Aug 30
by Don

It has been some time since we have had an installment of hedge economics, so let’s correct that shall we? 

I think that it bears repeating that the over goal of the approach is to maximize your winning potential while minimizing your exposure; i.e. your bankroll!  So if you don’t play at a 6-8 deck manual shuffle table with about 2-3 other players all playing proper Blackjack, your expected positive return will be diminish. But you know all that, so now what?

When I tell people about the mechanics of hedge economics I get a wide range of looks from puzzled, to intrigued, to crazy enthusiasm.  Whatever the case may be, I almost always get the, “does it actually work?”  Well let’s look at the last four sessions that I had while in Vegas as a case study.

The first place that I sat down was Paris.  There was a nice mix of people and I settled down at first base with 3 other people at the start of a new shoe.  I started with $400 in chips and a $30 min bet.  I do this mainly because I like to be able to hedge up to $50 after a win and not be basically “stacking” my bet without pulling something back.  I talk in detail about this in the first post on hedge economics, so I won’t go over all of the reasons why, but the main increments of hedging after wins is a green $25 chip, or quarter.

The play was crisp and I got a lot of double down opportunities and got on a nice roll towards the later 3rd of the shoe.  At the height of the run I was at around $1150.  Normally this would have been a good place to stop, but I was having a good time and just decided to ride out the rest of the shoe.  There were some more up and downs for the rest of the ride, but as the dust settled I got up from the table with $1047.  Not bad for the first run.

The next day I sat down at $25 table at Caesar’s with $400 and hopes of another little run.  I like playing at the main pit because they offer the best possible players odds and generally most people down there play straight.  So after about an hour and a half of nothing great there was a nasty little run of about 6 or so straight losses and bang I am tapped out.

That’s not unusual mainly because if you do everything right you are happy with about a 50/50 chance of winning.  The key is to really get the most out of the times that you are winning, and either minimize your losses or elongate your play.

Well I am not one to be deterred, so I sidled up to another table later that night and bought in again for $400.  Unfortunately for the home team the results weren’t that great.  I liked my tablemates, but 3rd base left and was replaced by this woman who was playing scared.  She announces after the 2nd time I watch her not take a card with 16 versus a dealer 10 card that she never hits 16.  I look at her and then look at my chips knowing that they will all be in the dealers rack before too long.  I was right and well I have no one to blame but myself.  I should have just gotten up, but I decided to roll with it.  Well “it” cost me my buy in.

So at this point I am down and don’t have much to say for myself other than I just need to find the right table.  And that table came late at Paris.  There was 5 people already seated and the dealer was shuffling so I said what the heck and I sat down with my usual $400.

Since it was late, Lori decided just to watch me as I had told her that I was only going to play a little bit and then we could go to bed.  She normally plays herself, but wanted to show me a little support.  How nice.

Well this shoe was hot from the jump.  I win the first 12 hands and frankly could have won even more if the guy on my left would have hit that soft 17 like he should have.  It was equally tough in that I had about $250 out there and a 20 in the hole so my stomach sank a little when the dealer turned a 6 card 21.  Dems the breaks as they say.

I decide to continue the ride it out and almost immediately got on another roll.  I won another 7-8 hands in a row and really had some nice BJ sprinkled in there and looked at my stack and decided just to cash out.  I didn’t even play an entire shoe and I cashed out with $1205 after tips and what not.

So what’s the bottom line?  I think that these 4 consecutive runs capture the essence of what happens on average in that when you lose you only lose what you are willing to wager (in my case I wagered my entire buy in each time) and when you win you can really max it out.  Now it’s important to note that you have to understand that when you are on a great run and then you have a couple of losses of your min. bet you have an opportunity to reassess and take your winnings off the table.  When you are on a negative run you don’t necessarily have to risk your total buy in, but you won’t lose more than you put out there.  These two points are equally important as you don’t want to sit at a table too long when you have won a bunch because you don’t want to give it all back, and you certainly don’t have to stick around to get your head kicked in if you are running bad either.

Just remember to always be getting on that roller coaster on the way up and don’t be afraid to get off before the point that everyone starts screaming!

