So, yesterday evening was men’s night at the Shawnee Kickapoo casino, which means a genuine old-fashioned $10 match play opportunity. Pixie and I were driving by. She had a sore foot and no interest in hobbling on it, but she was willing to hang in the parking lot and make phone calls while I ran in to do $20 worth of quick wagers.

During a quick scout around, I noticed a Bank Heist machine that seemed like a fine place to play my initial $10 — just twenty fast spins at the base fifty-cent bet. Only trouble was, when I circled back to it, there was an older woman sitting sideways in the chair, watching a younger woman playing the adjacent machine. She had no money in the machine, no card in the machine, nothing. Just sitting and watching, not gambling at all.

So I asked her, polite as you could wish:

“Ma’am, are you planning to play that machine? Because if not, I’d sure like to.”

She said “No…” and got up and stepped aside. So I said “Thanks”, sat down and started to plug in my money.

Then she said: “I was going to, though!” in an angry tone. And the younger woman said in a vicious voice “I guess I’ll move then, too!” and punched for her cash-out ticket.

I felt like I’d fallen into the land of the crazy women. All she had to do was say “I’m about to play it” or “yes” and I’d have moved on. Instead, she gave me the machine, and now she and her friend are acting angry at me?

I just stared at my screen, pretended I didn’t notice the crazy people, and kept gambling.

About three spins later, the younger woman is suddenly in the left side of my face, holding onto the back of my chair and leaning in over my left shoulder, totally up in my personal space and reeking of beer. “Are you winning yet?” she asks in a belligerent tone.

I pretended she wasn’t there. No joy.

“Are you winning yet?”

I continued to pretend I hadn’t heard her.

“Are you winning yet?”

“I just sat down.”

That’s what she wanted. Loud angry voice:

“So had my mom!”

The conversation went downhill from there. Fortunately, I was almost done betting my $10. Basically, in the time it took me to finish, I told her about four times that all I did was ask. She kept loudly exclaiming “No you didn’t!” and drunkenly complaining that her mom had wanted to play the machine I was on. She was acting like she wanted some sort of fight, to be honest. Luckily, I was able to disengage, and she didn’t follow me.

There were two Kickapoo casino security guards at the door, just 10 or 12 feet away. They didn’t appear to notice, and they didn’t get involved. Frankly, I’d have appreciated it if they’d shown up to calm down the situation. But they showed no sign of noticing the loud belligerent drunk woman. It’s the first time I’ve ever been in an uncomfortable confrontation in an Oklahoma casino. I hope it’s also the last.

At the beginning of December 2012 I commented that Pixie and I had never received any promo mailers from the Sac & Fox despite the signs they posted when they got rid of all their match play.

Since that time, neither Pixie nor I so much as crossed the threshold of that casino. There are other casinos in Shawnee that offer (not very generous) match play and half-assed matchplay (play $20, get $10 and so forth). So why play at the place that offers nothing?

And then, interestingly, Pixie got a March 2013 mailer from them. Her mailer consists of a whole array of $5.00 free play coupons, all with different dates in the month of March.

I didn’t get a mailer. Which is interesting, because we always played there at the same times and wagered similar amounts. (She has maybe 15% more accumulated points than me based on our play there during the first part of 2012.)

So, yesterday we stopped in (on our way to buffet dinner at the Fire Lake Grand) so Pixie could get her free play. Me? I wandered over to the Player’s Club and asked them to verify my mailing address. There’s always a chance I’ve got the wrong address in the database, right? (Oklahoma casinos are terrible about scanning the mag stripe on your ID and updating the mailing address in their database without asking you; when your ID has a physical address where you cannot receive mail, this is a problem.)

I didn’t say a word about why I was asking. Unsolicited, the woman at the player’s club said to me in a preachy, dismissive tone of voice:

“Are you asking because you didn’t get a promo mailer? Because I’m sure your address is fine. You just don’t get a mailer if you haven’t been in here and playing enough!”

