Paying Tribute to a Special Steak Special

ellis_island_casino_steak_dinner_special_WEB-630x952Las Vegas has put out some legendary deals over the years. They include the Bingo Palace’s (now Palace Station) 49-cent breakfast, the Golden Gate’s 50-cent shrimp cocktail and, of course, Binion’s Horseshoe’s $2 New York steak dinner. Inflation has seen to it that you don’t find deals quite like those anymore, but if you think in relative terms, these sorts of super specials still exist all over town. I write about ’em every week, but if I had to choose one that currently embodies the Vegas-values spirit, it would be the steak special at Ellis Island.

This baby never changes. It’s a big filet-cut sirloin cooked to order, and it comes with soup or salad, choice of potato, green beans and a home-brewed Ellis Island beer or root beer, all for just $7.99, served 24/7 in the Café. Part of the mystique of this meal is it doesn’t appear on the menu. You have to ask for it. But that’s only one part of the mystery. Pay attention now.

If you walk in off the street and ask for the steak special, it’ll cost you $11.99. Still a bargain, but not the bargain I’ve been describing. You need two separate coupons to get that $7.99 price.

Get the first by joining the players club, then swipe your card at a kiosk to get a voucher that automatically cuts the price to $8.99 (one voucher is good for your entire table). To receive the second coupon, play at least $1 in a slot or video poker machine. Be sure your card is inserted, play the dollar, then go back to the kiosk and print the second coupon for an additional $1 off, and there’s your $7.99 steak.

Of course, you’re gambling now, so your result isn’t guaranteed, but this adds a fun little Vegas twist that also makes financial sense. Most of the time you’ll lose the dollar, and your total outlay will be the original $8.99. But you also might win or break even. What’s important is that the expected loss on the $1 gamble is just 2 pennies, which pegs the real price at $8.01.

Want to wring another penny and a half out of the deal? Add a quarter and play $1.25 on one of the 9/6 video poker machines. Playing only the required single dollar causes you to play “short-coin,” which eliminates the royal flush bonus and drops the game’s return to 98.02 percent. That’s a 2 percent edge for the casino. But playing $1.25 is “full-coin,” giving you the bonus value of the royal flush and raising the return to 99.54 percent. Now your expected loss is just sixth-tenths of a penny to satisfy the requirement to get the discount.

Do it this way and your mathematical final price for that steak dinner is $7.996 … plus tax and tip!

Anthony Curtis is the publisher of the Las Vegas Advisor.

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