Jul 16
by Rolka Nation

Greetings!  Your ol’ pal Pittsburgh Gil is a man of many reputations.  One thing that I am certainly known for amongst my inner-circle is a tendency to be a little frugal.  Some would even say that I’m downright cheap.  Now I wouldn’t quite go that far, but sure, I do admit that I can be a little tight at times.  But, not too long ago I pinpointed this personal trait and now understand and embrace it.  I’ve learned that I am far from cheap/frugal when it comes to having great, fun experiences.  What I mean by this is that I’ll go all out on things that one does not get to do every day or have consistently easy access to.  Examples of these types of things would be traveling, going to a concert or theater performance, going whitewater rafting, checking out an amusement park or water park, etc.  However, where my penny-pinching comes into play is in regard to things of the complete opposite.  And by that I mean life’s nagging little necessities.  You know…clothing, food, hydration, etc. 


Kenny Powers is my hero...To quote Kenny Powers, “I have clothes like a fuckin’ dickhead”.  Yes, ’tis true.  I simply do not care to pour a lot of attention, effort, or money into my wardrobe.  I get by ok though, I’m not coming into work looking like Kevin Costner in Waterworld or anything…but you get the point.  When it comes to food though, I definitely do enjoy a fine meal and a tasty beverage.  However, I’ve always had trouble forking out $50+ for a simple meal.  No matter how good it might be, I’d rather just hit up a decent bar and get a good burger or pile of nachos for 1/5th of that cost.  After all, the end result is always the same.  You’re full and don’t have to worry about eating again for 5-7 hours.  Well, unless you’re a greedy, gluttonous sloth-like person.  Like Matthew Broderick.Matthew Broderick is not.


This philosophy comes into play hardcore in Vegas.  You’re bombarded by luxury hotels and suites, high-priced restaurants by celebrity chefs, and fancy bars or clubs where a drink will run you over $10.  These things are great, but I don’t go to Vegas to eat and drink well.  Sure, that’s a fantastic byproduct of being in Vegas…but I’m there for the gaming, shows, and all the fun that comes along with that. 


So…here are Pittsburgh Gil’s tips to save a little green in Vegas, but not compromising any of the fun!


– Either start or end your trip on a Saturday.  I’ve always liked this and have done it several times.  Either go out to Vegas on a Saturday and stay 3-4 nights or go out on Tuesday or Wednesday and leave Saturday.  Why?  Well, for starters…hotels will be less.  We all know hotel rates triple on Fri and Sat nights, especially on the Strip. This way you only have to bother with 1 night of pricey accommodations and savor the $30-50 a night specials the other nights.  Killer.  Sundays are typically the most expensive day to fly as well.


– Spend a night downtown in Old Vegas.  I love to start my trip downtown.  The hotels are cheaper, the table games have lower limits, and you can find great meals for under $10.  I have stayed at both Fitzgerald’s and Binion’s on a Saturday for about $40 and had a blast.  Compare that to potential $150-200 a night rates on the Strip that very same date.  No-brainer.  The rooms aren’t fantastic, but who gives a damn, it’s your first night in Vegas and you’ll move up to bigger and better accommodations soon enough.  If you want to splurge a little, stay at The Golden Nugget.  It would fit in just fine on the Strip. 


Downtown is where to be to start your trip of right, which is to say for less!


Great dining options downtown include the 777 Brewpub at Main Street Station, the Main Street Station buffet, Magnolia’s at Four Queens ($8 prime rib dinner with club sign-up), Chicago Brewing Company at Four Queens, and Flame at El Cortez.  I forget the name, but Four Queens also has an awesome, retro steakhouse in the basement.  And I have to mention the 99 cent shrimp cocktail at Golden Gate. 


For shows, I’ve heard great things of the Rat Pack is Back show at The Plaza downtown and the Golden Nugget always has multiple entertainment offerings and a shark tank at their pool to boot.  For gaming, you can’t beat 24 hour a day quarter roulette and $2 blackjack at Cortez and pretty much any downtown casino will have the same…although possibly only during the daylight hours.  Another great thing about downtown is that all the casinos are lined up long a mere 4 blocks and the street is pedestrian-only.  It’s very quick and easy to casino-hop here, unlike the Strip.


