Servicing Your Air Conditioner Before Summer

If summer arrives as quickly as spring did, we’ll all need our air conditioners soon. Cold air is a modern luxury that many of us don’t want to do without during the hot summer months. Unless we properly maintain our air conditioning units, cool air may be a luxury we go without this summer. Here are four reasons to perform yearly maintenance on your air conditioner.
Efficiency: Time, age, and lack of use during the cold months cause air conditioners to wear down. Air vents and filters become clogged with dust and other debris. The result is a reduced ability for your air conditioner to circulate cold air throughout your house. In many cases, cool air may never reach the rooms in your home that are farthest from the unit.

Energy Costs: If your air conditioner isn’t running at maximum efficiency, you’ll be spending a lot more money this summer. If your Salt Lake City air conditioner is unmaintained, it uses more energy and runs longer than normal in order to cool your house. Added energy use and longer run times are most noticeable when it comes time to pay your electric bill.

Air Quality: In addition to cooling your home, your air conditioner is responsible for circulating air. Without proper maintenance, your air conditioner can’t do this effectively. Poor circulation leads to stagnant air as dust and moisture accumulate. Increased dust buildup occurs when air filtration systems are full or clogged and no longer filter air.

Safety: Poor air quality isn’t the only health concern caused by bad air conditioners. Each year, thousands of U.S. house fires are caused by air conditioners that are in a state of disrepair.

Each of these problems is preventable with a straightforward solution, annual maintenance. Hiring a certified technician to inspect and repair your air conditioner probably isn’t another bill you want to pay. However, yearly maintenance pays for itself in three ways, reduced energy costs, more efficient cooling, and increased air conditioner lifespan. A small investment now leads to big savings later.

It was mentioned in the beginning that summer is right around the corner. Don’t wait until the Salt Lake City summer hits to have your air conditioner inspected. Summer is the busiest time of year for technicians, and that means their availability goes down and their costs go up. Have your air conditioner inspected this spring and ensure that it’s ready to keep your house cool before the summer heat hits.

6 Poker Gadgets That Aren’t Lame

I usually agree with the writer Orison Marden: “He only is rich who can enjoy without owning.” I own a decent car, sure, but I’ve maintained it and kept it running for over a decade. I don’t have a massive house, I don’t wear any jewelry besides my wedding ring, and I try to live life simply.

Except when it comes to poker.

I’m a total sucker for poker gadgets. Over the years, I’ve bought enough eBooks, trainers, and fancy equipment for my poker room to operate a resale shop. Everyone has a vice, right? I own everything from Vat19’s giant playing cards to the ridiculous Belkin n52te mouse that poker pros seem to swear by. I’ll try anything twice, just in case the first time was a fluke.

My collection of poker gadgets that I used twice and got rid of could fill a small warehouse, but the list of gadgets that I continue to use and find useful? It’s really short. I feel uniquely qualified to offer up a list of six poker gadgets that don’t suck. The six devices below are items that I actually recommend to poker players – not just things that I think are neat.

Bestway’s Inflatable Poker Table
Once upon a time you had to track Betway down online and place an email order if you wanted this item. It cost $50 and I was lucky to get one when I did. Then I started seeing them on Amazon, at a slightly lower price. These days, you can buy Bestway’s inflatable Texas Hold’em poker “table and chair set” at Wal-Mart. For less than $30 you can take your weekly game out to the pool and get some Vitamin D for once. I swear by this thing during the summer, and it’s a great conversation piece.

Rush Creek’s Octagon Poker Table
If you value the ambience of your private poker game, it’s time to man up and invest in a legitimate poker table. The days of folding tables and plastic lawn chairs are over. Poker players have style and they demand a certain level of quality. Impress your friends and own this piece of furniture that you don’t have to hide when the boys aren’t over. Sure, it has a frontier look, but I don’t think it’d be out of place in a game room or man cave.

