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Monday, January 11

A Frugal Vacation for my Birthday

I have a confession. I like to gamble. Well, I like poker, which some would argue (myself included) is a game of skill rather than chance. But when I go to the casino to play poker, I always spend at least a little time on the tables or slots.

Suffice to say, this is my vice. I only feed the habit a few times a year, but the casinos keep mailing me such generous offers to come back. Take last weekend for example.

To celebrate my birthday, my partner and I spent the weekend at our favorite casino resort. In deciding whether to go I reviewed the various offers that I had received in the mail:
  1. Free $80 match play for my birthday, plus a free $60 match play I get 3 or 4 times each and every month.
  2. Free hotel (up to 3 nights per week).
  3. Free meals (including a birthday meal at a nice restaurant).
  4. Free promotional event where I could win more free stuff.
Since I hit the trifecta on casino freebies, I decided to celebrate my birthday with a weekend trip. I brought $140 cash with me and left the ATM card at home. We booked two nights in the hotel, and upon arrival I asked (very politely!) if a birthday upgrade to a suite would be possible. To my surprise, my request was granted, no questions asked.

  • Friday night: arrived just after 10 PM. Checked into the suite and took a bubble bath in the over-sized tub. Relaxed in the bed and watched cable (we skip cable back home so it's always a treat when on the road).
  • Saturday morning: We ate a late breakfast at the buffet (where I didn't overindulge for a change). I used points accumulated on my Player's Card from previous trips to pay for the meal. Then I redeemed the $80 and $60 match play coupons. I asked the attendant to give me a combination of $15 and $20 increments instead of the full value on one ticket. After redeeming these at the blackjack table I was up $125 (thanks to hitting 2 blackjacks!).
  • Saturday afternoon: I came for the poker, really, so I played a marathon 5 hours. I was eligible for a free buffet, but declined since I had enough vouchers to cover our remaining meals. I did really well at the poker table. I started with $100 in chips and turned it into $380 (winning $280).
  • Saturday evening: By coincidence there was a promotional event I was invited to where I selected a piggy bank that had a Bonus Bet (slot pay) in it. I only won the minimum, but it was still $25 in free slot pay. Then we went to an Italian restaurant to take advantage of my birthday meal. The meal would have cost nearly $150, but it was complimentary.
  • Total for Saturday: up by $405... so I had $545 including the $140 I came with.
  • Sunday morning: We worked out at the fitness center, then sat in the steam room until we couldn't take the heat any longer. Back in the room we cleaned up. Of course I took the bottles of shampoo, bubble bath, lotion and soaps. I hesitated but even snatched an unopened roll of toilet tissue for good measure. I redeemed another meal voucher which was good for 2 appetizers, 2 entrees, 2 desserts and 4 beverages. We ended up barely touching our entrees, so those we took home with us for later. We played the slots for a few minutes, mainly because I wanted to redeem the $25 in Bonus Bets I had won the night before. I also fed some cash into a video poker machine and lost several dollars. Then we headed home. The resort has a tie-in with a nearby gas station, so I redeemed points for $10 worth of gas.
Total cost for 2 nights hotel, meals, gas, etc.: Zero. Actually, I came home with more than I started. After a few incidental cash outlays for tips, plus losing a little Sunday morning, I was still ahead by $355 for the weekend (bringing home that plus the $140 I came with).


  1. I'm really jealous of this one, we are getting 4 casinos built in Ohio, one will be within 15 miles from my house.

  2. That is impressive. Gambling is my main vice. I only play poker though. Unfortunately, I'm not a winning player although I'm getting close. I definitely lose a lot less playing poker than I would playing the slots or table games. We have casinos here and they have never given me any promos like you received. I do earn a few points for playing poker but they don't add up very quick.