Their world record isn’t officially endorsed by Guinness, but it’s unofficially real. Las Vegas gaming consultants and webmasters John and Kristina Mehaffey have receipts – slot tickets from all the casinos they visited in a 24-hour period.
What started as silly banter about world records among two married gaming industry consultants and webmasters quickly grew legs. Before they knew it, John, 49, and Kristina, 42, had mapped out an experience for their 21st anniversary that surely they wouldn’t forget.
“Our marriage is old enough to gamble,” they wrote on their website VegasAdvantage.com.
The two were both from the Atlanta suburbs, where they met. They relocated to Las Vegas in 2010.
On Oct. 4 this year, the evening before their anniversary, they embarked on a carefully planned adventure – gambling at 93 casinos in Las Vegas and surrounding areas.
The previous record was 74. It involved playing table games, and because some of these properties had closed during the pandemic, and others stopped offering table games, that record logistically couldn’t be broken. So the Mehaffeys sought out to create their own world record.
They defined a casino as a location with an unrestricted gaming license. They got rides from a private driver, an Uber, and a luxury SUV courtesy of Circa Resort & Casino. Their games of choice were slots and keno. But mostly keno.
“At a certain point, you don’t want to have to think too much,” John said.
In something between a romantic getaway and a scientific survey, John and Kristina went from top-dollar resorts to holes-in-the-wall across Clark County. They hit casinos on the Strip, Downtown, in North Las Vegas, along Boulder Highway, in Summerlin, Aliante, Henderson, Primm and several more in between.
You can see the list of every casino they visited here. The time stamps for when they cashed out provide a taste of the frenetic pace they kept.
The Mehaffeys sat down with Casinos.com for a Zoom chat about their whirlwind adventure and what they learned from systematically visiting just about every casino in Las Vegas and surrounding areas in 24 hours on a Wednesday and Thursday last month.
They also tell us the practicalities of arranging such a trip, preserving the record, and preserving memories, and why trying to do it Guinness-style seemed like a sucker bet.
(The following conversation has been edited for length and clarity. Images courtesy of John and Kristina Mehaffey / VegasAdvantage.com.)
Dan: So are you still on kinda high from it all?
Kristina: It feels like yesterday and forever ago. Like, did that really happen?
John: We were up about 30 straight hours. It’s been a few weeks, but I think I've mostly recovered.
Dan: It took you a little more than 21 hours to set the new record. Any preparation for such a long day?
Kristina: I live with insomnia, so I knew I was good.
John: No practice. I knew I could stay up.
Dan: How much walking did you do?
John: We walked 20 miles on the pedometer for Wednesday and Thursday. But we did some other walking before we officially started, so probably 17 or 18 miles. The Strip was probably seven or eight of that, downtown was only like one-and-a-quarter, and the rest was just going from the car to the machines.
Kristina: We put on some extra mileage because at a couple casinos the driver knew where the hotel valet was, but not the casino entrance.
John: Yeah, I had never been to the hotel side of Green Valley Ranch before. We had to go up two flights of stairs and walk probably a third of a mile to get to the casino.
Dan: What about food, and maintaining energy?
John: The Strip doesn't have a lot of 24-hour restaurants anymore. The pandemic put an end to that. But there was a Johnny Rockets at Luxor that was open.
Kristina mapped these times at each stop down to the minute. If we were ahead of schedule, the goal was to eat there. If we were behind, we were going to go without eating, or maybe go through a Chick-fil-A drive-thru at 6:00 in the morning. We brought snacks, too – jerky and granola bars and some other things.
Kristina: Fruit bars and plenty of bottled water. We ended up getting the Graveyard breakfast special at South Point.
John: It was like $8.99. Steak-and-eggs with hash browns and toast hit the spot at 4-something in the morning.
Dan: Had you been to all these casinos before?
Kristina: Multiple ones were new to me, especially the Wildfire properties.
John: We went to eight Wildfires and had not been to six of them.
Kristina: There were a bunch on Boulder Highway I hadn't been to either.
John: I hadn't been to seven of the 93 and there were probably five more that Kristina hadn’t been to before.
Kristina: We actually did a practice walk – because that's us – the week before. We walked from Wynn to Mandalay Bay to time it out and see how close to my schedule we were. That’s when we realized we were going to have extra time.
Dan: What was your gambling plan?
Kristina: We only put a dollar in every machine. Played for a couple bits and cashed out. Stations gave us $10 in free play at all their locations. So we played longer at those properties, and at Circa at the end.
John: The free play from Stations definitely kept us there longer. Because you can’t cash your ticket out until you’ve played their free play through.
Kristina: Some places we literally played like one pull. It was important to have something left on the ticket. So if I could lose everything with another pull, we cashed out.