I allowed as how I hadn’t been in since November, and she interrupted me:

“That’s why you didn’t get a mailer! It’s all based on your play from last month, so if you didn’t come in, no mailer.”

Patiently I explained that I had thought so, too, but that someone I knew had just gotten a mailer and we had neither one of us been into the casino since November, I just wanted to be sure about the address.

“That could only happen if she has played just a whole lot more than you.”

By this time I was getting pretty tired of the snotty service. But I just asked her, again, patiently, if she’d please just verify my mailing address. Finally she did, checking her screen and reading back to me my correct mailing address.

So, that’s the scoop, people. The player’s club at the Sac & Fox is claiming, rather rudely, that they only send mailers to people who have been playing recently. It’s not true. But we don’t know what other criteria they may be using. And apparently the player’s club reps don’t know either, or have been instructed not to give good info if they do know.

On the bright side, I noticed a new bank of brand-new AGS “Pay It Again” video poker machines, which would be the newest video poker machines in Shawnee and the only ones that aren’t ancient and horrible Game Kings. According to this page, the worst payout option available from the manufacturer of that machine is 96.92%, which means it would be a fairly inexpensive seat from which to rack up a lot of play. (That’s a poor return for a serious video poker player, but I strongly suspect it’s better than the default slot machine percentages in that casino.) So, now that Pixie has coupons, we may go back and give them a little bit of business while I see how much poker I have to play to start getting coupons of my own.

Remember when the Sac & Fox casinos had their match play taken out and shot, back in early October?

At the time they promised that match play coupons would be mailed out. Pixie and I haven’t seen any as of December 1. Have you? Please comment if so.

Thursday night (November 29) we were passing by the Sac & Fox Shawnee casino around midnight so we decided to drop in for giggles and see what they are currently advertising for promotions. The place was like a post-apocalyptic wasteland; the parking lot was so empty we literally thought the place was closed. Inside, it was nothing but bank on bank of lonely slot machines.

Recent changes: some machines were torn out in the middle of the casino, and there was carpentry equipment stacked there. A sign says that table games are being installed. Another construction sign shows an artist conception drawing of the casino facade with new signage and lights, indicating that there’s to be exterior renovation as well.

The only December promotion being advertised was an extremely stingy card swipe scheme. No free swipes for anybody; you have to show up during a fairly narrow time slot on Saturday afternoons in December, earn 50 points (which means “wager fifty dollars” at this casino although they won’t say so if you ask them) and then swipe your card at the player’s club for a 1-in-20 chance to win a prize. The prizes are not itemized but include a few tech gadgets (like televisions) and unspecified amounts of play (I’m not sure if it was free play or match play, I forgot to take notes) in amounts “up to” $500. For each additional fifty points you earn, you also get another swipe.

I call this promotion “extremely stingy” because of math. First of all, I think we can safely assume that “up to” means that most prizes will be “less than” $500. But even if we assumed that all prizes were worth $500 (and some of the tech prizes clearly are not) that would still work out to a $50 investment to earn a prize chance worth $25 ($500 divided by 20). That’s like the “half-assed match play” bet-$20-get-$10 promotions at the Seminole casinos and the Fire Lake Grand. It would be worth playing this promotion if all the prizes really were valued at $500; but the actual prize distribution is not published, and I think we can safely assume that a lot more people will be winning $5 or $25 or $100 than will be winning $500 in play or expensive tech gadgets. If you are putting $50 at risk to earn a prize chance worth $.25 ($5 divided by 20) that’s hardly worth getting out of bed for.

It’s been funny to observe how empty some of the casinos have gotten recently after abandoning popular promotions. I wonder how long they will be content to sit empty on Thursday nights before they come to understand that promotions are what get people to get in their cars and make the long drives to come and gamble?

On Thursday I was running errands for old people and one of those errands took me to Holdenville. “Awesome!” was my thought, “They’ve got $10 match play today at the Holdenville casino.”

But by the time I got to the casino, I was very short on time. No worries; $20 in wagers doesn’t take long. So down I sat at an Invaders From The Planet Moolah game.

