By Jean Scott
How much should I play before I first contact a host? This is one of the most frequent questions I get and, unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. Each casino has its own parameters for its host system. However, it sometimes helps, for general guidelines, to divide casinos into three general categories, although keep in mind that this is a subjective evaluation.
• Top-level casinos — These are usually the largest and/or classiest casinos, with luxury hotels attached and many extra amenities. They’re often the newest — although some are classic veterans. A general guideline might be that a dollar-machine player might want to wait until he has played two to three hours and a $5 player perhaps a half hour before approaching a host. A couple who plays only quarters, but from morning to night, might want to consider doing so after one day of such heavy play.
• Low-level casinos — These are usually the older and/or smaller casinos in a jurisdiction; they often look “tired,” if not actually rundown and shabby. They sometimes don’t offer any accommodations, and if they do, they’re basic no-frills hotels or motels. Many don’t even have a host system, but if they do, you can approach a host after an hour or two of quarter play or a few minutes at the dollar machines.
• Mid-level casinos – These are what you have if you can’t place a casino in either a “top” or “bottom” category. Because there are so many of them, the range of comp benefits, thus the range of betting requirements, is broad. Off-Strip in Vegas and on riverboat casinos, both with a strong local market, comp requirements are usually based on a longer-term history of play, while casinos with a fly-in market give out comps on a trip basis. However, regular dollar players, even those playing only a couple of hours a day, will find that they’re warmly welcomed by the hosts in most mid-level casinos, and heavy quarter players usually will also be surprised at the number of benefits they can receive.
But the best advice I can give you is to ASK. I don’t mean to ask a host for a specific comp, like a free meal. But it is always proper to speak to a host and in a polite, non-demanding tone ask for an explanation of the comp system. Although it is not out of line to talk to a host before you have played at a new casino, I suggest that players approach a host after they have played to what they judge to be just below the bottom comp level. I have found that most hosts will try to “stretch” to offer comps to new players even if their amount of play is on the borderline of their casino comp policy. And even if you don’t score a comp right then, you will get some information from the host so you will know how much you need to play to get them in the future.
Jean Scott is one of the country’s most renowned and successful gamblers and has appeared on many TV shows, including 48 Hours, where Dan Rather gave her the nickname of Queen of Comps. Her first book, The Frugal Gambler, has been a best-seller for nine years. She also wrote a sequel, More Frugal Gambling, and a tax guide for gamblers. She provides a complete resource package for video poker players, from beginners to the experienced: the Frugal VP software program which goes with her new book, Frugal Video Poker, and the must-have Frugal Video Poker Scouting Guide. Her Web site is www.queenofcomps.com