Jean Scott is the original casino influencer.
Sure, there have always been strategy books and guides for gamblers. But, when Jean Scott published her groundbreaking book, The Frugal Gambler, on casino comps and advantage play, it shook the gambling world.
Scott shared her experiences doing something rarely known about casino machine play at the time… beating casinos at their own game.
Jean Scott’s story is about how someone can go from a one-room schoolhouse in Pennsylvania to an English teacher in Indianapolis to become the world-famous Queen of Comps. And how in 2023, she is still very much a teaching casino influencer through her latest book, blogs, and appearances on gaming podcasts and shows.
Above all, her story is a love story.
The Frugal Gambler
The Frugal Gambler was released in 1998 and eventually became the number two selling book in the country, second only to Harry Potter.
Jean Scott’s exploits have been featured in newspapers, magazines, and radio, not only in the U.S. but overseas. She has frequently appeared on TV: on local news shows, on the Learning and Discovery Channels, and in travel features on British television.
She was a contestant in the World Series of Blackjack on GSN. She and her husband, Brad, were regulars on Travel Channel shows about Vegas and gambling. Besides “Dateline,” she was seen nationally on “Hard Copy,” “Extra,” and “To Tell the Truth.”
After the Frugal Gambler came a sequel, More Frugal Gambling, which added information for players who are serious about improving their gambling results. Later came Tax Help for Gamblers, a practical guide to help gamblers with complex regulations of the IRS. Frugal Video Poker is a complete how-to guide for video poker players, from beginners to the experienced. A helpful companion to that book is The Frugal Video Poker Scouting Guide.
Her most recent book is The Frugal Gambler Casino Guide, updating the information to help gamblers adjust to the present rapidly changing casino environment.
An amazing part of Scott’s story is that her father, an evangelical minister in Pennsylvania, did not allow cards and dice in the house. But they were an avid game family, using spinners, which were allowed. She began playing Uncle Wiggly and Chutes and Ladders “for blood” with her sisters.
“I remember 80 years ago when I was four, I had an ultra-strong competitive spirit. I played games like I gamble now, driven to be the best I could be,” Scott recalled.
A Club and A Spade
Jean Scott’s love story and gambling partnership with Brad Scott started when they met at a Tonk game at the Moose Lodge in Indianapolis in 1984. “We were middle-aged, both at the end of former relationships. I was a gambling baby; I didn’t learn to play cards until I was 35. I did not even know the four suits. And it took me forever to learn the difference between a club and a spade,” Scott said.
Jean Scott’s early lack of playing experience contrasted Brad’s.
“Brad had been gambling since he was five years old, playing Tonk in Indiana with his older brothers. When he was in the Air Force, he ran blackjack games and was a sharp poker player his whole adult life,” Scott stated.
Vegas in 1984
Jean and Brad went to Las Vegas for the first time in 1984, neither knowing much at all about casino gambling. They lost their “vacation money” but fell in love with the exciting atmosphere.
So they could plan another trip soon – and not lose so much money – when they returned, Jean went right to the library to learn everything she could about blackjack and card counting. With that, one of the most remarkable gaming partnerships was born.
Jean and Brad spent the next few years playing cat and mouse with casinos as Blackjack card counters.
Eventually, Brad persuaded Jean to switch from blackjack to video poker. “This video poker was more exciting, and we didn’t have to worry about a pit boss wondering whether I was counting cards.
“So, what did I do again? I read everything I could. There was not a whole lot written on video poker at that time. There were a couple of experts, and I learned about strategy and choosing the right games. It wasn’t too long after that we went away from the blackjack and went to video poker,” Scott said.
Turning the Tables
“For a long time, we were under the radar. Casinos thought the smart gamblers were the men who were playing the tables, and they put in machines to keep their stupid wives occupied. Well, we decided to hide under that mistaken belief, keep a low profile, and laugh all the way to the bank with our profits,” Scott recounted.
And fortunately, when Jean and Brad teamed up and developed advantage play for video poker, it was at a time when machine percentages were very favorable to players. Playing advantage video poker led to incredible years of visiting casinos and living on winnings and generous comps.
“We always said we were living a champagne lifestyle on a beer budget,” Scott mused.
A Gambling Philosophy
“However, I want to make this very clear. We never intended to make money gambling.” Scott said.” If you read the last chapter of the Frugal Gambler, “Breaking Even Is a Terrific Thing,” you will understand Scott’s core philosophy.
“All we wanted to do was break even on the gambling and enjoy this wonderful lifestyle,” Scott stated.
The Comp Life
The availability of generous comps was a bonus that allowed for a lavish lifestyle and a cornucopia of casino benefits for Jean and Brad.