I’d played a couple of bucks when the screen went insane — the middle three columns were all (or mostly) wilds. The “Big Win” siren went off and the line pay was $32. Sweet!

And then it was time for the winning tiles to clear and the cascade to happen. All three middle columns came in wild AGAIN and the Big Win siren was wailing again too. This time it was a bit less than $30, but I wasn’t complaining.

Right then my phone rang with errands-related stuff. Now I was officially in a hurry to finish up and get out of there. So I doubled my bet.

And kept winning, in smaller ways. By the time I’d earned my promo play, I was up about $80 in total. $10 dollars in promo? Let’s do 11 spins at ninety cents a spin and get out of here.

A profitable choice. I got two more nice little hits in those 11 spins, and wound up cashing a ticket for almost $120. Total time in the casino: less than 15 minutes.

Gambling tempo has been very low and slow lately, due to a bunch of eldercare obligations that had Pixie spending too much time in hospitals until she stressed herself into an ugly little case of pneumonia. She’s better now, but respiratory infections and smoky casinos do not mix! So we’ve been staying close to home.

Still, today she was feeling better and going a bit stir crazy, so I offered to take her out for a drive. And when she saw the sign for the I-40 Seminole casino, she was all “Their new space has high ceilings, it’s not so smokey, it’s not a horrid pit of foul smoke and no air like the Wewoka Trading Post…” And of course today is the Wednesday $10-for-$20 promotion (what we not-so-fondly call “half-assed match play”. Yes, we grumble, but advantage is advantage, and ya gotta take it where you find it.) So, in we went.

I cannot complain. I played my thirty dollars worth of wagers (twenty of mine and ten of theirs) at forty cents a spin on their sole Zeus II machine — a 40-line “Red Hot Respin” machine that just wasn’t talking to me today. Down twenty bucks, I wasn’t quite ready to quit, so I moved to an older “Zeus” machine nearby (a 30-line model with no “Red Hot Respin” bonus feature).

Fifth spin or so, I got this:

Happy days — that’s a $60 screen right there. My work here is done.

Went and found Pixie, she was talking to the Fairy Blossom machine but not done with it yet. So I cashed my ticket and took a couple of bucks of my winnings into the convenience store for candy. On the way I noticed that (yay!) my beloved Penny Poker machines had finally been installed in the breezeway area leading to the old casino space that’s currently closed. I’ll look forward to playing them, next visit.

When I got back to Pixie, she was just chortling at three treasure chests (the bonus symbol for Fairy Blossom) that had just landed. She was playing at 80 cents a spin, so I stayed to watch; those bonuses can be substantial. And sure enough, she ended up with a total of 30 free spins, two of which hit very big indeed; her final total from the bonus exceeded $150.

As we do, we took our winnings and ran home, chortling all the way. It doesn’t take a lot to make us happy…

It is the editorial position here at Okie Gamblers that when Oklahoma casinos fail to honor their advertised match play, we should do our best to publicize that behavior. The only way to incentivize casinos to behave better is to call them out when they deal unfairly.

This is from the advertising placard for the October promotions at the Holdenville Creek Nation Casino (one of our favorites):

That’s an unequivocal offer for $10 match play for ladies on Wednesdays in October.

So, on Wednesday October 31 we stopped in. I went to talk to the Silver Swords machine while Pixie went to put her $10 in the Skee-Ball game.

She played her $10. The little blue coins did not light up.

She went to the promotions desk. They said “No, it’s Halloween, no Ladies Day match play today. The Halloween promotions are drawings, it’s on the sign.”

Here’s what the advertising placard says about the Halloween promotion:

You could deduce from that — I guess — that the Halloween drawings might replace the (less generous) Ladies Day drawings scheduled for the same day. Although I have been to plenty of other casinos that have special drawings going on simultaneously with their regularly scheduled weekly promotions. In any case, we weren’t there for the drawings, and we weren’t expecting both sets to be happening.