John: We only went to places with ticket-in-ticket-out. So we have a location and time stamps.
Kristina: Half the goal of the tickets was for our proof and souvenirs.
John: Palazzo only had $1 keno, so we had to put in $2 there to play once and take the remaining dollar ticket out.
Kristina: I did hit a couple big hands, and you hit a couple earlier payouts. For those, we hit cash out and then put another dollar in the machine and hit cash out so that we had a souvenir ticket. Then we took the one worth something and put it in the little redemption machine and left with the cash.
John: We played the number 21 always, for our 21st anniversary, and the 10 and 5 for our anniversary date, and the number of the casino on the route.
Dan: What was your total result, gambling-wise?
Kristina: We had a web page connected to a spreadsheet where I was typing in slot ticket totals after each stop. But that didn't take into account the free play.
John: I was ahead most of the way, then right at the end she creamed me.
Kristina: John was handily beating me the entire night until stop number 80, Barley's casino. I hit a four-spot keno on a four-times multiplier on Caveman Keno. I was like, what just happened? I just won $136.
Dan: Is a typical date night playing machines competitively against each other?
Kristina: It's more that it’s a running joke that we both can't win on the same night. We’ll go out sometimes and play video poker where one of us is kicking butt and the other says, “I'm glad you're funding my fun.”
John: It's funny, because we went to 93 casinos and gambled for 21 hours. That's more than she and I have gambled in the last 18 months probably.
Dan: So how did you end up, money-wise?
Kristina: I guess if we did the math real quick, John lost $114.66 and I won $140.40 by the end of this.
Dan: That sounds pretty close to break-even, no?
Kristina: Not really. The math is sloppy because we didn’t cash all those tickets. We cashed some but not others. But even with the wins I cashed out, it pretty much only covered the cost of our souvenirs. So the wins just paid for the tickets to expire and die.
Dan: So what did you learn along the way?
John: I learned that there are drastically different pay tables on keno just like video poker. That was new to me. We noticed on the Strip and in Primm that the pay tables on the four-spots were terrible. But in the locals casinos, and downtown – or half of downtown, I'd say -- they were much better. Like 87 vs. 93%.
Kristina: I played whatever weird version of keno I could find. If it was something I'd never seen before, that's what I was playing. So I played Wolf Run Keno, Buffalo Keno, and obviously Cleopatra and the Caveman.
John: Kristina played silly multiplier games. I played the original keno wherever possible. There was one group of places where the pay table was much better – like maybe 95% or something. I think it was Wildfire casinos, or maybe Stations. I wish I had done a better job documenting this. It would’ve made a good article. But for whatever reason I had it in my head that keno was keno, which obviously isn’t true, I now know.
Kristina: We also learned there's a big difference on the number of days casinos allow you to cash in your slot tickets. You get 30 to 180 days, depending on the casinos and there's almost no rhyme or reason. A couple Strip properties give you only 30 to 60 days. So if you leave with that in your pocket and you're not a big player, you’re probably never seeing that money again.
John: And you have to cash them in person in Nevada. Some states will let you mail them in. In Nevada you can mail in sports tickets but not slot tickets.
Dan: Any surprises?
John: The Skyline on Boulder Highway. It's just a total time capsule. It's one of the few places that still has coin games. It’s very small, very neighborhood-like. Totally unique.
Kristina: I started to understand why people fast and stay up to have spiritual visions. By the end, everything started getting really blurry for me. It was like go, play machine, leave, go, play machine, leave, go. At one point I was walking in a dreamlike state.
CC: Who had the record before you?
John: I don't know their story 100% but they went at it twice.
They did the official Guinness. So we called our record unofficial because we didn’t want to step on any toes with that. They played table games and had to have supervisors and dealers sign something saying that they were there. And they had to take public transportation or walk.
The first time, in 2015, the number was 69. They admitted they didn't plan it very well, so they came back in October 2017 and got it to 74.
But that was before the pandemic, when 78 to 80 casinos had table games.
Now only 67 casinos in Las Vegas have table games. Primm makes 70. Mesquite makes 73. So we wouldn't be able to break that record unless we started in Laughlin, and those tables aren't open every day of the week.
Kristina: You'd have to do it on a weekend, because Main Street Station isn't open Monday through Thursday.
John: The logistics of trying to beat that record were just impossible. We would’ve had to do it on a weekend and be walking the Strip in the middle of the night. That didn't sound fun at all. Our anniversary date fell on a Wednesday.
Dan: Guinness wouldn't accept your plan? That stinks.
Kristina: The way Guinness works, if you don't want to pay them money, they will only talk to you so much. We reached out and said, hey, we want to beat this record. They said, OK cool, you have to play table games and use public transportation.
John: Once they rolled out the criteria, we knew that was physically impossible, especially with the table games issue.
