Monday, May 30, 2016

Planning the $1000 Las Vegas Vacation - part 10 Let's Get All Mathy In Here

In the previous post, I explained how to be a machine pro. And pointed out why I don't want to be one.

This is vacation. Not a business.

Heck, I know a few pros. They are often cranky. They swear a lot. They live a life of stress and uncertainty and consider penalty cards in their sleep. Their fingers are rubbed raw from the machines.  They wear nothing but logo casino t-shirts. And they suffer more ups and downs than a Hawaiian Airlines 737. (One such ship, the ill-fated Queen Liliuokalani performed almost 90,000 take-offs and landings before 20 feet of her skin ripped off, mid-flight. I've seen a few machine pros with rips in their skins, too.)

There's another good reason - I am severely under-bankrolled for it on this trip. Not even close. Not gonna happen.

Now, let's get down to the latest planning happenings for this upcoming $1K bankroll Scrounge Trip.


I got on the phone again to the Trop last week and got bounced around for about 15 minutes before ever getting to talk to one of their Marketing Sheilas. I hung up and tried a different tack and finally got someone who made some sense.

As you may recall, I've booked there without knowing what (if any) my offer is.

Well, it turns out I am good for the 3 nights, $75 free play (down from $100 last month), $50 food a day (up from $100 over 3 days), and $100 in show tickets (aka two).

Heck yeah.

At the end of the call, I asked for the person's name and she told me.


I paused.

"Did you say, Melli?"


"Did you used to work elsewhere?"

I totally knew who this was.

Back when the Downtown Grand opened, we had a lovely young woman become our host. We were her first ever customers.

And now Melli (which isn't her real name, but I misheard it on day 1 and she was two polite to correct me, but I still call her that now, and anyway, Melli is a nicer name than Some Marketing Sheila) is working at the Tropicana Las Vegas!

I'm going to take her to lunch with some of the $50 a day. Perhaps she can have a scone, or a blueberry or something.

So that's great, a bit more freeplay, and some free food to ease the budget, as I had hoped.

But this is where it gets REALLY COOL.


I have an offer from T.I. for 3 nights and $200 freeplay.

I have another offer from T.I. for 3 nights and a slot tournament. I figured the EV of the tournament to be $179.25 but of course, almost none of that is guaranteed.

Because I want to continue to get offers at T.I., I don't want to take an offer from them and stiff them. I enjoy having a decent relationship on the strip, and there are some pretty good games there.

My historical coin-in on which the offers are based is around $8K to $10K per day.

Well, I got an email from them the other day improving the first offer to 3 nights, $200 freeplay, and a petite suite.

Or... (cough cough...) 3 nights, no suite, and instead you could have ANOTHER $200 FREE PLAY.

Wait, what?!

All kinds of numbers started running through my head, just like a skinned machine pro. With $400 free play, could I risk maintaining say an $8K a day play level at T.I.? Because I want those offers to keep coming.

Let's take a step back though...

The Twirling Tassle Hotel and Casino and the Cost of Short Paytables

We have various plays in town. Let's look at a typical one, the Twirling Tassle. I like the rooms and amenities, and the show in the lounge there, Merkins, is out of this world.

I play 7/5 Bonus Poker there, quarters, halves, dollars, on the Strict Rules of Parlay.

I figure the rooms and food I get are worth $500. I get $75 in free play.

A better gambling place might have 8/5 Bonus Poker. But I love that floor show and the pool and the food. So I'm willing to give up a percent.

I give them $8K of play a day. That's $24K total. The 1% costs me $240. All things considered, not a bad trade.

On a long trip, maybe I look at playing a total of $100,000 coin in. I figure the cost of shorter paytables is $1000, and then I look at the comps and goodies I get in return and figure if its worth it to me.

But I think I came to a very interesting discovery.

Back to T.I.

The question on my mind was this. Say I limit my T.I. stay to two days. I have to do $16K coin in to cover the offer. Say I play 50 cent single line Bonus Poker, or Jacks or Better. What chance do I have of even coming close to hitting the coin-in I'd like to do using the $400 freeplay?

Now bear with me, it's going to get all mathy in here.

That's where some video poker bankroll analysis software comes in. I ordered up the latest version of Dunbar's Risk Analyzer for Video Poker from LVA. (Video Poker for Winners also has bankroll analysis stuff, but I don't own that one.)

I plugged in 50 cent Jacks or Better, 6400 hands (to give $16K coin in, that's 6400 hands x $2.50 per hand.)

With a $400 bankroll, I have a 40% chance of reaching my goal. And a 60% chance of going broke before reaching it.

It looks like I'd have to put some of my own money in.

With a $600 bankroll, I have a 62% chance of reaching my goal. And a 38% chance of getting button-fucked.

With an $800 bankroll, I have an 82% chance of reaching my goal. And an 18% chance of going broke.

So with the $400 freeplay, if I can scrape up $400 additional cash out of my meagre $1000 trip bankroll, I have a pretty good shot at meeting the coin-in goals I've set for myself. And, I'd have a chance, as always, of hitting a Royal.

I played around with the software some more, and this is where my eyes got opened.

What if I played, say Bonus Poker, instead of Jacks. I like Bonus, but it returns about a third of a percent less than Jacks, in the long run.

With the same $800 bankroll, Bonus Poker has a 30% Risk of Ruin.


One third of a percent almost doubles my chances of going broke on this endeavor????

Holy crap.

Switching the game to 7/5 Bonus (remember that 1 and a bit percent I'm giving up at the Twirling Tassle?) I have but a 54% chance of making my coin in goal, and the risk of ruin has ballooned to 46% from 18% with the Jacks or Better.

Thank you Dunbar.

I just learned something about the short term that I didn't see before - those shitty paytables don't just have a vig on your long term costs. They devastate your short term bankroll, particularly if it isn't very big.

Damn you, variance!

Just compare the 9/6 Jacks to the 7/5 Bonus results:
9/6 Jacks 82% chance of making goal. 90% chance of getting 3/4 the way or better.

7/5 Bonus 57% chance of making goal.

Another interesting view for this play is the distribution of outcomes.
9/6 Jacks outcomes. Looks like a 16% chance of a Royal to me.
7/5 Bonus. 12% chance of Royal. Note how many fewer middling outcomes there are.

So, What to Do?

With a $1000 gambling budget I didn't imagine I would have many long video poker sessions like the ones I usually enjoy.

And, I don't want to spend my time chasing positive plays.

But this one... this one seems too good. It's at a property I enjoy, lower denom, slant top, very nice room... plus I do enjoy a challenge like this, and a couple of days of pretending to know what I'm doing out of a long trip is a good balance.

I'm going for it!