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By Dewey Hill

Dewey Hill retired from teaching English to travel in the most frugal ways, play poker at the lowest limits, and fish bluegills.  His love of Vegas, as well as his disdain for resort fees, keeps him on discussion boards and blogging daily. 

Note: This article is reprinted by permission of Steve Bourie, publisher of the 2013 American Casino Guide, which contains more than 200 coupons that offer substantial savings at many casinos throughout the U.S.  The majority of the coupons are for Las Vegas-area casinos and many Vegas-bound visitors enjoy using them to save money on their trips. In this article, Dewey Hill, explains how he organizes and uses the coupons to help him, and his friends, save money on their trips to Las Vegas.  Dewey's focus is mainly on downtown casinos, but he also explains how he organize his efforts to take advantage of  coupons for casinos located near the Las Vegas Strip, as well as in other outlying areas.

The coupons in the back of the 2013 American Casino Guide book are a fine way to offset the cost of a Vegas trip, and it is very helpful to develop a strategy on how to use them. Each visitor will have their particular favourite coupons, and strategies may differ. However, here are the coupons and the strategies that my friends and I valued the most, and how we plan and organized the use of the information contained in the American Casino Guide book on our trip to Las Vegas.

First, remember to take out the identity card that is mounted in the heavy cardboard page in the center of the book and sign it. That is our authorization to use coupons at the various locations, and we may be asked to show this proof along with identification. This eliminates the need to carry the entire book with you to casinos, and it helps protect the coupon program by reducing coupon fraud.

The coupons are arranged alphabetically. We found it helpful to cut out those coupons that we expected to use, and arranged them in geographic piles, so that whatever area of Vegas we happen to visit, we will have them ready at hand. Then we visited
this site and skimmed the easily-read list to be sure we didnít miss any coupons that might be attractive while we were in Vegas.

Many people just leave the book home and take the coupons. Others rip the coupon section along the binding and take only the coupon section. I bring the entire book with me. I find it a good companion when I have a solo meal, and I often show it to other poker players, especially at the Golden Nugget, so folks can see how to get $10 in free chips for poker play there. If you are new to Vegas, by having the entire book with you, it will guide you to the best places to visit and play in Vegas, a map showing the location of all the casinos, as well as advice on games and strategies for winning.

Phoning any casino is easy, using the American Casino Guide (ACG) as a "phone book." Even after many Internet searches, itís not that easy to locate a direct number to a casino. Being able to phone casinos while in Vegas is helpful. Sometimes, I have questions on the price of the buffet on a particular day (prices vary on many specially-priced steak and seafood buffets). Sometimes I want to call the poker room ahead of my arrival and let them put me on the seat waiting list Ö this is easy to do when you have your copy of the ACG handy.

My poker buddies and I generally do not rent a car, but other friends do because there are more deals off the strip. Page 360 and 361 of the ACG offers six separate deals on Alamo or National rentals. Due to the recent explosion in resort fees that are charged now by most all of the strip casinos, many visitors are renting cars in Vegas and staying at off strip or downtown casinos to avoid the high resort fees. The amount saved by not paying a resort fee will usually pay for the rental car.

Strip buffet prices have risen this year as well, so being off strip means being closer to better value on food.

Even just a short ride or walk off-strip to Ellis Island to use the American Casino Guide coupons (see page 395) will save money on food. Meals are priced about 30% lower than comparable meals in strip locations, and the 2-for-1 or 50% off coupon increases the bargain even more. It is a wise idea to go to Ellis Island early in a trip. We had to wait as much as 24 hours for the free play to be posted to our Playerís account after our initial play. (This is a unique restriction.) Other casinoís free play deals, offer the free play immediately.

For coupon redemption, it certainly is easier to have a rental car in Vegas since it makes easy travelling to see all the interesting outlying casinos mentioned in the ACG. But as a senior citizen, I can buy a 15-day RTC pass for $17, or a 30-day pass for $32.50, and that gives me unlimited, all access, bus rides for my entire stay for about what Iíd pay for gas in a rental car. If you have been put off by the sometimes crowded conditions on strip buses, try one of the residential routes, like 202, that runs up and down Flamingo, and you will see very little crowds, and the rides are easy and comfortable. Locals are also friendlier. I have had many interesting bus conversations, while travelling solo in Vegas. Combining an all access bus pass with the ACG is a frugal travellersí perfect match.

My poker buddies and I often go on what we call a "coupon run" with coupons actually setting our destinations. To illustrate how a "coupon run" might work, letís consider Downtown Vegas where we need neither car nor bus because we can walk easily from casino to casino.

A typical visit might start by using the El Cortez room coupon on page 393, where on Sunday to Thursday; $30 plus $4 tax pays for a two-night stay. If we want things a bit more plush than their basic Vintage or Pavilion rooms, usually another $20 will upgrade the coupon to the Cabana or Tower rooms.

With a good nightís sleep at the El Cortez, we started our morning with the $10 El Cortez free-play coupon.

Then we begin our "coupon run."

I found it good to do this run early in the trip since it gives me a tour of each casino so I can see improvements and changes and just feel the vibe of the place, and know whether I might want to return to play later. However, a coupon run is also good when my bankroll has diminished.

I like to go on the coupon run in the late morning when there are fewer people at the tables. Sometimes I will play my match plays at the Las Vegas Club or the Plaza casinos just as the table opens and be the only person at the table. (Yes, that means that I am going to get to roll the dice even if I only make one bet with the coupon.)

