Railroad Pass was built some 90 years ago. Insofar as Las Vegas casinos go, that’s ancient. Railroad Pass isn’t actually in Las Vegas, of course. It’s in Henderson, almost to Boulder City. At the time this story happened, almost 20 years ago, they actually had a traffic signal in the middle of the 95 freeway to get into the place. In addition, it was owned by the MGM – Mirage corporation, although totally separate from that players club. Today that signal is gone, and MGM no longer owns a piece of the Pass.
A lot of the machines were coin-droppers. With a 0.25% slot club, I favored dollar 9/5 Triple Bonus Poker Plus (99.80%) on Wednesdays, which was 3x point day. I couldn’t get many dollars per hour through the machine. When credits on the machine exceeded 400, dollar coins fell into the hopper. Quad 2s, 3s, and 4s ($600) were a hand pay, as were four aces ($1,199). It was about a $20-per-hour play, but they had mailers and comps which added considerably.
In addition to using them for hotel rooms I didn’t need, comps could be spent at the coffee shop (not very impressive), buffet (dreadful), and the gourmet room (surprisingly good). I was married to Shirley at the time, we lived less than ten miles from Railroad Pass, and I could get food to go. I’d get two meal comps for however many comp dollars it cost, possibly 40 each, I don’t remember for sure, which usually included soup and salad. I’d eat both salads, both soups, possibly one lump crab cakes appetizer, and take everything else home.
Their desserts were outrageously big — perhaps one-fourth of a 10-inch round six-layer chocolate cake per serving — and those were included in the fixed price. Although I wasn’t as strict dietarily as I am today, I was usually smart enough to leave those behind. We liked a taste of that kind of thing occasionally, but one bite was normally enough.
One day I discovered they had dollar five-play 8-5 Bonus Wheel Poker. They had had it for a while, but this was not a game I knew about so it was off my radar. This is a 99.59% game, not nearly as high of a payout percentage-wise as the 99.80% return on TBPP, but this was a $30 per-hand game instead of the $5 per-hand TBPP. When you have a 0.75% slot club on Wednesdays, (plus comps to the gourmet room plus mailers), this was a much better play.
Wheel Poker gives you a wheel spin every time you received a natural quad. Playing for dollars, you were guaranteed $100 per spin, but 1-out-of-51 times you received $2,000. Most of the spins were in the $200-$500 range, but there were some higher and lower. They averaged $428 per spin. On a dealt quad, you’d get five spins. W-2Gs were common. You “paid for” these spins by betting six coins per line rather than five.
I had to develop my own strategy. Not too difficult. I used WinPoker and added 428 to each of the quad values. That is, four aces were now worth 828, four 2s-4s were worth 628, and the other ones were worth 553. Once I had changed these numbers on my software, I checked the hands that could change — perhaps from AAA44 you only hold the aces? — or from KQJTT, hold the tens instead of KQJT? — or maybe from a 4-flush versus a pair of 3s, do I hold the 3s or the 4-flush?
Once I made my choices, I used the wizardofodds.com strategy calculator to verify my analysis. While the WOO gives you a good strategy quickly, I like to figure this out myself. If I’m going to play this game for many, many hours (which was my plan), I need to wallow in the strategy to master it.
This casino didn’t attract too many strong players. I was basically the only one who was hammering these machines on Wednesdays. Playing multiple hundreds of thousands of dollars coin-in per month, I may have been the biggest player there.
I ran a little worse than average, until I was dealt a $20,000 royal — which put me considerably ahead. The next week, the machines were downgraded to 7-5 Bonus Wheel Poker (98.7%). Even with a 0.75% slot club one day a week, plus mailers and comps, this was no longer attractive.
I still had $7,000 in comp dollars. At $40 in comp dollars per meal in the gourmet room, that’s a lot of food. I checked the rules and so long as I earned at least one point every six months, it kept the comp dollars active.
My plan was to coast out the comps. I’d play the dollar TBPP enough so my account stayed active. I’d bring food home every two or three weeks. We had comps at other places as well, and no matter how good the food is, we wanted some variety.
This all changed when I received the post card. I’ll tell you about it next week.