Monday, May 04, 2009

Loose slots

For Destination Cache Creek Magazine

You see it on casino billboards or hear it during radio commercials: “We have the loosest slots!”

But what does that really mean?

“Loose slots refers to how much time or entertainment value you get out of your dollar,” says Russell Kinney, Cache Creek Casino Resort’s Vice President of Slots. “It’s really about the amount of time you’re able to spend on a machine and how much payback there is from a machine to a guest.” Players can play $100 in a casino and play for maybe a half hour, but the same $100 in another casino might net them over an hour’s worth of play. “In the second case you’re getting more paybacks and more value,” says Kinney.

How far slot players can stretch their gaming dollar is an important factor in having a good experience at a casino and is given a lot of thought by Cache Creek’s slot management team. “When we opened this casino we wanted to have a very competitive payback,” says Kinney. “We know when guests come out here they want to be able to play longer on the machines and have more entertainment. Part of that comes from offering Bonus Play. When players come here with a set budget, their ability to play more is increased by the amount of Bonus Play we give them. Through our direct mail offers we give away millions of dollars of this free play every month.”

Kinney also likes to remind players that they earn points for playing with their Cache Club cards, which adds to the entertainment value of slot play. “We have one of the most competitive point programs in California. With those points you can get food, hotel rooms, rounds of golf, spa treatments, or one of our new gift cards.”

Some players think that casinos are constantly “tightening” or “loosening” their slots, but Kinney says this is a common misconception. What slot experts and experienced players consider “loose” when referring to slot machines involves a number of different considerations that go far beyond the set payout percentage for each machine.

“Loose slots are more about the total slot experience,” says Kinney. “For instance, we offer slot value in a number of other ways. Another way is through our promotions, which are almost always running. So the total slot experience comes from a combination of factors including payback to the guest, amount of time spent playing a machine, bonus play, points, and promotions. All of these contribute to the total entertainment value that our guests are looking for when they come to Cache Creek.”

So when all of these factors are taken into consideration, Cache Creek really does have the “loosest” slots in Northern California.

Planning for next hockey season

Parental Guidance with CEAN BURGESON
for California Rubber Magazine

Whether you’re involved in a summer hockey program or you’re done playing until next season, the thought still looms above our collective hockey parent heads: What will we do next fall? Every year, players migrate into other sports, drop out, or move from one hockey program to another. There are a number of different reasons these things happen.

What if your rink only has an “A” team and your son or daughter doesn’t make the cut? Or transversely, what if your association only fields a “B” team and you want your player to skate on an “A” team? These are the kinds of dilemmas that give hockey parents critical levels of heartburn. Kids face the possibility of leaving the friends they’ve made, facing the hurt of missing a cut, or possibly moving out of hockey altogether. Or parents are left with the decision between playing their child down or up a level. Each avenue carries its own set of additional issues. It can be enough to drive a hockey parent mad.

These decisions should be solely dependant on one factor: Skill Based Hockey. What I mean by this is doing the best we can as hockey associations, coaches, and parents to place our youth athletes on teams that properly fit their playing style, ability, and skill level, while offering the greatest chance for player growth. This means putting “A” players on “A” teams and “B” players on “B” teams, or keeping a house player on a house team for another year to give them a little more seasoning before going on to play travel hockey.

Using and reinforcing the skill based hockey model in every association in the state of California is the best way for youth players to get the most out of their hockey experience and creates the least amount of grief for both the parent -- and most importantly -- the player. Please keep this in mind when making plans for tryouts this July to assure that all of our players have the most fun and fruitful season possible next year.

Jets Squirt B’s finish amazing season, advance to state finals

for California Rubber Magazine

VACAVILLE, Calif. – The Vacaville Jets Squirt B squad did everything they were asked to do and more this season. For starters, they lost only a single game during league play and finished with a record of 17-1. They also went on to win four California tournaments including the Pacific Regional of the International Silver Stick competition, which earned them a spot in the championship tournament in Pelham, Ontario, Canada. Despite playing against more experienced teams with deeper rosters in that Canadian contest (the Jets have only 12 players including their goalie), they still managed to finish within the top four. And to win their own home tournament, the MLK I-80 Classic in February, they had to tie or beat two Squirt A teams to earn the first place trophy.

The Jets also finished in first place in NorCal, winning all of the games in the playoff tournament, earning them the right to travel to Escondido and play the best Squirt B teams in the state. There, they finished third in California behind the Anaheim Jr. Kings and Bakersfield Dragons. This was the second season in a row the team has made the trip to the state finals.

Overall, during the regular season they put up some amazing statistics: 160 goals for with only 25 goals against, and a winning percentage of .944, leading the league in all categories. These figures don’t include any of the totals they racked up from the six tournaments they played in, either.

“All in all, this was an incredible season for the Squirt B’s,” said Assistant Coach Cean Burgeson. “Whether these players are moving on to play Pee Wee or staying at the Squirt level, we can’t wait to see how they all do next year.”

Friday, May 01, 2009

Choosing how to spend the off season

Parental Guidance
For California Rubber Magazine

From October until March hockey dominates the households of thousands of families across California -- but what about the other six months out of the year?

There are a number of ways to spend the off season. Some players take the entire time off. For skaters who need to work on their skills, though, this can be detrimental. On the flip side, for those experiencing “hockey burnout,” it can be a beneficial experience to take a break from hockey and return in the fall fresh.

After all, there are other sports to participate in that can help to improve hockey athleticism, endurance, flexibility, and stamina such as baseball, soccer, lacrosse, gymnastics, biking, running, or swimming. The benefit of cross training in other sports has been scientifically proven and the model of engaging in a variety of sporting activities in the off season has been used by European hockey clubs for years.

For those die hard players who aren’t interested in any sport but hockey, there are also inline teams which allow kids to continue working on their strength, skating, shooting and stick handling, and of course summer ice hockey teams, which practice less frequently and travel to just a handful of tournaments over the course of the summer. The value of these teams is that they are generally more competitive, have stricter tryouts, and can expose players to a high level of play, all the way up to AA or AAA.

Many of these tournaments are international in nature, allowing youngsters a chance to play teams outside of their region, state, or country. And, as in the case of my family, you can build your summer vacation around a tournament in a fun location such as Vancouver to get more for your hockey buck and infuse a little more fun into the trip.

Another popular way to keep the hockey fires burning in the off season is of course the hockey camp. California and the surrounding states have a number of good ones focusing on different skill sets. Evaluate your player or ask for an evaluation from your coach about which type of camp would best benefit your child.

We all have our own reasons for choosing how we want to spend our summers and whether hockey is a part of it. The most important factors to take into account when making the decision depend on the skill level of the player, their desire to play, and what their goals are for the coming season. No matter how your youth hockey player chooses to spend the summer, though, keep them working in some way to help get them to the next level.