Kristina: Definitions matter to me. I struggle with the fact that table games are required to make a casino a casino. That means places like Casino Royale are no longer casinos. It used to have table games, but no longer does. So we wouldn't be allowed to count it, even though [the other record holders] did.
John: At that point, we stopped talking with Guinness because the only other option would be to pay $2,000 to submit a proposal for a new record and hope they would accept our slot ticket play as a different record.
Kristina: We thought, does it really matter having Guinness’ approval in today's society? Can we not show enough proof that we're literally doing this? John live-tweeted, “here we are in front of this place.” I have all the slot tickets. We did YouTube videos with like 11 check-ins. We’ve got the time stamps. We brought a witness.
John: He was a friend who was with us at every casino. He wants to remain anonymous, but just wanted to come along for the ride. So there’s two of us dressed alike and him, all carrying backpacks.
Kristina: At Stage Door, we weren’t allowed to bring our backpacks in, so he had to stay outside with our gear.
John: It was the only casino where we got wanded with a metal detector.
Dan: Did people know what you were doing when you showed up?
John: We were on a mission. The way we walked, if people saw us, they didn’t want to bother us.
Kristina: We probably looked like part of some anniversary or family reunion because we had matching shirts on.
Dan: I’m curious how long this record will stand
John: We went to a party and [someone who had heard about it] told us that he's going to break it soon.
Kristina: He asked if he could do it on a bike.
John: I imagine Guinness would allow him to do it on a bike. Of all the people who say I'm going to break that record tomorrow, he's the one I'm most afraid of.
Kristina: Especially when he started asking questions like, “Why didn’t you go here?”
John: “What did you define as a casino?”
Dan: What did you define as a casino?
John: We defined a casino by its non-restricted license, which means the Taverns didn't count. No Dotties, no PT's. The place had to have 16 or more machines to be licensed by the state to pay the same taxes as a Strip casino would.
Kristina: We had to draw a line in the sand somewhere, otherwise, we'd be hitting up the grocery store. We put in the extra restriction that they had to do ticket-in-ticket-out, so we could have the proof vouchers.
Dan: Are you gonna frame the tickets?
Kristina: Because they are heat-printed paper, I can’t display them really. Heat and light will kill them over time. The more they’re displayed the faster they will die. But I will probably find a way to safely preserve the tickets. I’ve thought of building a collage on the wall with all 93 stops on a map. But my brain and reality haven't gotten together yet on that, so we'll see.
Dan: So slot tickets are printed essentially with disappearing ink?
Kristina: It's the same stuff grocery store receipts are printed on, just thicker paper. It's the same technology. Like when you leave a receipt in the car and can only read half of it? Those tickets will do the same thing. I'm going to try to preserve them as long as I can. But I haven’t found a product yet to allow me to display them and save them at the same time.
Dan: What’s next for you two?
Kristina: There's a lifetime casino record. We could try to see if we could visit as many of the casinos across the United States as possible, and in the process if we set a record, I think it would be cool to say we've been to more casinos than anybody else.
Of course this guy will always beat me because he introduced me to gambling, and he’s been to casinos that no longer exist that I can’t visit anymore.
John: Yeah, Hurricane Katrina took care of a few of the ones I’ve been to in Biloxi, Mississippi. She had never been in a casino until a couple days before we got married.
Kristina: Ironically, I’m one of the most risk-averse people in this world. It's fun to win, but I hate losing so much more … Gambling was always such a big no-no in my house growing up. So of course then I meet this guy.
John: I was basically playing poker for a living when she met me.
Kristina: There's an article he wrote about how my engagement ring was won on the casino floor, and this is the prize Caesars will never get back.
Dan: Aww, that’s kinda sweet.
Kristina: Yeah. I like learning, and I like to advocate for those who aren’t good at advocating for themselves. That's something this guy has always done, especially in the poker community. So it was easy for me getting to learn about all these different pieces of gambling and how it works while trying to stick up for the player who doesn’t realize you’re not having as much fun at blackjack because it pays 6-to-5, not 3-to-2.
I taught math in [Clark County School District] for five years. Part of what I loved about teaching math was helping people learn how to protect themselves, because math can be so predatory. If you try hard enough, you can make anything connect mathematically. If you want to fool people, I can show you anything I want. Just give me some time and some numbers I can manipulate.
John: Our math backgrounds are different. I have a calculator mind and she has the can-learn-anything math mind, so put the two of us together and we can reverse engineer something in a way that educates players.
Kristina: Even if you don't understand how the math is working against you, I want people to know that it can be working against you and how to look out for it. That’s kind of what our website is all about, on the player side.
John: My goal has always been to educate the players and reward the companies that do the right thing and offer a good product with value. I don't want to prop up casinos that rob you.