“We did not spend our income. This is why we made so much money in Vegas. We almost never paid for a meal. Gas, carwashes, gift cards to Walmart or fancy stores. My grandkids said that Santa lived in a casino. My family never paid for a TV, a popular casino gift. Because we were getting so much comped, both the necessities and luxuries of life, we could save most of our regular income for a retirement nest egg,” Scott said.
Despite Jean’s attempts to fly under the radar, her advantage play and comp strategies began to make her famous. In 1993 Las Vegas Advisor publisher Anthony Curtis named Scott the “Queen of Ku Pon.” And that nickname stuck until Television’s 48 Hours chose Jean and Brad as a major story in 1995, with Dan Rather crowning Jean “The Queen of Comps.”
“The TV crew came to Indianapolis, and they flew with us to Las Vegas and followed us for quite a few days. They had a hat with a hidden camera because the casinos did not allow filming at that time. They ended their filming by showing me putting hundreds of tickets we had earned into the drawing drum and dancing around the Mercury Mystique car they would give away in a few days.
“Frustratingly, I got very sick with the flu the day of the drawing, but I was determined to get out of bed because you couldn’t win if you weren’t present at the drawing. Good thing I crawled out of bed because one of my tickets was drawn, and I won the car. I called the 48 hours reporters and they loved this amazing storybook ending for their show, sending a crew from California to film us picking up the car. And that was when Dan Rather gave me the nickname Queen of Comps,” Scott recalled.
The YouTube Channel The Jackpot Gents referred to Jean as the “Grandma Who Beat Casinos for $1 Million Dollars.” Jean tells a story of when she, Brad, and their best-friends couple split a $10,000 slot tournament entry fee at Caesars. Brad went on to win the top prize of $500,000, which they split.
From Gambler to Writer
“After we started playing in casinos, people would say ‘you’re going to Vegas all the time. And I know you don’t have a lot of money; you must be winning.”
“And I said yes, we are. And they said, ‘tell us how to win money in Vegas.’ And they wanted it in twenty-five words or less. I thought, well, I hate to see all these people doing such dumb things when I can show them how to make money. Or at least not lose so much.
“That was the impetus. I didn’t really want to write a book. I am a very slow, methodical writer; I tend towards perfection. After all, I was a retired English teacher. But I decided to write the book, and then I could go back to doing what I actually wanted to do, which was gambling. I’m not sure why that eventually turned into five books,” Scott said.
“Some of the other people that were doing advantage play said, ‘Please don’t write about this Jean, you’re going to spoil it for us.'”
“Well, number one, it would end anyway at some point. At first, it was the mob and then the old-school casino hosts and managers, who just weren’t mathematicians.
“They just thought, you make all these people welcome. You give them all these gifts and they’ll come. They’ll lose money because nobody can make money on slot machines.
“Then came the bean counters who could do the math. Plus, there were now other writers who were educating both the players and the casinos,” Scott stated.
“We did get some pushback from a few casinos, but we avoided much of it by not playing too long at any time in one casino. And some executives understood the reality.
“One time, we went to the Fiesta Casino for a TV filming, and somebody asked George Maloof, the owner, why he let me play in his casino. ‘She shows people how to win money from you,’ they said. And George just smiled and said, ‘Jean Scott is good for our casino.’
“He knew that most people weren’t disciplined enough to do all the right things to be very successful, but my recommendations brought gamblers in,” Scott related.
My Encounter with Jean Scott
I reminded Jean that I hired her in the early 2000s to speak to the assembled management team of the multi-property Isle of Capri Casinos in Biloxi, Mississippi. As the star speaker, Jean told us how she beat our games and the tricks of comping. The Queen of Comps taught us how our promotions and casino floor were vulnerable.
Jean is famous for putting as many hours into research as she does playing.
“You have to be so disciplined. You have to be so organized. I had a calendar, and I knew what I was doing every day; where the good games and promotions were. I almost never chose a play unless the game and related promotions put me in an over 100% advantage. Other people would want to play when they were in the mood or just on the spur of the moment. I was only in the mood to play if a good promotion was listed on my calendar,” Scott said.
Frugal Gambling Future
Scott witnessed two events that systemically changed the casino industry. The Great Recession of 2008 and the Pandemic.
“It’s been a big discussion among all of us who write about gambling. I call it the “Casinos Sherman March to the Sea,” seemingly destroying everything that their customers liked: good games; personal service; popular buffets; bargain dining options; gouging fees added everywhere; soaring show prices; slashing of comps.
