Cutting it Close – Gambling With An Edge
Bonnie and I were staying at the Eldorado in Reno just before Mother’s Day. Through a combination of offers in both Reno and Lake Tahoe (about 60 miles from each other, reachable to and from the RNO airport by a $60-per-person-round-trip shuttle), it made sense for us to spend time at both casinos and fly back to Las Vegas on a 7:30 p.m. Saturday night flight.
Getting home Saturday night was important because I had $500 free play somewhere in Vegas that expired at midnight, and Bonnie had a big Mother’s Day church/lunch get-together planned with her sister and daughter. Bonnie’s sister and Bonnie’s daughter are less than a year apart in age, live less than five miles from Bonnie and me, and the three women do a lot of things together. Sometimes with me included, sometimes not. This works well for all of us.
After we got to the Eldorado, we learned about an additional promotion on Saturday. Beginning at 6:30 a.m. Saturday morning and continuing into Sunday, you could earn high end purses. There were four different purses at different play levels, and you could pick the one you wanted. There was also a free play option if you didn’t want the purses. Within the past month or so, the machines I play now take $20 coin-in to earn a Tier Credit and Reward Credit rather than $10. That means it takes twice as much time to earn these gifts as the same promotion would have last month because those are based on Tier so those Credits. Reward Credits are redeemable for comps, so those got cut in half as well. Our mailers are based on theoretical, I think, and not Tier Credits or Reward Credits, so those haven’t been cut yet. As of now, it is still a good place for us to play, in my opinion.
One of the reasons we were there that weekend was that we each earned purses by Michael Kors or Coach on Friday. Bonnie got both of those, of course. I told her that she could have one of the nicer ones we earned on Saturday or cash for 50% of the face value of the free play of the higher-valued purse we qualified for. She wanted the cash!
We could redeem the awards starting at 6:00 p.m. Saturday. Exactly how much play was required to earn these awards wasn’t announced in advance. We were told the information would be on the kiosks starting about 3 p.m. or so — if everything went right. Since we were planning to play on Saturday anyway, I started at 6:30 a.m. and played continually until we knew how much play was required. If I found out at 3 p.m., I could either stop at that time, keeping the amount of free play I had already earned, or continue playing.
The free play would be good for 72 hours but I wouldn’t have time to play it off before we had to go to the airport. There was a table games option, and my host told me that if I picked up the vouchers for the table games and gave them to him on my next trip, he’d convert them into free play. Great! Nice to have a good relationship with a host.
Arranging transportation from the Eldorado to the airport (about a 10-minute drive) was easy for two Seven Stars players. I figured we could leave at 6:15 and still make it to the airport in plenty of time.
Unfortunately, the vouchers weren’t downloadable until 6:20 p.m. Critical minutes were passing — we had to make that flight. I was going through my options, including taking Bonnie to the airport, getting her on the plane, and then going back to the casino to pick up the free play. I’d miss out on my $500 free play in Vegas, but at least Bonnie would make her Mother’s Day date.
Still, getting to the car at 6:25 gave us a shot at making it. Our luggage was already loaded, and it wasn’t that far. It was a 10-minute drive and so long as we checked in before 6:45, we were fine. Unbeknownst to us until it was too late, they were working on the freeways at that time — four lanes were cut down to one — and the normally-10-minute drive ended up taking 25 minutes.
We got to the airport counter 10 minutes late. I showed the employee $300 and said he could keep the money if he found any exception that would allow us to get on the plane. He looked at the money plaintively — figuring he could put it to good use — but said we were on camera and it wasn’t worth his job. Thanks, but no thanks.
There were no RNO – LAS flights we could get. Southwest had one leaving fairly soon, but it was already closed. We had booked on Spirit airlines, and the next flight was 1:45 p.m. Sunday afternoon. We could get on it — $100 transfer fee for each of us. Bonnie looked sick. She didn’t want to miss her Mother’s Day date, but if she had to, she had to.
Southwest had a flight at 6:00 a.m. the next morning. It was considerably more than $100 apiece — and waking up at 3:00 a.m. or so and getting to the airport wasn’t going to be fun. But it was better than missing her date. So, we signed up for that and took the next free shuttle back to the Eldorado.
Fortunately, we had left the room but hadn’t checked out, so it was still available. I let my host know that we missed the flight. I thanked him for his assistance and told him I thought he had done all he could have to help us. I played off our free play and went to bed.
The details of this particular weekend are unique to Bonnie and me, but all of us have had to wrestle with “How early do we get to the airport?” and “Can we get one more thing done that’s worth $xxx?” If you’re like me, usually we can make it, but occasionally we get bit by cutting it too close. This was one of those times.
We did collect $750 apiece in free play which we would have forfeited completely if we had left earlier before the vouchers were downloadable. (Minus $375 in cash that went to Bonnie. Whether that gets counted depends on whether I’m concentrating on “my” net or “our” net.) I did lose out on $500 free play in Vegas that expired before I got to town. The plane fare wasn’t free, and we were messed up on our sleep schedule for a day or two. But financially, we were slightly ahead by staying until we collected the free play in Reno.
I’m happy with how I handled it. My decisions were based on the best information I had at the time. Had I known the traffic lanes were going to be shut down, I would have handled things differently. Had I known the offers in the kiosks wouldn’t be posted until twenty minutes late, I would have handled things differently. But I didn’t know and by the time I found out, things didn’t go optimally. Oh well. Life’s like that sometimes, in and out of the gambling world.