Learn all about the casino comping system. Whether you prefer table games or slot machines, in this guide you can find all the information you need to know about casino comps.
Learn about how it works, how to find the best Players Clubs, how to earn comps, how to redeem comps, how to use a casino host, and much, much more, from different casino experts.
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What is a Casino Comp?
Here’s a primer on casino comps. Just remember this golden rule: If you don’t ask for a casino comp, you’ll never get one.
A “comp” is an abbreviation for complimentary. They are the free goods and services provided by the casino to its players.
Comps can range on the low end to free drinks and free valet parking all the way up to a free room, food, beverage, and transportation.
What are the Requirements to Get a Comp?
The only requirement is that you gamble. Most casinos require that you bet at a certain level and play for a specific period of time in order to qualify for a comp.
The more you bet and the longer you play the higher the level of comp you can expect.
I Thought Comps Were Only For High-Rollers?
That’s one of the misconceptions about comps.
You don’t need to be a high roller to get a comp. Yes, we all know the stories about high rollers that get shuttled to and from Las Vegas on a private jet, picked up in a chauffeured stretched limo, given a luxury suite twice the size of your home, and dine in ultra-swank gourmet restaurants “on the house.”
But casinos also offer valuable comps to low rollers that include free meals, free or discounted rooms, and free show tickets.
Casino Comps: How the System Works – Video
In the video below, Steve Bourie, author of the American Casino Guide, explains exactly how the casino comping system works for table game players.
Topics covered include:
- How to get rated
- How the casino rates your play
- How to determine how much you can earn in comps
- Plus much more!
Why do Casinos Give Players Comps?
Casinos need steady customers and they know there is a lot of competition for players. Therefore, they offer comps to loyal players as a reward for their business.
Comps also have a way of making players rationalize their losses so they return again to the same property.
Comps also stimulate players into betting at higher levels and longer because most players mistakenly believe that when they get a comp they are getting something for nothing.
Do I Have To Lose To Get a Comp?
This is another misconception. Comps are not based on how much you lose (or win) but on the total amount of money you’ve wagered (known as the amount of “action” you give the casino).
All the casinos want is a shot at your money at their tables and machines.
How Do I Get a Comp if I Play the Machines?
You need to sign up for a Player’s Card and keep it inserted into the machine’s card reader while you play. The casino’s computer will keep track of how much money you play through the machine.
Always make sure your card is registering properly so you get credit for your play. Also check at the Player’s Club if you are entitled to any freebies just for joining (casinos often have promotions to entice players to sign up).
How Do I Get a Comp if I Play the Tables?
You must ask to be ‘rated’ when you play in the pits in order to be eligible for a comp. Getting rated means the pit boss or floor supervisor will keep track of the hours you play and your average bet size.
In some casinos you can use your Player’s Card to get rated while others issue a different rating card for table players. If unsure just inquire at the Players Club or ask a casino host.
When you sit down to play just slide the card to the dealer with your buy-in and the dealer will hand it to the floor supervisor, who will begin the rating process (in some casinos the dealer has a device on the table that he/she uses to swipe your card to initiate the rating process).
Players Club Benefits – 2 Videos
How To Take Advantage of Player’s Club Benefits at Casinos
Steve Bourie, author of the American Casino Guide, gives details on how to take advantage of player’s club benefits at casinos for slot machine and video poker players.
- How your play is tracked
- How to earn cash and comps
- How to calculate a casino’s cashback percentage
- Why a lower cashback rate is given to video poker players
- How to redeem your cash as “free play”
- Different types of casino comp programs
- And much more!
One Easy Tip to Increase Your Players Club Benefits with Casino Gambling Expert Steve Bourie
Casino gambling expert, Steve Bourie, gives one easy tip to increase your players club benefits.
Topics covered include:
- How casinos calculate your expected Average Daily Theoretical loss
- How to increase your comps and freeplay benefits without betting any extra money
- Why you shouldn’t always use your players club card
- And more!
Are There Any Tricks of the Trade to Getting More Comps Faster?
Absolutely! Take a read below as Jean Scott explains how using a casino host will be advantageous when trying to obtain comps faster, as well as a video podcast with the Queen of Comps herself.
Finding and Using a Casino Host
For the dollar machine player, and in many casinos even for the frequent and/or heavy quarter player, using a casino host system will let them reap more comps than just tapping into slot club benefits or depending on mail offers.
However, I have had more people tell me that they have played in casinos for years, have never seen a host, and wouldn’t know if they fell over one in the aisle!
Even if you’ve seen hosts in action and used one on occasion, you still might not be quite sure where you fit in a particular casino’s system.
So if you’re planning on staying or playing in a casino, you can talk to a host ANY TIME just to inquire about the requirements, even on the phone before you step inside the casino.