KEM Plastic Playing Cards
I got on the KEM train early. It’s rare that poker players come to anything like a consensus, but in the case of KEM’s cellulose acetate playing cards, everyone agrees. They’re the best. They’re beautiful, durable, and available in two sizes and a wide range of designs. Point your browser to KEM’s website to order the cards and browse their list of accessories, like chip sets, score pads, and card trays. I’ve tried switching to Copag PVC cards, mainly because they’re 1/3 the price and still a respected manufacturer, but I just hate the way the PVC feels in my hands. Go with the original and still champion playing card manufacturer – KEM.

Logitech’s G19 Programmable Gaming Keyboard
If my wife thought a $70 mouse was obscene, imagine how she’d respond if she knew how much I really spent on Logitech’s G19 keyboard. I told her I won it in a giveaway – but in reality it set me back $200. It’s worth every penny. From the customizable LED backlight (which has cut back on my mis-clicks) to the built-in LCD screen I use to display stats and YouTube videos while I play, I can’t imagine playing online poker without it.

An Aeron Office Chair
Herman Miller makes the famous Aeron chair, and though it was in no way designed specifically for use by poker players, I think it is a must-won for anyone expected to spend serious time in front of their laptop playing poker. The Aeron is beautiful, functional, and eliminates overheating and strain through the use of ergonomic design and modern materials and production. If I sound like a fanboy, it’s because I am. I cured years of muscle strain and sciatica by replacing my cheap office chair with an Aeron. I’ve probably saved thousands of dollars in chiropractor bills just by buying my Aeron, which set me back almost $800 but was totally worth it.

A Year of Poker Training at Ivey League
Not exactly a gadget, but still expensive enough to make this list. A year’s paid subscription to Ivey League will set you back between $70 and $500, but the access this membership gives you to training from real poker pros is (not to sound like a broken record) totally worth it. I recommend this service to poker players at all ability levels. If you can afford it, the Masters access (at $75 a month) gives you access to the most content and the most one-on-one contact with the site’s pros. Don’t take my word for it – check out PokerFuse’s review from last year.

Conclusion
Don’t get me wrong on this point – I don’t think gadgets are crucial to success in poker, online or otherwise. I know amazing players that own a twelve year-old laptop and absolutely no gadgets. I also know guys that buy everything on the market and never win a hand.

But I DO think that most players will enjoy themselves more if they incorporated gadgets into their poker game. My online poker play is a form of entertainment – I don’t make nearly enough money from poker to call it a job. If I think of entertainment as currency, anything that makes me have more fun increases my expected value.

The gadgets above have all been tested extensively by myself and my poker buddies. This isn’t by any means an exhaustive list. But it is a list of amazing poker-related gadgets and merchandise that can enhance the entertainment value of your poker play. And that’s worth a few Amazon purchases, don’t you think?

Overview of the Major Comp Programs

Before we dive into the intricacies of blackjack and poker comps, I thought it might be a good idea to take a quick crash course on comp programs.

Thanks to the corporate conglomeration that has dominated the casino industry in recent years, most gamblers have two major comp programs to choose from – M Life and Total Rewards.

The M Life program is operated by MGM Resorts International, while Total Rewards is a product of Caesars Entertainment.

If you enjoy visiting sunny Las Vegas for a stroll along the Strip, chances are good you’ll wind up in a casino owned by one of these behemoths. And I’m not talking about the MGM Grand or Caesars Palace flagship properties, as the two companies own dozens of casinos between them.