However, there’s nothing about that Halloween advertising that hints or suggests that the Ladies Day match play would not be offered as advertised.

So once Pixie learned she wouldn’t be getting her promotional play, she was DONE. I imagine she’ll get over it eventually, but she hasn’t yet. And she didn’t have any interest in playing through the thirty or forty bucks we usually put at risk when we go there. So I cashed out my winnings of the moment (about $20) and we got the heck out of there.

Insult to injury: Holdenville doesn’t have a ticket-cashing machine, so to cash my ticket, I went to the cashiers window (located at the very back of the casino). On the glass in front of the cashiers were a pair of very tiny (index-card-sized) signs, which said something like “No Ladies Day Match Play Today” (I’m working from memory). So somebody in casino management knew this was a problem that gamblers would want to know about, but they buried the notice at the very back of the casino, where you won’t likely see it until you are cashing out before leaving. Was there any sign on the entrance doors, or near them? We checked on our way out, but you already know the answer: there was not.

Some months back, we had our first experience of an Oklahoma casino advertising a promotion and then not honoring it. It was a $25 match play (worth driving for) and we’d driven about an hour out of our way to take advantage of it. When we arrived, it was still being advertised on the big electronic sign in the parking lot. We went in, played our $25, and WTF? The little grey stack of coins never turned blue. Right about then, the PA system went loud. Attention, attention, our advertised match play promotion has been replaced by these wonderful drawings…

We got screwed. It was the last weekend of the month, and they apparently had decided not to continue the month-long promotion to the end of the month. Instead, they wanted to start people working on earning entries for their newest drawings promotion. People who drove to play at their facility based on the advertised offer? Just out of luck.

The casinos make the rules, they are effectively unregulated (or self-regulated, which amounts to something very similar), and they all have “We reserve the right to change or alter promotions at any time” weasel words prominently posted somewhere. There isn’t a thing that we, the gambling consumers, can do about this. In legalese, there’s no available redress when we are wronged by a casino that chooses not to honor its advertised promotions.

However, it’s still sleazy and wrong and shameful. Oklahoma casinos are fundamentally rural. There is a lot of open space in Oklahoma, and people use promotions in deciding where to go and how far to drive. Gasoline is expensive and our time is valuable. If you advertise a promotion, you should honor that promotion.

Furthermore, in the event that a promotion is altered or eliminated, there should be substantial efforts made to alert the gambling public. Websites and recorded telephone messages advertising the promotion should be changed, and there should be prominent signage at the casino entrance alerting consumers to the change.

The only things we gamblers can do to “enforce” this standard is to take our gambling dollars to the casinos that play fair, honor their advertised promotions, and strive mightily to alert gamblers when an advertised promotion will not be honored for some good reason. And to do that, we need to have some way of knowing which casinos fall short of that standard. It’s our intention here at Okie Gamblers to document the shady promotional practices we experience, and we encourage our readers to email and comment regarding any such problems they have encountered.

Short version: all of the match play at the Sac & Fox Shawnee casino is going away as of Sunday October 14th.

October 22 update:
As of today’s date, neither Pixie nor I have received any mailed promotion from the Sac & Fox casinos. We’ve gambled there 2-4 times a week for the past four or five months, and yes, we did confirm our mailing addresses. So it would appear that “In October your free play will be mailed to you” was a simple lie, intended to make the promotions cancellation appear less dramatic than it was. Of course it’s very possible they are sending promotions to select heavy players, but for average gamblers not putting whole paychecks on the line, there don’t appear to be any mailed promotions whatsoever. If you’ve seen any mailers from them, please comment! We’d love to know what promotions you are getting, along with an idea about how much you’ve typically gambled there.

October 10 update: The employee at the promotions desk at the Sac & Fox Stroud casino confirmed for me today that the match play offers are “all going away” at the Stroud location as well; this is not unexpected since the two casinos are usually identical, promotions-wise. However this employee was “not sure if it’s going to happen this week.”