Simply call the casino’s toll-free number and ask to be connected to a slot host.
What if you’re in a casino, have played awhile, and wonder if you’ve played enough for any kind of a comp?
How do you hook up with a host at this time?
One thing you can do is to go to the slot club desk and ask to speak to a host; usually one can be paged and will meet you right there at the booth.
Some larger casinos have a host office somewhere in the casino (sometimes called a VIP office although any level of player could get information there) where you can merely walk in and you will either find a host on duty or a clerk will find you one to talk to.
However, the best way, in my opinion, is to stay at your machine and tell a slot attendant you would like to speak to a host as soon as possible.
They are able to get the host your message by relaying it to a supervisor or by using their radio.
Advantages of Having a Host Meet You at Your Machine
Having a host meet you at your machine has several advantages.
First, hosts are often very busy and can’t always respond to pages immediately – so you can continue playing during a possibly long wait time.
Second, if a host sees you actually playing, she may write you an immediate comp based on the level of the machine you are playing, without bothering to go to a computer to check your past play record.
This is why I suggest that when you are meeting a new host at a machine, you do so when you are playing at the highest denomination you ever choose in that casino.
Don’t try to pull a fast one here and play for several hours on quarters and then move to a $5 machine and slow-play until the host arrives; you will get nothing but a “hustler” reputation when she does check the computer.
However, if you have been switching back and forth between quarter and dollar play, then ask for a comp while you are playing a dollar machine.
This may score you a higher-level comp, i.e., a meal for two in a better restaurant instead of the buffet or perhaps expensive show tickets.
For room comp requests, a host will almost always check first your past play record on the computer.
Another advantage is that in many casinos, some types of comps are available only through a host, i.e., show tickets or limo transportation.
Also, getting comps through a host often does not decrease your slot club benefits or your direct-mail offers. So learning your way around the host system can make the whole casino comp system more flexible for you.
When Should You Contact a Casino Host?
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.
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.
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.
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.
You can also check out our video below for more tips and tricks on how to get more comps, as fast as possible!
How to Get More Casino Comps with gambling author Jean “Queen of Comps” Scott
American Casino Guide author, Steve Bourie, interviews gambling author/expert Jean Scott, who is known as “The Queen of Comps,” for details on how to take advantage of the casino comping system.
They discuss what comps are, how players earn them, the best way to get room comps, the role of a casino host, plus much more.
Are There Any Downsides to Comps?
Most players are envious of other players who get “comped.”
These players play right into the casino’s hands because by betting more and longer than they intended in the pursuit of a comp, most players will end up losing more then the comp was worth. Never play longer or bet more for the sake of a comp.
Just learn how to use the system to get your fair share of comps for your normal play.
Casino Comps are Not Status Symbols – Opinion
We all know that the casinos are in business to make money.
The casinos are in the entertainment business and like any other corporate enterprise they look at ways to generate more business and increase their bottom line.
Unlike a supermarket or retail outlet, they can’t have a sale and slash the prices to generate more business. Instead they rely on promotions and special events to get you in the door.
Once they get you into the casino their goal is to entice you to play longer.
We know the casinos make their money because they have a house edge on all the games so it’s only logical that the more you play the more money the casino will make in the long run.
One way the casinos get you to play longer is by offering entertaining games. Each year the casino executives attend the gaming show in Las Vegas and try to find the next new hot slot machine or table game that will capture the interest (and dollars) from the players.
Another method the casinos use to get you to play longer is to offer you incentives or rewards for your play. They do this by offering comps or freebies to the players.
The comps can range from free key chains all the way up to free suites with all meals and beverages included. (This is known as full RFB). Most players know about comps and this article is not going to explain how to get them, instead, I want to look into one of the psychological aspects of comps that affect many players.
Some players look at their comp level as a status symbol or a means of judging their importance. The casinos do nothing to dispel this.
Why should they if it is achieving their goal of getting the people to play longer?
If you want to see the ultimate marketing tool, all you have to do is turn on one of the television shows profiling the “high rollers” and see the tours of the luxury suites with the butlers where they stay and the lavish gifts that the casinos give them.
Like that neighbor with a shiny new sports car, this can lead other players to envy them or make them want to “keep up with the Joneses” by playing more to get to a to a higher comp level.
The $5 players looks at the comps given to the $25 player who in turn looks at the comps given to the $100 player and on it goes.
The other day I was at a party and a man there was bragging to a group people that he could get full RFB anytime at one of the biggest casinos on the Strip in Las Vegas. After he left one of the people in the group turned to me and said, “Gee I’ don’t even rate enough to get casino rate at that place.”
I said, “Don’t worry about it. It just means your not losing enough money.”