– Always check what offers you have at casinos room-wise before you go.  I haven’t paid full price on the Strip in a long long time and never intend to ever again.  If you don’t have any play racked up, check out the casino’s websites and sign up for their email newsletters to receive specials on room rates.  Check sites like as well for published specials.  If you know what you’re doing, you’ll always get a room discount in some shape or form.  For my upcoming Labor Day trek, I’m paying a grand total of $150 for 4 nights over a holiday weekend center-Strip at Harrah’s.  Can’t beat that with a rubber snake.


– Of course, always sign up the casino’s Player’s Club.  Always.  Just do it.  Even if you don’t foresee yourself playing there all that much, still do it.  Sometimes you’ll get a free gift just for taking 3 minutes to sign up.  I’ve gotten T-shirts, free slot play, decks of cards, and more.  It amazes me when I see people droppin’ cash in a casino but not bothering to sign up.  I have also heard, but have yet to try, that you can rack up 2 free buffets at The Wynn fairly easily based on your play in the first 24 hours after signing up for the club.


Better than the Bond Movie thanks to those crazy coupons– Go to Casino Royale!  This is one of my favorites on the Strip for good, cheap gaming fun.  It’s right next to Harrah’s and quite small.  Sign up for their club and get coupons for free play and free drinks plus one that I always take advantage of.  They always have a coupon that will pay you $10 cash if you hit a spin of 40 credits or more while playing the Wheel of Fortune slots.  If you’re gonna play a few slots anyway, why not do this?  I’ve gotten it every time with minimal play.  There’s also one for $20 in cash if hitting 4-of-a-kind on video poker.  I’ve cashed in on that successfully as well.  Royale also has a lively atmosphere and plays good music. 


I will stop there for now kids!  But stay tuned for the sequel where I will outline even more ways to throwdown in Vegas for minimal coin.


Jul 10
by Don

It’s been awhile since we have had a general tips post.  Here are some odds and ends that we thought of that I know could benefit some of our fellow Vegas travelers.  So here they are in no particular order:

This will get you comps that you are looking for, and maybe a little extra coin as well.-If you are mainly a table game player and rarely play slots, you should consider changing it up a bit.  The rating systems are slanted even more heavily towards slot players now than ever before and unless you are sitting down with over $500 per session of blackjack and willing to bet at least $25 per hand, don’t expect much notice from the pit boss.  So now what?  Well what you can do is play the $1 Wheel Of Fortune.  It’s the most popular slot machine by far and you will get the biggest bang for your buck.  The key is to, “pimp them and leave”.  Lori calls it that as you basically take whatever winnings that you come to at any point and just leave.  For example; you put in $100 and play for a bit and you get a wheel spin.  Congratulations, this is what EVERYONE wants.  So you get $35 on the spin and you hear the clapping soundtrack, yeah!  Now you have done some winning (and some losing) on the session, but that spin of the wheel puts you to $128 on your total credits. Great, now leave.  I know that you are thinking that it’s just $28 of profit, but the point is not to win a ton; it’s not to lose any while you are trying to get rated.  Only in Vegas would $28 not seem like much of anything, because if you were at home and you saw $28 on the floor you would pick it up.  Now do the same thing here.  Use it for cab fare, or tipping (as you know I am all about), food, whatever.  What normally happens is that people just want to keep playing and playing and eventually they will lose all of their initial money.  So don’t let that happen to you.  Just take your winnings and go to the next stop, do what you do and play again later.  You won’t always win, but you will come out way ahead in the long run.

-Water.  A no brainer here, but still it has to be said.  Drink water all the time.  Too often people don’t and it can get ugly.  Especially in the summer months with 100+ degree temps.

-Use your points/comps on your trip.  A lot of times the play that you have done over the course of the trip has afforded you some comps in the form of discounts of just free crap.  Use them on the trip that you are on because they start to expire the moment you leave.  One thing that a casino host told me is that at the end of your trip you should go to casino marketing and have them apply whatever you have earned toward your hotel charges.  You have to go to casino marketing though, because the two systems are not connected and it doesn’t happen automatically.  Take what they give you, because they are definitely going to take from you!

