Is It Worth It? – Gambling With An Edge

Is It Worth It? – Gambling With An Edge

I was playing a very nice $5 progressive at Circa. It was on the 165-foot bar at the west end of their casino’s lower level. In addition to containing slots and blackjack, the machines have numerous video poker denominations from 25¢ to $5, and each denomination has numerous games all connected to the same progressives. The progressives on these machines are linked to similar machines at the Golden Gate (directly across Fremont Street) and the D (also on Fremont Street, but two blocks east).

When I started play on Valentine’s Day, the progressive was at $38,800 and the best game to play was 8/6 Bonus Poker Deluxe. I’d been tipped off by a friend. I know the 9/6 non-progressive version of this game very well, and practiced at this progressive level for a bit before I drove to the casino. 

Even if the meter doesn’t rise anymore, the game is worth about 100.8%, plus a 0.17% slot club, food comps, and mailers. Definitely worth a play. And since the meter would continue to rise, all the better!

When I got there, there were a few seats open among the 80 or so bartop machines, but the $5 poker meter wasn’t rising at all! The other people at the bar were just visiting or playing games of different denominations or game-type. Fine with me!

At the northern end of the bar (which is the end furthest from Fremont Street), the bar turns 90 degrees to the left (appearing to lock the bartenders in), and there are three machines there. Unlike the other machines at this bar, these were normal slant-top height and would be suitable for people in wheelchairs — although there was no sign saying such. None of these seats were taken, although more than 70 of the 80 bar top seats were being used. I sat down.

Very soon I found out why these machines were considered less desirable. The buttons you touch to play were probably two feet away from the player. I had to lean over and stretch my arms to reach them. When I ordered a water, the bartender put the tip jar on the ledge which was completely unreachable while I was seated. And I’m more than six feet tall.

I could play for up to five hours before I had to leave. It was Valentine’s Day, after all, and I had a date with my wife. Yes, I could have begged off, but it would take more than a $200/hour play to get me to do that. If the progressive was not hit between now and then, this was the best game in town I knew about and I was going to be there. I could have played much longer in my younger days, but playing five hours straight is about my limit these days.

A “problem” with this game is that you get W-2Gs every 400 hands or so. All quads return $2,000, straight flushes $1,250, and the royal collects the progressive amount. Although there are more payment options in the High Limit Slots room, on these machines, each of these jackpots must be paid by hand. They will give you a ticket for $2,000 if you like, which is much faster than collecting twenty $100 bills and inserting them back into the machine, but it averages more than 10 minutes to be paid. And three hours later it was averaging even more than that as the word got out about the progressive.

For me, if I sat at the lower seats, it would be simple to move over to an adjacent machine when this happened. Players sitting in the crowded middle of the bar didn’t have this luxury. Plus, sitting by myself shielded me from smokers and chatty Cathy’s. Much better to concentrate on the game!

But the price of the luxury of an adjacent machine is having to continually stretch to play the games. While I still visit the gym and include stretching in my routine, I was one day short of my 75th birthday and I figured that five hours of continuous stretching in the same direction would end up being very painful for me the next day. It wouldn’t surprise me if a visit to the chiropractor was in my near future!

So, the question was: Was playing 500 hands per hour on a relatively comfortable bartop machine, with lots of long waits, better than playing 800 or more hands per hour on a less comfortable machine with almost no waits? I do have the Libby app on my cell phone (similar to Kindle, with free downloads from the library) and I had an interesting book to read while waiting, but it was $200/hour on the uncomfortable game (with possible significant pain the next day) versus $125 per on the more comfortable one.

I chose the stretch game. And, surprisingly, developed no aches and pains from the ordeal. I wouldn’t criticize anyone who made the other choice. At times in my life I’ve suffered from debilitating back pain, and anyone susceptible to that should take extra precautions. 

When I gave up the play and left, the progressive was a few dollars shy of $40,000, with the progressive meter flying. Probably 20 or more of the seats were filled with players playing the same game. Probably additional ones at the D and Golden Gate. After dinner, Bonnie asked me if I was going to go back and try some more. I decided not to. It’s a 20-minute drive each way. I’d had enough for the day and figured it was likely already hit. And if it weren’t, there would now probably be 40 players on the game and the waits to be paid would be much, much longer — even if you had a backup machine or two.

Author’s note: The progressive was finally hit at $43,000 by somebody. For some reason, I was congratulated for hitting it, although I was likely asleep in my bed when it happened!