If you’ve been gambling regularly in Oklahoma casinos in the last six months or so, you’ll have noticed that match play promotions have been being radically pared back. A typical pattern six months ago was one or more $10 match play opportunities during the week and one or two weekend offers of $20 or $25. These have been vanishing everywhere, replaced with lame drawings, $5 match promotions, and what we not-so-lovingly call “half-assed match play” where you play $20 to get $10. Casinos we’d routinely take long drives to visit (Okema/Creek Nation/Eagle Bluff, are you listening?) went from generous promotions ($25 match two nights a week, $10 some other night, $10 each on mens/ladies day) to near nothing ($5 each on mens/ladies day, now reduced to a tiny four-hour window in the evening). And consequently, now we just wave at the sign as we drive by on the highway. We love to gamble, but most of these little casinos aren’t all that entertaining if the house won’t give back a little bit of advantage to get us in the door and give us a fighting chance to pay for our gasoline.

Just the other day I had observed to Pixie on one of our long drives that the last bastion of generous match play was the pair of Sac & Fox casinos in Shawnee and Stroud. For as long as we’ve been playing, they’ve offered genuine match play every day of the week, in amounts ranging from $10 to $20. On $20 days it’s enough to get us out on the highway and heading that way, and on $10 days it’s at least a guarantee that we’ll stop by if we’re passing through or near Shawnee. Stroud? Well, the Sac & Fox Stroud is a long way from anywhere we go, but on $20 match play days we’ll still head that way. No promotion? Not going there! Or not unless we’re going by on the turnpike, as happens maybe once in sixty days or so.

We were having that conversation while trying to puzzle out two things. First of all, around the beginning of the month we noticed that the Sac & Fox in Shawnee didn’t update its promotional posters; up through yesterday they were still flying the September posters in the huge marquee bulletin board by the main entrance. Why were they still talking about the September piggie bank promo instead of whatever October’s promos are supposed to be?

Second, and possibly unrelated: late last month the Sac & Fox Shawnee suddenly got stingy with the free beverages. Typically at these casinos, if you are still drinking your tiny cup of free coffee when you walk out the door, nobody seems to care. A few of the bigger casinos that serve drinks exercise “cup control” at the doors, but that’s understandable if they wish to prevent people walking out with open containers of booze. Otherwise, you walk out with your coffee and drive away drinking it. Until recently, that was the deal at the Sac & Fox, and why not? Nobody is going to burn a buck in gasoline to come and steal five ounces of bad machine coffee that costs maybe six or seven cents to serve.

And yet, there I was gambling at the Sac & Fox on September 28, when a bizarre announcement came over the loudspeakers: “ATTENTION Sac & Fox players, you are NO LONGER allowed to remove your beverage cups from the casino. Please drink or dispose of your beverages before leaving.” (That’s from memory, not verbatim; but that was the gist.)

And sure enough, they were bloody serious about it! Not only did signs go up on the doors, but they rejiggered their security kiosk from just inside the doors (and only sporadically manned) to a position between the double doors (and permanently manned with two beverage-control security officers).

Two weeks later, the full-time security on the door is still there, and people are still throwing coffee in the garbage as they leave. I’m sure that’s saving the casino so much money!

So anyway, Pixie and I were musing about that senseless change and the lack of new promotional posters, and we hit upon the notion that maybe they had a new manager. And I don’t know if that’s true, but yesterday when we stopped in, they were handing out these little cards at the promotional desk and telling everybody that the last day of regular match play will be Sunday the 14th:

“Our daily promotions are changing! In October your free play will be mailed to you and the amount you receive in the mail is based off the points you earn. So please be sure to use your Player’s Club card when gaming. THANK YOU.”

Or, as the nice player’s club employee summarized it more accurately: “No more match play. It’s all going to be mailed out coupons, now.”

Wow, bummer, dude.