Doesn't have to be this complicated, but a loose plan will help you maximize your fun and excitement.-Have a plan, however loose.  The worse thing to do is to be wandering around aimlessly without a destination.  It’s too hot and things are too far apart to be doing that.  Plus random cab rides add up, so have an idea of what you want to do and plan around it.  Seeing a show? Great, plan dinner at or near that location. Want to watch some sporting event? Realize that you are on the West Coast and there might be a time change (like Sunday Night Baseball at 5 pm, what’s up with that?)

-Call your bank before going and tell them that you are traveling to Vegas.  There is a lot of fraud and if you have a bank like mine (Bank of America), they have a huge fraud department that works almost too well.  This is only really an issue if you need to go to the ATM, especially inside a casino because this may trigger something in their network to shut your debit card down.  Don’t let this happen to you.

-If you have to get money out of an ATM, don’t do it in the casino.  Recently the casinos have jacked up their fees to some crazy levels.  Our flight attendant on the way out actually made an announcement to that affect.  So we checked, and sure enough they had to the tune of $22+.  There are ATMs (Bank of America) in The Forum Shops @ Caesars (3 I believe), there is one on the 3rd or 4th Floor of the M&M store down by MGM and ATM at Casino Royale has a fee of only $1.00. Plus there are ATMS at all monorail stations (Bank of Nevada).  These are normal ATMs with normal fees.

-Ask for matches.  They seem to be the only things that are actually free, i.e. you don’t have to gamble anything to get them.  I actually saw a no money exchange for matches at a sundries shop in Ceasars.  I don’t even smoke and I almost asked for some.

More tips as they come up, but this should get you going in the right direction. Viva Las Vegas indeed!

Dec 15
by Don

Winter Time in Vegas!To go to Vegas that is.  The Rodeo has just left and the city is sort of gathering it strength for the New Year’s celebration.  The cab lines are non-existent and shows are often times discounted.  All of Vegas is open and inviting.  It’s Grand.

44 and Goldie have yet to send me word of their most recent trip, but from what I can gather it was a profitable one.  44 is a charmed man and Goldie is no stranger to good fortune either so I am glad to hear that they made out.  Good times for sure, but I will still press them for a post as they even took pictures.  Come on now!

Lori and I are planning on going out there in Jan., so there will certainly be a series of posts to come.  This was a strange year in that we didn’t make it out there in the fall and past up on New Year’s.  But 09’ will certainly be another chapter in what will be a great time in Vegas! 

Aug 11
by Don

The one thing I know about playing poker in a Vegas card room is that it is not as easy as your home game, but not as hard either.  The key is to choosing the right game for you.

More often than not Lori and I primarily play tournaments while in Vegas.  We do this for a number of reasons:

1.   Protects your bank role- Your cash outlay at any one point is the cost of the tournament.  This is great for money management.

2.   Tournament play extends your play- What I mean by that is by the size of the tournament you can probably play 5-6 hours pretty regularly (assuming you are average to above average player).

3.   Tremendous upside- Your potentially winnings far out pace the actual cost to enter the tournament.  For example, a small $50.00 NL Tournament with 60-70 players can net you $1600 to $1800 if you win it all.  Not to mention simply cashing can be rewarding.

4.   Everyone starts at the same place- Someone can’t just sit down and buy in for 5x the amount in tournament play.  This levels the playing field a bit.

5.   Prevents you from spending even more money- If you are having a bad blackjack run.  A nice tournament can save you money because you are not playing the house, you are playing other people.  There is no house edge in tournament play.

Cash games have some advantages too:

1.   No long term time commitments- You can come and go as you please fitting in a 2 hour session is not a big deal.

2.   Table Selection- You can size up your competition before ever posting a blind.  This could be very profitable if done right.

3.   One or two hands makes the session- Get tricky with a set or flop a flush and you just doubled up in real money, and that’s nice.

4.   Choose your limits- There are all sorts of games running at all times at all levels.  You are not forced to play only at a $5/$10 table if that is not your game.  Again, great money management.

Of course there are differences in how you play a tournament game vs. a cash game (which we will talk about later) but generally speaking tournament play provides a great value for your bankroll over all.  And with just about every casino in Vegas having a card room, there is a tournament starting at all times so finding one is never hard.

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