“Their bottom line is the only thing they seem to think about. I thought this would stop as the pandemic fears lessened, but it seems more people are flocking to Vegas than before, and no one really can explain why.
I am wondering if there will ever be a time when casinos see a downturn and perhaps will look again into seeing the value of customer loyalty,” Scott commented.
Leaving Las Vegas
In 2020 after a long successful reign as the Queen of Comps, Jean and Brad moved from Las Vegas to Georgia to be near family.
As Scott discusses on her blogs, Brad developed vascular dementia and Jean continues their love story as his caretaker. However, according to Jean, changes in the industry helped her make this significant decision to leave Las Vegas.
“The last couple of years in Las Vegas was becoming more like a job. I had to scramble to find good plays, and it was hard to find the more interesting machines, so we had really cut down a lot on our casino visits.
“When I made that decision to move, of course I had to make it because of Brad’s health, it was not a hard one. I always said that if our casino life becomes like work and not fun, I’m not going to do it anymore. But we had a great run, and we had thirty-five great years,“ Scott declared.
The Frugal Gambling Strategy Evolution
I asked Jean how the strategies in her books have evolved since her early gambling days.
“The Frugal Gambler was all about how you could play with an advantage and you can win. That was possible when I wrote that book. You could do that in Vegas, you could do it in Reno, you could do that everywhere. There were good machines and opportunities everywhere.
“After conditions had gone downhill, I changed my whole emphasis in my writing and my blogs to recreational gamblers who want to play and lose as little as possible. As a teacher, I want to teach what is usable today,” Scott said.
Frugal Gambling in 2023
“Although being a professional gambler has never been easy, it’s become increasingly more difficult. Good machines in video poker have been drying up faster than the water-starved Nevada desert. For the first time in 30+ years of gambling in casinos, we are facing the fact that the casino gambler is no longer king,” Jean wrote in her latest book, The Frugal Gambler Casino Guide.
Continuing Her Frugal Reign
At age 84, Scott continues her reign as the Frugal Gambler teacher, writing blogs on the Las Vegas Advisor website and appearing on casino podcasts and casino streaming channels.
Although not as active a gambler as she once was, Scott still travels to Las Vegas, Atlantic City, Tahoe and regional casinos and reports on her experiences.
She looks for and finds some advantage play opportunities but also mixes in some recreation play. She is surprised by how many of her old advantage play techniques can be transferred to recreational play to help players lose less money and thus stretch their casino fun time.
Jean Scott’s Success Secrets
After years of continuing fame as the Queen of Comps, I asked Scott what she considered the secret of her success.
- Being very organized but remaining very flexible;
- Having attention to detail.
- Continual study and research – never stop learning.
- Willingness to share helpful information for mutual benefit.
- And, lastly, “free” is her favorite word!
“I’ve never said we didn’t think having fun wasn’t an important goal in a casino visit. For thirty-nine years, we had more fun than we could ever have imagined. But we found that playing smart – losing less and winning more – increased the fun factor. Kind of having your cake and eating it too,” Scott wrote.
After thirty-nine years, Jean Scott is still Gambling Frugal.
Entries in the Faces of Gaming series:
- Willy Allison — From New Zealand bloke to world game-protection leader
- Tom Jingoli — From gaming enforcement agent to COO of Konami Gaming
- Tino Magnatta — Interviewing the interviewer, 3,000 and counting since COVID
- Deana and Brady Scott — Still talking shop with the owners of Raving Consulting
- Kevin Parker — “Putting everything into everything I do”
- Laura Penney — Putting in the Work as CEO of Coeur d’Alene Casino
- Andre Carrier — Paying it forward
- Jean Scott — The original casino influencer, still frugal gambling after all these years (now reading)
- Anika Howard — From Harrah’s First Interactive Employee to CEO of Wondr Nation
- Anthony Curtis — Gambling Guru, Las Vegas Expert, Customer Advocate with Street Cred
- Mark Wayman — An executive recruiter with a brand and something to say
- Melonie Johnson — From rural Louisiana to resort-casino leadership
- Brian Christopher — From actor, Uber driver, and cater waiter to slot celebrity
- Allan Solomon — From accountant and tax lawyer to pioneering casino owner
- Kenny Epstein — A Niche from Nostalgia
Tom Osiecki is a casino consultant who writes an occasional column for CDC Gaming Reports called Faces of Gaming, about interesting and engaging people in the gaming industry.
Tom Osiecki is a marketing and management consultant for Raving Consulting and can be reached for consulting engagements at 775-329-7864.
If you know of a fascinating personality in the gaming industry you would like to see profiled, please send Tom Osiecki an email at email@example.com