I find the use of the phrase “free play” on the little hand-out card somewhat telling in this context. Excepting on my birthday, I’ve never received a dime of free play at the Sac & Fox; match play is not the same thing at all. But if they have a new manager who is offended by the monstrous revenue bleed that is people leaving with half-cups of the free beverages, maybe he/she is also horrified by “all the free money we are giving away” or some such foolishness.

In any case, it’s bad news for players. In my experience, Oklahoma casinos are not good at maintaining mailing addresses; they are constantly swiping your ID and will often replace your mailing address on file with the physical address on your ID. However, if you ask them to update the mailing address manually, they’ll smile and say it’s done, but it doesn’t reliably “take” in the database, or it gets wiped out the next time they swipe your card. What’s worse, even when they are successfully sending mailers, they aren’t consistent about promotions. I can’t tell you how many times Pixie and I will go to the same casinos on the same schedule, gambling similar amounts of money, only for one of us to receive a promotional mailer while the other gets nothing. It happens more often than it doesn’t happen, that’s for sure!

So, I don’t expect that the Sac & Fox will routinely send out coupon mailers. Obviously time will tell what the coupons consist of, but we aren’t big-money gamblers; we typically gamble no more than about two to five dollars for every promotional dollar during any given visit. It’s hard to imagine any “based off the points you earn” coupon regime that could deliver coupons to match the $95 in weekly match play that the Sac & Fox has been offering.

As I told the nice lady at the promotions desk, “That’s unfortunate! We’ll really miss seeing y’all as often as we have been.”


As I write this, the Okie Gambler website is a bare WordPress installation with a generic template. It’s like an apartment with no carpet or furniture. It will get better — slowly — over time. But meanwhile, I need a place to share what I know about gambling in Oklahoma and to hear from other Oklahoma gamblers about what they know. And to shoot the bull about it.

Why do Oklahomans need a gambling website?

Well, I think we do. We’ve got a great many Indian casinos, and (for better or worse) they’re becoming an important part of the cultural and social and economic lives of a lot of Oklahomans. And yet for some reason, getting good information about Oklahoma gambling on the internet is quite difficult. Casino web sites are frequently poor quality, and third-party sites about the gambling scene in this state are not numerous or up-to-date.

There’s also the issue of accountability. If a casino behaves badly — and sometimes they do — what is to be done? Casinos are theoretically in competition with each other, but if there’s no place for happy and unhappy customers to share stories, how is that competition to operate? I was surprised to discover that none of the casino-listing sites had much in the way of comments or user reviews. If The Okie Gambler can fill that void, I’d be quite satisfied.

What do I hope to see on The Okie Gambler?

My goal (and this will take a long time if it ever happens) is to build out the site until it contains basic information about all the casinos in the State of Oklahoma. The ones I gamble at will also have more detailed reviews, updated as things change. Plus, I expect (using links and blog posts) to consolidate for my own convenience the best web resources about Oklahoma gambling and the Indian casinos in this state. I also have opinions — strong ones — about my gambling experiences in Oklahoma; you’ll get to read those. And finally, I hope that others will find the site useful enough that they start sharing their local gambling experiences here as well.

Who Am I To Write About Gambling In Oklahoma?

I’m just a dude. I’m an Okie only by courtesy (haven’t been here long enough yet) but I live in the middle of the state in one of the zillions of little towns. I’m self-employed (self-underemployed?) and I share my life with Pixie (not her real name), who is a tribal member and family care-giver.

We like to go out gambling. Because there isn’t much extra money in our budget, we haunt promotions. We drive a lot, we gamble a little, we hoard our winnings and we cut our losses before they get too deep. Ultimately, we win more than we lose, but we tend to pay it back out on the back end for gasoline and vehicle wear-and-tear. Gambling, for us, ends up being cheap entertainment and “free” meals out (paid for by gambling winnings). It’s escapism — the best and cheapest we can find, living where we do and subject to the obligations we are laboring under.

Me? I play video poker when I can find it, slots otherwise. Pixie plays the penny slots, a lot harder than I do. Neither one of us are much for table games, or Keno, or bingo.