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New Comp City

The Paiza Club is a club in the truest sense of the word: if you're not invited, you're not welcome.
Michael Kaplan
From the Print Edition:
Tiger Woods, May/June 2008

(continued from page 2)

First, it's best to shop around and find the places where your level of action will be most appreciated and compensated. Some casinos on The Strip, for instance, are not great places for craps (they minimize comp dollars on odds bets) and others won't give rebates to players with credit lines of less than a million dollars. Finding out which do and which don't is the first step toward getting the most out of the pit. More to the point, off of the Vegas Strip is a good place for mid-level gamblers to risk their money —an average bet of $50 per hand, with a couple thousand dollars of front money, will get you a comped room at the recently renovated Golden Nugget downtown (bet $125 per hand, with 10 grand on deposit, and you're completely taken care of). But even better, Vegas is hardly your only option. The smarter play, and one that takes advantage of current gambling/comping conditions, involves looking outside of Las Vegas altogether.

High-end Indian casinos —such as Barona near San Diego, Foxwoods in Connecticut and Morongo in Cabazon, California, to name a few —are more generous than their Vegas counterparts and more willing to reward steady play from lower rollers. Some of the Indian operations tend to have advantageous tax situations, and just about all of them realize more money from gambling than they do from amenities.

It's the old Vegas model, and it encourages them to comp customers in the old Vegas style. "Vegas tends to be tighter with comps because the gaming revenue is less meaningful there," says Joe Jimenez, senior vice president of casino marketing at Foxwoods. "Our revenue is 80 to 90 percent from gaming. People come here 12 times a year, and only 20 percent of our customers stay in the hotel rooms. Gaming revenue is more meaningful here and you get a lot of value for your gambling time in our casino."

Back at the Paiza, Marshall Sylver is regaling me with tales of his comping exploits. He recounts the night that Cyr promised to give him $12,000 worth of Fuente Fuente OpusX cigars rather than a loss rebate in cash (Cyr acknowledges that it was a bit of a feat, in light of how hard it is to buy Xs in large quantities), the New Year's Eve party that a casino threw for him, and pricy humidors that he's been sent as keeping-in-touch gifts. Then there was the time that he became so enamored with the wine glasses at Alizé (a very nice French restaurant on the top floor of the Palms) that he bought eight of each along with a bottle of Hardy Perfection Cognac that dated back to the 1870s, entirely with comp dollars. "It didn't all fit in my car," Sylver remembers, "so they sent a limo home with the glasses."

All of this begs a simple question. In light of the casinos' largesse —which, let's face it, is not usually extended to consistent winners —how is Sylver doing? "Over a lifetime, I am way down," he admits. "Over the last three years, though, I'm closer to even. Plus the comps. Which puts me ahead. It's always nice when they buy you dinner and give you cash."

Michael Kaplan is a Cigar Aficionado contributing editor.

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