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by Jean Scott


Jean Scott is the author of the best-selling book "The Frugal Gambler," a casino guide for thrifty low rollers, plus the sequel, "More Frugal Gambling." She has also written "Tax Help for Gamblers," a practical guide to help gamblers cope with the complex regulations of the IRS. Her most recent book, " Frugal Video Poker," is a complete how-to guide for video poker players at all levels, from beginners to the experience. A helpful companion to that book is "The Frugal Video Poker Scouting Guide." Jeans books and software are available at a 10 percent discount in our BJI Store.

Note: The following advice from Jean Scott was taken with her permission from "Jean Scott’s Frugal Vegas Blog" on

The howls of pain are getting louder and louder – here in the "Comments (on my blog)," on Internet forums, and in the e-mails that fill my Inbox. Gamblers are saying they are losing more during their casino visits and enjoying their time less.

I know that it is more fun to win than to lose. But the very nature of the gambling beast means that one will have to endure more losing sessions than winning ones. And here is what is hard to take: That is as true for the player who studies the game and plays as smart as possible as it is for the uninformed gambler who stumbles into the casino hoping to meet Lady Luck!

I want to help out players who are having a hard time being happy in a casino, but I realize that when I give advice in this area it will sound harsh. But there is no way I can soften the message – gambling is an extremely difficult activity, not only because of financial issues but emotional and psychological ones as well. Here are some player problems I have been hearing about and my "prescriptions."  This discussion is primarily for video poker players, but some of the concepts may be helpful to those who play other games.

#1 – The casinos are taking out or downgrading so many of the good games and/or decreasing the free play they send us. 

Yes, this is happening in casinos all over the country. However, in the major casino areas (Las Vegas, Reno, Atlantic City, Mississippi/Louisiana), with more competition, there are usually some casinos that decide to buck that trend.  Flexibility is the key here. If your usual casino isn’t providing you with good plays, check out some others. Good resources for such information include and the forum on

And if you are really determined to find good plays, you might want to do what some advantage players are doing, traveling to casinos out of your local area.

#2 – Casinos are cutting comps.

This is also happening all over the country – for high rollers and low rollers alike – but as in #1, flexibility is the key. Successful players are moving around from casino to casino more than they ever have had to do. And a note here:  don’t complain incessantly to your host about decreasing comps. Hosts are never the ones responsible for across-the-board cuts in comps in their casino. That always comes from much higher up. So you need a good relationship with hosts now more than ever. Being a pesky comp hound will merely put you on their lists of Players Who Will Only Get the Minimum in Their Play Range. Remember sugar attracts flies much better than vinegar.

#3 – Casinos will dangle all sorts of benefits in front of me just to sucker me in to get my money. 

I’ve got some bad news for you:  Casinos are NOT non-profit organizations – at least they don’t plan to be! They are legitimate businesses that plan to make a profit. Owners and shareholders invest in these businesses and are looking for a return on their investments. They need people to come to their establishment and do business with them. So how do they get people to do this? Just like other businesses, they advertise, they run "sales" (think double-point days), they give out coupons, they run promotions.

You are free to take advantage of these perks, or not – just like you pick and choose which other establishments in town you do or do not give them your business.

#4 – But casinos are just so greedy. For the last few years they seem to be doing nothing but squeezing their customers to get achieve more profits.

Hello! Have you heard we have been in a major recession for the last few years?  Have you heard how many people have lost their jobs and barely have enough money for the necessities of life, much less for discretionary income activities?  Have you noticed how many businesses have closed their doors? Have you read about how all companies have had to tighten up their operations to survive?

Casinos have had to walk a fine line between giving their customers enough benefits to draw them into their business but not giving them so much that profitability suffers. They were forced to get better in identifying which customers added more to their bottom line and which ones didn’t – and then market to each group appropriately. This is not greed, but good business practice at any time – and absolutely essential in order to survive during the severe economic downturn.

You are not obliged to like all business practices. If a pizza place cuts the size of their pizzas and/or raises their prices, you choose another pizza place that is more economical. If a restaurant has rude waitresses, you choose another one the next time you want to eat out. Back to flexibility – if one casino cuts the good games and/or extra benefits, you look for another.

#5 –Okay, I get what you are saying in #1-#4. So how can I be happier gambling under these circumstances?

The answer to this question will be different for each person, and each person will have to ponder it carefully. But all will need to accept the fact that the casino world IS changing and therefore all of us will have to change.

Some will need to adjust their thinking about the purpose of casinos. Their "product" is entertainment, and everything they offer is meant to enhance your enjoyment while you are in their business establishment:  the excitement of bright lights and jackpot noises, the hotel room with a chocolate on your pillow at bedtime, cheerful friendly employees, luxurious surroundings, free drinks. But they give that added thrill that you don’t get in any other leisure-time activity, not in a movie theater, on the golf course, on a ski slope, in a bowling alley, or in a gourmet restaurant – the chance to win!

All players need to understand that the casino has to "charge" for all this entertainment. Remember, casinos are not non-profits. You don’t pay upfront, like a ticket to a sporting event or concert, but the casino covers its expenses in providing all this entertainment by offering games which, with few exceptions, give the house a mathematical advantage.

Wise recreational players, with experience, will know approximately how much on average this entertainment will cost them and adjust their time in this business to fit into their entertainment budget. If their favorite casino has cut the paytables on the games they want to play or aren’t sending  them as much bounce-back free play, or have reduced the comps, they will look for another casino. Or, if there isn’t another casino conveniently located, they may just cut the number of times they choose this leisure-time activity.

A video player who wants to cut his "cost" for this entertainment will need to do more studying – fine-tuning his strategy skills with practice on tutorial software and perhaps learning new games. He will do more research and scouting. And he will vigorously ramp up his use of promotions to make up for a loss of EV when casinos downgrade paytables. He may look for ways to increase his gambling bankroll so he can play at denominations higher than his usual ones when he finds good plays there. Can I repeat this again – flexibility?

As for the player who wants to make a profit in a casino. I’m not going to go into this subject very deeply here – I had to write four books to adequately tackle it. If you have been sticking to advantage play for many years, you know that it is getting really tough. You will just have to keep doing the things you always did – but times two or three harder!  For a newbie without much experience, you can start working on this goal – but don’t quit your day job!

Whatever your goals and at what level you play, remember that gambling should be fun. When you start feeling you no longer enjoy what you do in a casino, then it probably is time to re-evaluate your life priorities.

"Sometimes we stare so long at a door that is closing that we seek too late the one that is open."Alexander Graham Bell, American inventor

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