ZorkFest: Event Combining Travel Hacking and Casino Loyalty
Saturday Morning, at 8:35 AM, I walked into Bally’s Atlantic City for what would be the beginning of a life changing day for me- reasons for which I’ll explain later. ZorkFest, an event marrying Casino Loyalty with the Miles and Points world was born. (Yes, you heard that right, a bunch of “gamblers” somehow made it to a conference at 8:35 AM on a Saturday.) From the outset, it was clear that Zorkfest was organized by a brilliant team of people at TravelZork. Perhaps, none more brilliant than event organizer, Michael Trager. Michael’s, knowledge of his craft and excitement about this unique concept were both appreciated and infectious.
At check-in, I received the schedule for the day’s presentations. The TravelZork event was appropriately kicked off by Cousin Vito, who you’re probably familiar with from his excellent gambling themed podcast: Cousin Vito’s Casino. What made this event so unique, was that in each time slot there was both a Casino Themed Presentation and a Travel Rewards themed presentation. Naturally, being from the miles and points world, I was drawn to the Travel sessions, however, I made the decision to mainly focus on the casino based sessions because I love any opportunity to learn something new. Not to pat myself on the back too much, but it was an excellent decision. Here’s the days schedule to give you an idea.
Casino Loyalty Sessions
First, let me start off by saying, that I have never met any of the speakers and was only vaguely familiar with their names. Now let me tell you that these speakers were incredible and I learned more from them in the 3 hour-long sessions than I have learned in 15 years from visiting casinos.
If you ever get the opportunity to watch/hear Eric Rosenthal speak, do it- you will not be disappointed. Not only does he know pretty much everything, but he’s also one of the best public speakers I’ve gotten the opportunity to hear. I can’t give too much away, so if you want the inside info- you’ll have to come to the next ZorkFest, and follow Eric. (His personal site is upcoming, but for now he can be found at TravelZork.)
I’ll share just a few of the amazing tips from Eric. Something interesting I learned about Total Rewards is that the gaming day ends at 5:59 AM, so it’s best to wrap up your session about an hour before that so as not to hurt your Average Daily Theoretical. For you MLife people out there, here’s something amazing- if you bring your non Las Vegas Mlife property receipts to the Mlife desk in LV, they will credit you for the spend! You get 25 credits per dollar spent in LV but less everywhere else, so you MLifers out there know how incredible that is.
Coach Kitty from TravelZork, who you can check out here is more knowledgeable on the Borgata than pretty much anyone in the world and works tirelessly to help Borgata players understand the loyalty program’s transition to Mlife. She calls/visits them so often to get clarification, that she has a dedicated Borgata employee to answer her questions! (I’m impressed.)
ZorkFest was one of the most informative and entertaining events I have attended. There are so many areas where these worlds collide, like partnerships between hotels and casino loyalty programs. For example MLife and Hyatt have a partnership as does Ceasars Total Rewards and Wyndham. We learned how to maximize benefits from these strategic alliances through things like status matching and spending. The presenters also gave us great info about how to get the most use out of each program’s credit cards
Although I focused mainly on the gaming side, I heard from many that the Travel presenters, Angelina Aucello and Seth Miller were awesome and everyone got a lot of useful information from the sessions. I was able to attend one of Seth’s sessions, “Miles and Points or Cash” and enjoyed his crazy stories about using airline routing rules to his advantage. He gave us a great tip, when booking travel for multiple people, say as a couple, use cash for the one working toward status and miles for anyone else. So simple, yet not something I’ve given much though to.
Last, we had a really good time and everyone was so warm and welcoming. We even stayed after it was over to mingle, can you imagine being at a 10 hour informational event and staying late to hang out? That’s how much fun it was. I can’t wait for the next one!