Sunday 24 July 2011

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How I Got Hooked On Vegas

Nighttime Strip View Las VegasI'm probably not your average Las Vegas fan.  I don't drink, I don't smoke, and I don't go to night clubs to meet women.  I'm not opposed to these things (although I'm sure my wife would be opposed to me going out to meet women), and I can have a great time watching the people who do come to Vegas for the party, but it's not me.  I like the shows, the sportsbooks, the food, and I love playing video poker, but most importantly, I like Las Vegas because it can be beat.  I don't mean beat as in "walk away with all their money", although on occasion you may be a winner.  My goal is simply to enjoy a luxury vacation for pennies on the dollar, and we've been doing it for almost 10 years now.

If it wasn't for my kids, we might never have gone.  Las Vegas was never on my list of must see places, even though when I met Lori I was working in a casino, but three children in four years can really leave you desperate for a getaway.  Alas, having your kids that close together doesn't exactly leave you flush with money to jet around the world, but just when things seemed the darkest, enter...


In 2001 the US government hadn't made a stand against online gaming yet, so all of the major casino companies were readying themselves to enter the market.  Wagerworks was the trial version of MGM's online gaming system.  MGM needed people to try out their software for them, and in return for your playing with imaginary money on their site, they would award you points that could be redeemed in the real world at any of their casinos in Las Vegas.  The ratio of hours spent per reward wasn't very good, but as always seems to happen when computers are involved, somebody found a glitch.  A program could be run which would make your computer gamble for you, day and night, and continually rack up the points.  In hindsight, I must have looked like an incredible degenerate to the MGM, spending all my time gambling like a complete addict.  On the other hand, that could explain why there was absolutely no problems redeeming the points for free rooms, shows, and food.

Bellagio Lake View RoomIf MGM thought they were getting a high-rolling gambler coming in though, they were sadly disappointed.  Even though everything else was free, the airfare pretty much drained any spare money we had, and the only reason we could even stay in the hotel was that we managed to find a sympathetic desk clerk who let us check in without posting a damage deposit (Not the last time we'd have to do that. Just ask The Plaza).  From that point on though, everything was amazing.  We were treated like VIP's everywhere we went.  We stayed in a deluxe lakeview room at the Bellagio, had front and center seats for the Rick Springfield show at the MGM, and were always told to use the "Guests of the Casino" line at the buffet.  If they knew we were broke, they weren't showing it, and I was hooked by the fantastic service and wanted to become a regular "Guest of the Casino".

We've now been to Vegas over 50 times.  Lori's passion for the city didn't come until a couple of trips later when we discovered where the outlet malls were (and it really peaked later when the casinos started offering shopping money if we stayed with them) but there's been no argument since then.  My lifetime loss at MGM properties is (-$658.06), so I'm probably about done paying them back for that first trip, although I appreciate them letting me spread the payment over 10 years.  I've become a reasonably skilled video poker player (and a reasonably unskilled Lobstermania player), so although I play a lot, I'm not exactly the kind of customer that the casinos seek to attract.  Of course if you factor in the amount of money that Lori spends shopping, Wagerworks was probably a very wise investment for the MGM.

Written by Steve Pratt