I have a few years experience playing in the South Florida area and have over heard several locals make the choice of gaming location based off the promotions the particular casino offers. Personally, I believe this is a sign of a "gambler" not really a poker player. As a real poker player would go where the level of competition is ideal for ROI. But, after considering some of the promotions in the area. It is possible to take down 1 promotion and have a profitable evening without needing to grind out several hours of play. What is the proper way of making a gaming location decision for a person who wants to take a pro player mentality at the game?
What do you consider a "pro-player mentality" is?
As you mention, ROI is perhaps the most important aspect to consider, if poker makes up a significant part of your income. If you can objectively judge what you gain (e.g. Accessibility, Comfort, Money, Social, etc.) by playing in a particular location, then you may feel that you'd be better off playing there. Even monetarily, when taking up the benefits of a promotion being offered. For example, your opponents may not be as easy to beat but, the gain you receive from a promotion may make up for it.
Being professional just means taking a rigorous, critical look at the information that's available to you and using it to achieve work that is consistently qualitatively superior to that of an amateur. In poker terms, using promotions is similar to "bonus-whoring" and, despite it's name, is a great way to increase your ROI.
Why not use these promotions to your advantage!
I think the perspective of "never play for promotions" is way too narrow a viewpoint. It's valid to say that the extra buck in drop is a big drag on your return, but there are other factors that might make up for it.
When you're in a game that involves possible promo cash, you as a thinking player who can modify their game to accommodate the promo will be able to outplay your opponents. You will be better able to understand how optimal strategy changes when you have a $50 insurance policy if your aces get beat, or how much your starting hand requirements should change if the house adds $100 to a pot. Understanding those changes can give you an additional edge.
But the biggest factor IMO is that if it's a fun room and a lot of outside traffic comes in from the casino floor, those promos will help draw in all kinds of people who have only seen poker on TV. Those are the people you want at the table, and you want them to be having a boatload of fun at the table, and if a few dollars of promo cash or incentives being thrown around in the poker room makes these folks come in and stick around an extra orbit or two, everyone wins.
You need something to loosen people up sometimes, and what can be perceived as free money can definitely do that. And even though it might not be a plus for your bankroll with a given set of conditions, the chances are you'll have more fun at the table and you'll be happier at the end of the night.
So go play at the room offering the promos, but make sure you go while they're having the promo.
Never play for promotions is my opinion.
The very first thing you need to know about promotions is that they are funded by you the player. Look to the left of the dealers box you will see an extra slot were each hand they take money from your pot to fund promotions.*
There are only two upsides to playing promotions, one you will be fortunate enough to be playing with players stupid enough to think that promotions give them an edge.
Two, you can actually get an occasional upside if you really shop, because poker rooms will put out promotions that are putting the promotion fund in the red, to compete for customers. And sometimes certain progressives are larger than the break even on them, giving you a little EV. (Keep in mind that that little EV on a huge jackpot is not likely to be realized over your life time).
The best way to beat promotions is to never play at the place that takes the extra dollar or two of promotion drop. What promotion drop is, is just another bet. A bet that adds deviation to your bankroll, and takes money off the table, making games generally weaker and more prone to break down.
Promotions also have the downside of modifying play, often just turning games into garbage as they check it down to try and make one hand or the other, slow play aces to get them beat, hurry and fold so we can try to get the promo hand, ad nauseam.
*In Nevada, gaming statue allows taking a promotion drop and stipulates that 100% must be paid out back to players with some other jargon specifying some issues that come with that. I also believe that there is an exception that allows a licensee to retain a small part of the promotion for administrative costs in Nevada (really not sure though). Most regulatory agencies say about the same thing, many do allow taking a percentage, I have heard as much as ten percent to administer the promotion. Some poker rooms are quite liberal with what a promotion is, and fund things like money added to tournaments and I have seen reconciliations to players made from promotion money. Promotion money is one of the most insecure funds in the casino. I mean it is easy to steal a little bit of. I don’t steal, but I have seen it done, by really stupid people that did not get caught for a long time. IMHO there is no upside to promotion poker. (The one I saw was the poker room manager writing himself a royal flush bonus once in a while after everyone left. He was caught after a couple of years. He was fired then rehired a few months later) Some houses do an occasional promotion just out of rake. But that is uncommon and they are just doing it temporarily.