In Las Vegas blackjack circles, the El Cortez in downtown Las Vegas is well-known for having a decent single-deck game — aside from the fact that they are extremely quick to pull the trigger on kicking players out. Several blackjack teams send their new players to play there, knowing they’ll be kicked out fairly quickly, just to get the first barring out of the way.
About ten years ago, I played some on a dollar Kings or Better Joker Wild machine — which was worth 100.65% before the slot club. (That game is long gone now, as is most other decent video poker there.) As luck would have it, I hit a $4,000 royal flush after playing maybe 500 hands. The game has a royal cycle of 41,214 hands, so nobody was more surprised than I was. There were some bonuses with jackpots (maybe $10 free play and a Dove bar?), which I collected. Elsewhere at that time, I was playing mostly dollar multi-line, as well as $5 and $25 games, and was somewhat embarrassed to be seen hitting a royal on such a small machine. (Today, I’m not welcome to play the games I’d prefer to play, so you may well find me playing dollar single-line somewhere.)
It was not a small machine insofar as the El Cortez management was concerned. A $4,000 jackpot was something to sweat! I heard through the grapevine that I was almost kicked out for that one jackpot! For a new player, I found the good machines immediately, lived in a zip code more than 15 miles away, and had the nerve to hit a royal flush. That added up in their mind to being close to a “kick the SOB out” decision. They didn’t at the time, but it was close. They were, and are, extremely quick to pull the plug on players they deem a threat.
I had no more play there until earlier this year. In passing, I had seen a television news show scanning that casino, and I noticed two Ultimate X Gold machines in the scan. I’ve been studying that game a little and I thought I’d go in and look at them.
There were only the two machines I saw on television. They came in 1¢, 2¢, 5¢, 10¢, and 25¢ denominations — and each of these in Triple Play, Five Play, and Ten Play. Each of these offered eight different games, Jacks or Better, Double Bonus, Deuces Wild, etc. It takes ten coins per line to play.
I never looked at the penny or two-penny games. For the nickel games, I’d look at the Ten Play version ($5 per play). I’d look at all of those, plus all the ones for dimes and quarters. Quarter Ten Play in this game is $25 per play. I was actually using these machines to practice my UXG skills so I could play bigger-denomination games elsewhere.
All UX games involve multipliers, and UXG is a game where multipliers build up and remain until they are hit. Without going into explicit detail, a competent player looks for games where there are enough multipliers that are high enough. If a game doesn’t meet your criteria, you skip it and go on to the next one. As these machines were configured, I had 56 different individual games to check on each of the two machines. This takes some time.
There were usually a few plays on each of the machines. I assume if I looked at the penny and two-penny games I’d find a lot more plays because there’s a better chance that players at those denominations have less of an understanding of how the game should be played and hence leave juicy multipliers all the time. But playing games for such miniscule stakes is of no interest to me.
I played once every two or three weeks. I have other plays downtown so I’m “in the area” fairly frequently. Remembering how trigger-happy they were a decade previously, I figured if I became known as a “regular” on those machines, especially if I managed to win, I’d be toast there once I became recognized. I assume management there was generally aware that these games were exploitable, even if they couldn’t personally do it. The casino has some exploitable slots as well, so I’d check them out while I was there.
I’m not sure how much it takes to earn a slot club point on these machines, but if you earn 300 points in a day you get a wheel spin at the kiosk. Sometimes it is $10 in free play. Sometimes it is $10 food. Usually, it is 100 free drawing tickets — which are absolutely worthless to me. They have regular small drawings that aren’t worth the effort to go down there, in my opinion.
On maybe my 15th visit, the general manager came up to me while I was playing UXG and told me I wasn’t welcome to play there anymore. I hadn’t hit any W-2Gs or had big wins. He didn’t recognize me as Bob Dancer. He just didn’t want players coming in and checking multipliers on the UXG machines.
It was civil enough. No security officers were involved, I was paid for my accumulated slot club points, and I left without incident. I wasn’t officially trespassed, and I assume that if I want to go into their restaurant and pay retail for food that I can do so.
Insofar as barrings go, this one made me smile more than anything else. It was never going to be a major stop for me and the games were marginally profitable to me at best.
I would have preferred not to have been barred, of course, but in no way was this a traumatic experience.