If you have shied away from craps, you might like these coupons to introduce you to an exciting and popular Vegas game. The dealers will show you how to make a Pass or Donít Pass bet, and if you would like to follow it with the best mathematical table bet in Vegas, the dealer will show you how to add free odds if you roll a number. (See page 98 of the ACG for a detailed overview of craps.)

When the Plaza was being renovated, Las Vegas Club let me use the Plaza match play coupon there, as well as the Las Vegas Club coupon. Once they even let me use both coupons back to back on the same crapís table. So if the Las Vegas Club goes into renovation, ask at the Plaza if they will honour the Las Vegas Club match play coupon. Sometimes coupons have to be cancelled or changed, but in many of those cases some other venue will honour the cancelled coupon. To keep track of these changes, visit this online list of
coupon changes.

Match plays are great coupons because they allow a player to be paid double so that even losing with one match play, and winning with another, gives the player a profit.

Donít forget the coupon for $5 free play at both Las Vegas Club and the Plaza. My son once used a $5 free play and walked away with $80 profit. If we donít play long enough to be served a free beverage, the 2-for-1 drink coupons good at any Las Vegas Club or Plaza bar will ease our loss if that happens.

When it was time for lunch, Magnoliaís at the Four Queens served great food (and the 2-for-1 coupon is on page 405). Magnoliaís served microbrew beer as well.. I recommend the sampler.

While we were at the Four Queens, we did some gambling. The coupon that doubles points up to 500, if used to the max, is one of the most valuable coupons in the ACG. When you collect your cashback, the 500 points earned with the coupon at the Four Queens will give you $12.50. I love their 10/7 Double Bonus Progressive Royal video poker game, which is the best of its kind in all of Vegas (and perhaps in the entire world).

Just be certain to use the point doubler on a day when you are going to do the most amount of play because the coupon can only be used once a year.

We then walked across the street to Binion's casino and get the same deal on double points. When we were hungry, we got hamburgers, using the 2-for-1 coupon. The Golden Gate casino also has a deal where we earned $25 in free play by earning 200 points and, for new visitors, a $25 match play coupon as well (p. 407-409)

We always made time to visit the Golden Nugget live poker room, our favorite downtown poker room, offering a good selection of limit games ($2-$4 and $3-$6 with half kills), along with no limit, and having wonderful progressive bonus payouts for high hands. Check and see the hours at which the house doubles the high-hand bonus pays. The last time I played, I saw a fellow get $666 for quad queens.

With the ACG Golden Nugget coupon, we bought $60 in chips for just $50 in cash. The last time I played there, I left after five hours and I cashed out for $10; therefore, the coupon enabled the session to be a winning one.

Also, after we played for four hours, we asked for a $10 food voucher. They donít keep a list or swipe us in, so I said something to the manager when I got my seat assignment and that sets it up in his head that I will ask sometime after four hours have gone by. I also noted the time I started playing since they may ask when I request a voucher, which can be used in various places for food in the Golden Nugget, but if we use it for the buffet, it is also a line pass. The latter is a popular buffet and the lines are often very long, so it is a great benefit to go in the VIP line and be seated right away. When we played there late at night, we asked them to date the voucher for the next day, and used it the next morning for breakfast.

We played poker into suppertime, and it was time to walk back to the El Cortez to freshen up and to have a fine supper in the Flame restaurant. Reservations are helpful. The $25 savings from the 50% off coupon is a good value (unlike some savings coupons, when I want to eat there solo the coupon is still valid). I usually have the walleye, which is done with some exotic green herb that I love. The staff is very accommodating and there are some interesting but not intrusive television stations, including one showing marvellous shots of places to travel around the world to entertain solo diners.

One other point to remember is that sometimes the El Cortez will offer room deals that include a generous amount of food credit. We can use our 50% off ACG coupon at the Flame and still charge the cash part of the bill to the room, so it counts as part of the casino food offer. Also, I have been served a free bottle of wine, using a coupon that came with my room materials at check-in. It is a large bottle, and the red wine is very good. So a meal at the Flame can be quite a good bargain.

In the evening, we went back to the Four Queens for a bit more 10/7 Double Bonus play and used the ACG coupon for the 2-for-1 shows there. It is not uncommon that attending one show gets us a deal on the other show as well. And sometimes they have match plays for those who see that show. We ask whoever greets us on the way out of the theatre, if there are any match plays and we sometimes go back and get one for each of us. It is not uncommon to have a night of entertainment at the Four Queens that ends up being absolutely free.

At some point in a visit downtown, we try to visit the Gamblerís General Store on Main Street and use the coupon on page 365 for 15% off our order. We particularly like getting nice decks of new cards for as little as a dollar that can be used in home poker games, as well as 25-cent cut cards in various colors. Once again the bus pass helps us access this location.

On our next trip, we hope to use the 2-for-1 coupon on page 397 for the Erotic Heritage Museum!

You can see that organizing coupons by geographic area is very helpful .You will find values and opportunities when you use your ACG coupons in all Vegas areas. Hereís another tip: My poker buddies and I group coupons into these geographic piles for coupon runs.

* Along Flamingo from the Palms all the way to Samís Town and Long Horn.
* The Strip from Harrahís to the Stratosphere including one of the most valuable coupons in the ACG, the two free comedy tickets for the Riviera.
* The Strip from Harrahís to Flamingo.
* The Strip from South from Flamingo.
* Out to Suncoast, just a half hour using the WAX bus from downtown.
* A ride out to Jerryís Nugget, just twenty minutes on the MAX bus from downtown.
* A visit to Laughlin for an overnight stay. A car is needed for this one.

I hope this article has been helpful and informative.

Editorís Note: You can purchase the 2013 ACG at a substantial discount in our BJI online store.

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