Be A Clean, Green Shopping Machine

For many years, the economy in Australia consisted of products made by the people who lived here. Like many countries, goods and services have slowly been moving off shore due to cheaper employment and raw material costs in other countries. Today the market in Australia is flooded with products that come from all over the world. This has been great in some ways (cheap Japanese cars and out-of-season fruit, to name but a few) and the cheaper prices have made some purchases a lot easier on the pocket. In other ways it has been detrimental with local businesses being closed and a significant portion of manufacturing being moved overseas. We hear a lot about supporting local but what are the reasons for buying Australian-made compared to a (sometimes cheaper) import?
As a shopper, you might like to think of your purchases as a vote for what you consider appropriate behavior from the store you are buying from. If you think it’s reprehensible to test on animals (let’s face it, it is) then you wouldn’t buy from a store that doesn’t have a strong stance on this subject. If more people feel like you do and stop buying these types of products, the industry will listen and your ‘vote’ will help create a greener, cleaner, friendlier shopping environment – as you can see from the number of green and organic products beginning to surface today – a good sign consumers are moving in a positive direction!

After you’ve set your own moral compass for shopping you should consider adding supporting local business onto your list of requirements. If local businesses flourish, so will the local economy. Yes, buying local can cost a few extra dollars in some cases, but often the extra investment can purchase a product that’s made out of higher quality materials that will last a lot longer than their cheaper counterpart.

You may also want to consider supporting local when it comes to fruit and vegetable shopping. This will mean only buying seasonal fruit when it’s actually in season. Also, think of the cost and environmental impact of importing consumables like fruit and vegetables. If you’re buying off a local farmer, your goods have used less fuel to reach you and will often be much fresher.

Another green shopping method is buying items that are handmade. They can be more labour-intensive than mass-produced imports, but this often means they will be better quality, lasting you longer and lengthening the time before replacement is needed. This effectively reduces the cost in the long run anyway. For example, a craftsperson spends time honing their skills to make a handmade product. The process starts from ground zero and is completed with patience and practice. Only the best materials are used and a learned tradesperson has the know-how from years of experience, to create a long-wearing work of art.

Finally, try to source natural and organic products where you can. Shop for clothes that are made out of natural fabrics and beauty products that are organic and cruelty-free. Your purchasing decision will encourage slow-fashion companies that use natural, non-polluting fibers for manufacturing their clothing items. In making these choices, you can diminish the poor-quality clothes (or throwaway fashion) that are made out of synthetic fibers, which are bad for the environment and your health.

The same goes for beauty products. There are many local companies that manufacture organic, eco-friendly, and cruelty-free products, which are much better than the ones that are mass-produced and contain a wide range of chemical and toxic components. Organic products are great for your skin and body, are entirely safe to use from all points of view, and are not tested on animals, which means that they don’t have to suffer in the name of biped beauty. With this information in mind, we encourage you to go forth young grasshopper and become a sustainable shopper!

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?

How Comps Are Distributed to Blackjack Players

So, you’ve sidled up to a standard blackjack table, slid your M Life or Total Rewards card to the dealer, and watched them scan it through to the system. Now what?

Well, that’s a mystery many blackjack enthusiasts are still trying to crack.

The Total Rewards website spells things out quite clearly for slots and video poker:
“You will earn 1 Reward Credit for each $5 you play on reel slot machines and $10 for video poker.”
But when you scroll down in search of table games like blackjack, the numbers aren’t nearly as clear – and in fact, Total Rewards doesn’t provide any concrete numbers at all:
“For table play, be sure to hand your Total Rewards card to the dealer or pit supervisor as soon as you sit down to play and ask to be rated.
Reward Credits are earned based on length of play, average bet and type of game.”
As you can see, Caesars Entertainment properties use a proprietary formula – based on how long you play, your average wager amount, and the type of table game played – to determine how many comp points you’ll earn. Obviously, this leaves quite a bit of wiggle room for the casino, while players never really know for sure how their blackjack session is being parlayed into points.

It’s even murkier over on the M Life website, which only provides the following information for table game players:
“Members must present their M Life Rewards Card to a table games pit supervisor prior to table games play.
M Life Rewards members must satisfy minimum betting requirements to be rated for table games.
Please see a table games pit supervisor at participating M Life Rewards destinations for such assistance.”
In this case, playing at an MGM Resorts property leaves you at the whim of a table games pit boss, along with an unknown minimum betting requirement.

Thankfully, the internet levels the playing field tremendously, and you’ll find plenty of blackjack forums and travel sites where players can discuss their own comp experiences. By perusing a few of these platforms, I’ve been able to come up with the following figures.

Whether you’re using the M Life or Total Rewards card, you’ll need to bet an average of $25 per hand just to get your play “rated” by the casino. For most recreational gamblers who bet the minimum of $5, or $10 when they’re feeling lucky, that threshold alone prices them out of the comp program.

But let’s say you pony up the dough and bet a green $25 chip on each hand (on average). Now, the next factor to consider is your hands per hour rate. Most industry estimates peg the average blackjack table at 80 hands per hour, so I’ll go with that.

If you’re betting $25 per hand and playing 80 hands per hour, you’ll have $2,000 in total bets on the table over that span.

The next calculation the casinos use involves their theoretical hold rate, or the number of dollars they can expect to win based on the game’s house edge. Depending on your skill level, blackjack offers a house edge between 0.50% (for basic strategy experts) and 1.5% (for folks playing by “gut instinct” alone). Knowing this, I’ll use a flat 1% house edge to make the math easier.

Having bet $2,000 in total over the hour, while facing a house edge of 1%, the casino’s theoretical hold stands at $20.

From there, you can expect to receive comp points equal to 10% of the hold, which comes to just $2 in this example.

REMEMBER
That was for one hour of play only, while most of us tend to stick around the tables for a few hours at a time. But for a general rule of thumb, assume you’re earning about $1 in comp points for every $1,000 you put at risk in a 60-minute period.

The big problem most blackjack players encounter is improper ratings by the pit boss. It’s their job to closely observe the action, entering your typical betting unit and your time at the table into the system. But if the pit boss sees you starting out at $10 bets to warm up, before you start firing the green chips, you might not ever get rated at all.

On the other hand, you might get your rating set at $25 bets from the outset, only to up the ante when you’re on a heater. At this point, you could be betting $50 or $100 per hand, all while the system continues to track you as a $25 bettor.

For this reason, blackjack players who value comp points should always take measures to clarify their play to the pit boss. That’s their job, after all, so you’re not bothering anybody by asking for a quick chat. Just let them know your name, that you’ve had your card scanned, and your plan for the game.

Something like “Hi there, I’m so-and-so, and I’ll be betting $25 and up for the next hour or two” should be sufficient. And if you decide to increase the stakes midway through the session, just give the dealer a glance and let them know to alert the pit boss about the new wager.

This can all seem like a chore at first, especially for casual gamblers, but it’s the only ironclad way to ensure that your blackjack play is properly rated.