviations. Thank god we didnít meet the negative end of variance.

I feel really fortunately when I look back at 2013. Reno has treated us well and is a great getaway for us in San Francisco. Our January trip to Vegas was amazing as well.

My only regret was not being able to meet Mammoth Gambler before he flew out of town. Hopefully Mammoth will visit sometime soon to give me an excuse to go back. [/url]
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Joined: 28 Feb 2006
Posts: 866

PostPosted: Mar Sun 16, 2014 8:00 pm    Post subject: good job Reply with quote

Congratulations on making Diamond and also the wife hitting the royal flush! When holding only two cards the odds of hitting a royal are something like 1 in 16,000. She was very lucky.

8 hours of video poker is not so bad. I can do 12 to 16 hours a day. Yes, I know there is something wrong with me....
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BC Dave

Joined: 18 Dec 2005
Posts: 1384

PostPosted: Mar Sun 16, 2014 8:31 pm    Post subject: Pretty nice! Reply with quote

Congrats to you and your wife! Do you know how long my avatar has been trying to get that hand?
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Joined: 12 Oct 2012
Posts: 472

PostPosted: Mar Sun 16, 2014 8:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

How do you do that?? after 1 hr. I'm seeing in 3D!
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Joined: 25 Dec 2005
Posts: 619

PostPosted: Mar Sun 16, 2014 10:45 pm    Post subject: awesome Reply with quote

Hi Dfens!

Great trip report, and congrats on all the big wins! JEEZ! Was that video poker machine one of the newer ones in the East Tower, by chance? I seem to recall them installing a group of them right before I left.

Congrats on your Diamond status! It looks like you definitely did the homework. In addition to everything you listed, keep in mind that there are also additional perks depending on which of the new Diamond sub-tiers you reach and maintain - Diamond Aspirations Level 1-3. It's not widely advertised and it's far from upscale, but you can get free unlimited use of the health club at Harrah's Reno, where everyone else has to pay $5 per entry. Just bring a bottle of bleach water for the whirlpool tubs, cause like I said, it's far from upscale, but free is free.

Glad to hear Reno and Vegas did you well, was wondering what you've been up to. Experiencing Reno withdrawal big time on this end and hoping for the opportunity to get back sometime.

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Joined: 19 Dec 2005
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PostPosted: Mar Mon 17, 2014 10:00 am    Post subject: dfens in the sky club with Diamonds (status)... Reply with quote

That's a masterpiece of preparation-'n-execution, right there. I love your appeal to the odds to make your case, and your faithful sticking to the program.

A hair-raising ride! But look at those benefits....and even a Penn 'n Teller show in Vegas? How was that? Their gig is well spoken of...

That's some heavy lifting to get to that Diamond status...and how long does it last? What do you have to do to maintain it?

Well, it sounds like you survived, and thrived...maybe now you can replace that phone/camera dealy, and provide us with more pictures!

Thanks for sharing....
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Joined: 22 Jan 2006
Posts: 181

PostPosted: Mar Mon 17, 2014 1:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

FANTASTIC report. I love your cold, methodical approach, and how you put no stock in luck and other witchcraft.

And I agree about regretting never meeting MammothGambler, he's something else, in ways both good and bad.
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PostPosted: Mar Wed 19, 2014 8:06 pm    Post subject: Thanks! Reply with quote

CaSwede - 8-12 hours a day! My back starts killing me at around 4 hours at a slot. There's nothing wrong with you! You are a machine!

BCDave - Thanks! My wife's luck continued to this recent trip!

Spdmrcht - I actually button mashed a slot because of a promotion. My eyes got dizzy and then my fingers were tired!

Mammoth - The royal was on the West Tower (the side with table games and not the sports zone). We're and not going for the aspiration levels and likely save that play for next year. Everytime I walk by a blazing 7 machine I always wondered if it was one you played to hit all those progressives!

Stan_allen - I've been a fan of Penn and Teller for a while. I like their tv show, owned a couple books by Penn, and occasionally listen to Penn's podcast. Their show is pretty good, especially for being a magic show that's been running in Vegas for more than a decade. I think we are good for Diamond until March 2015.

Shooty - Yes, seeing all those jackpots Mammoth won makes me want to go progressive chasing! But I'd go busto pretty quick
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PostPosted: Apr Sat 12, 2014 3:04 pm    Post subject: More Royals! Reply with quote

When I posted the update I had finished another Reno Trip. To say we are on the right side of variance is not a joke. My wife hit two royals on the trip. The first was for $1K at Eldorado.

We stayed up really late playing craps, slots and video poker downtown. The Siena no longer has a 24 hour pit. They'll shut it down around midnight depending on how much action is left. I think we got kicked out at around 1am. We proceeded to kill time at the horrible video poker at Siena (Siena downgraded their video poker and no longer have full pay games at any denominations).

At around 2am my wife draws a royal flush. She didn't have to hold anything as the machine locked up and the music started. UNBELIEVABLE!

I was getting a bit jealous of my wife as she's way up on her trip and I was getting killed at the craps table. I decided to stop playing craps and I hit up some slots and video poker. I started with a $160 slot ticket. Over 3 hours I kept switching between slots and video poker and I kept winning. That ticket went over $1k, and I cashed out when it was at $950.

A straight flush didn't hurt. I only played two hands of $1 video poker and hit this on the second hand

I was about to resign myself to thinking that I'm never going to hit a royal. Well I was on a cruise for a wedding and forced myself to stay away from the casino until the last night. Being 100 miles from shore is probably the only way I'm going to play crappy 6/5 Jacks or better. $50 into the machine I get a penalty hand that's a straight but also 4 to a royal. The best play is to go for the royal but I resigned myself to thinking that I'd never hit it. Anyways, I ask my wife and she tells me to use common sense. I hit draw, and suddenly the cruise is paid for

It's been a crazy last few months. We are getting really lucky in the casino and doing our best to brace for when the luck turns. Until then, I'm going to enjoy it while I can!
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BC Dave

Joined: 18 Dec 2005
Posts: 1384

PostPosted: Apr Sun 13, 2014 4:24 pm    Post subject: Nice work Reply with quote

I've heard video poker referred to as the "crack cocaine" of gambling. If that's the case, I need rehab. There's nothing quite like the thrill of drawing that missing card and completing a Royal. Way to go!

And congrats on getting the straight flush too. I think I've had about four royals in my time, but only one or two straight flushes.
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PostPosted: May Mon 05, 2014 9:23 pm    Post subject: wow Reply with quote

Yes, Dfens, keep 'em coming! Come to think of it I do recall them updating the screens on the VP machines in the West Tower as well right before I left. And yes, those Blazing Sevens machines in Sammy's casino were some of the mainstream jackpot producers, so you walked by the roads more travelled, particularly the kiosk by the revolving door. All I can say after my "makeshift Harrah's deeeeeee-luxe apartment in the sky" experience every three days during my time there is that it was a darn good thing that kiosk wasn't in the EAST tower!

Keep us posted on the future trips (and wins!)

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