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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!


    1. Does one assume that the 6400 hands are played in one continuous session for the odds to hold and on the same machine? So how many hours of continuous play would it take to reach 6400 hands. I have to believe at some level playing less then 6400 hands on various machines somehow figures into the math.

      1. The odds calculations are independent of machine. All that matters is that the total hands played are 6400. I can bounce from machine to machine, playing a bit at a time, or do it all in one long sweaty ballbusting stretch. The math in either case is the same.

    2. Royal, I'm thinking your analysis is reminding me the the term "work" you used. I enjoyed the prior posting and part of this one but then you went number crazy. I suggest you backtrack back to pure trip enjoyment. Wishing you luck as always and I get the budget constraints but royal......lighten up with the numbers and analysis, please...

    3. I couldn't disagree more with Frank Nic, Royal. Loved the post. I'm not a AP, but I do try to play thr best pay tables at places that I like to stay. Posts like this where you are strategizing and figuring out the best way to attack the casinos and accomplish the results you want are what gambling is all about! It's a fucking battle and have you to go into battle prepared, even if it means breaking out the old abacus. The planning behind this trip has been fun - I can't wait to see how it all turns out.

    4. I also loved this post. Seeing stats like this are very helpful to us low rollers that want to play as long as possible from a small bankroll.


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