Check out the list below for a full accounting of MGM-owned properties on the Strip where the M Life card is used to track and distribute comps:

ARIA Las Vegas
Bellagio Las Vegas
Excalibur Hotel and Casino
Luxor Las Vegas
Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino
MGM Grand Las Vegas
The Mirage Las Vegas
Monte Carlo Resort and Casino
New York New York Hotel and Casino
And below, you’ll find the Caesars-owned casinos on the Strip where the Total Rewards card is accepted:

Bally’s Las Vegas
Caesars Palace
The Cromwell Las Vegas
Flamingo Las Vegas
Harrah’s Las Vegas
The LINQ Las Vegas
Paris Las Vegas
Planet Hollywood Las Vegas
Rio All Suite Hotel & Casino
Expanding the scope outside of Sin City, these are the MGM-brand casinos worldwide where M Life membership is accepted:

Beau Rivage – (Biloxi, Mississippi)
Borgata – (Atlantic City, New Jersey)
The Water Club – (Atlantic City, New Jersey)
Gold Strike Casino Resort – (Tunica Resorts, Mississippi)
Grand Victoria – (Elgin, Illinois)
MGM Grand Detroit – (Detroit, Michigan)
MGM National Harbor – (National Harbor, Maryland)
MGM Springfield – (Springfield, Massachusetts)
MGM Grand Sanya – (Sanya, Hainan, China)
MGM Macau – (Macau, China)
Bellagio Shanghai – (Shanghai, China)
And finally, take a look below for the full list of Caesars-owned casinos worldwide where Total Rewards membership is accepted:

Bally’s Atlantic City – (Atlantic City, NJ)
Caesars Atlantic City – (Atlantic City, NJ)
Caesars Windsor – (Windsor, Ontario, CA)
Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino – (Phoenix, AZ)
Harrah’s Atlantic City – (Atlantic City, NJ)
Harrah’s Cherokee – (Cherokee, NC)
Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River – (Cherokee, NC)
Harrah’s Council Bluffs – (Council Bluffs, IA)
Harrah’s Gulf Coast – (Biloxi, MS)
Harrah’s Joliet – (Joliet, IL)
Harrah’s Lake Tahoe – (Lake Tahoe, NV)
Harrah’s Laughlin – (Laughlin, NV)
Harrah’s Louisiana Downs – (Bossier City, LA)
Harrah’s Metropolis – (Metropolis, IL)
Harrah’s New Orleans – (New Orleans, LA)
Harrah’s North Kansas City – (North Kansas City, MO)
Harrah’s Philadelphia – (Philadelphia, PA)
Harrah’s Reno – (Reno, NV)
Harrah’s Resort Southern California – (Valley Center, CA)
Harvey’s Lake Tahoe – (Lake Tahoe, NV)
Horseshoe Casino Baltimore – (Baltimore, MD)
Horseshoe Bossier City – (Bossier City, LA)
Horseshoe Council Bluffs – (Council Bluffs, IA)
Horseshoe Hammond – (Hammond, IN)
Horseshoe Casino Tunica – (Tunica, MS)
Horseshoe Southern Indiana – (Elizabeth, IN)
Tunica Roadhouse – (Tunica, MS)
Along with these titans of the gambling industry, you’ll also come across a few smaller casino chains like Boyd Gaming or Stations. And of course, the over 400 tribal casinos operated on reservation land nationwide have their own in-house players club cards.

These smaller casinos tend to model their comp system after the big boys, however, so I’ll stick with M Life and Total Rewards going forward for the sake of clarity.

For both of these programs, you’ll also have two main forms of comp credits to work with – base points and tier points.

A base point equates to $0.01, so you’ll need to score 100 of them to add $1 to your comp account. Base points effectively serve as cash in an affiliated casino, so you can use your accumulated points to purchase that morning latte or some headphones from the gift shop.

A tier point doesn’t have cash value per se, but these points are how you climb through the ranks of either M Life or Total Rewards. You can visit the overview pages for each program that I linked to above to learn about the various tiers used in each. But put simply, accumulating tier points grants you access to a higher tier in the program, which in turn unlocks additional perks. Think priority access at the cashier’s cage line, free valet and parking, tickets to the in-house show, and even free rooms.

Now that you know who is handling your comps and where the players club cards in your wallet are accepted, let’s see exactly how they work for both blackjack and poker.