Some players erroneously equate their self-worth with the level of comps they are receiving from the casino. Nothing could be further from the truth and you should never look at comps this way.
You have to remember that the casinos issue comps based on your theoretical LOSS.
This means that the players with the most comps are the biggest losers over all. Sure they are getting rooms and show and many other amenities but they are paying for them in the long run.
The issuing of comps is one of the greatest marketing tools that the casinos have devised. Everyone enjoys being recognized and made to feel important and appreciated and comps are a way of doing this.
It’s a business decision and giving high end comps is a way that the casinos have of rewarding some of their biggest customers.
Casino comps are just a rebate based on the money you spend. Play the games at your level, have fun and take whatever comps come your way.
Comps are nice but you should never mistake your comp level with who you are as a person.
I have met more of the nicest people in the buffet line than I have at the gourmet restaurants.
Casino Comps are Not Status Symbols was written by Bill Burton, the author of “1000 Best Casino Gambling Secrets” and “Get the Edge at Low Limit Texas Hold’em.”
The Three Comp Systems in a Casino
Many players do not get the comps that they have earned because they aren’t sure how the whole system works.
Although each casino has its own unique comp program, here are the three basic ways to get comps at a casino:
- Through the slot club system
- Through direct-mail offers that come from a marketing department
- Through the casino player-development department, using hosts
The first one, the slot club, is great for the beginning gambler who’s learning the ropes of the comp system.
Using your slot club points and talking to employees at the slot club booth might be all the occasional or recreational low-rolling gambler will ever need.
At many casinos, especially where there is no cashback, the only thing your points can be used for is what I call “stuff.”
The most common use is for food comps, which can range from a burger at a fast-food joint in the casino to a fancy meal at their gourmet restaurant.
If the casino has many amenities, your points can get you endless freebies: salon and spa services, movies, gift shop merchandise, childcare, and even products and services at community businesses.
You can read more about the Slot Club further down on the page.
Direct Mail Offers
The second (direct mail) and third (slot and table-game hosts) systems should be mastered by more frequent gamblers, or those who play on a higher level, in order to get higher-level comps.
Although you may get food and other freebies through the slot club, the number-one way for most low-rollers all over the country, both table and machine players, to get room comps is through marketing departments who send out the offers in your mailbox once you have joined the slot club at a casino and become a part of their data base.
Taking advantage of mail offers usually saves you from using slot club points, so you can keep them for other comps – or perhaps for cashback if offered by this club.
Point requirements for rooms are often higher proportionately than for food and other comps, so it’s gravy when a free-room offer shows up in your mailbox, especially when they throw in other freebies, as they often do – for meals, show tickets, tournament invitations, or shopping money.
Using Mail Comps Wisely
Here are some tips for using mailed casino comp offers wisely:
- You are usually not required to play during the time of your stay; they won’t look at your playing record on checkout and charge for the room if no play is shown.
And if you have a long history of play on other visits to this casino, it might not hurt your record.
However, not playing when you’re staying on a free-room offer is usually the very best way to stop the offers from this casino “littering” your mailbox.
- Your speed of response in calling and accepting room offers is crucial. Often all the rooms set aside for a particular offer are booked up quickly.
However, if you call as soon as you get the offer and still find all the rooms gone, you can sometimes speak with “insistence” to a supervisor and a promotional room may suddenly be found for you.
- In trying to establish yourself at a number of casinos in order to get mailings, try to play enough when you first get your slot card to get to the minimum redemption level for cashback.
Some have suggested that this often seems to be the key to getting entry-level mailings.
Many casinos base their mailings on the frequency of play and/or long-term playing history, another good reason to concentrate your play at one or two core casinos.
- If you want to get a high-level offer from a top casino resort where you have never played, concentrate on your heaviest possible play in your first play day.
I have known some high rollers to get extremely lucrative mailings for a long time after just this one big-play day.
- Read carefully any mail offer for a free room.
Some casinos will require a credit card to hold the room, but will not charge anything on it.
Others do actually charge one night’s fee to your credit card, even with a free-night promo; then when you check-in, the front desk clerk is supposed to remove this charge from your card.
Be sure to ask for a credit receipt at this time.
If it is forgotten, there is often a hassle to straighten it out later by phone. I’ve seen a few free-room offers that have a no-cancellation feature.
They charge your credit card for one night and, even if you cancel the reservation far in advance, they will not issue a credit. (That’s how casinos occasionally report more than 100% occupancy rates!).
We have found that in some casinos, if you’re a very good customer – some of these we’ve been going to for many many years – they won’t even ask for a credit card to hold a room reservation but will ask you, as a courtesy, to cancel a day or two in advance if at all possible.
Is it possible to get into a casino database and possibly score a room comp before you have ever visited the particular casino?
Here are some things that have worked for savvy visitors who play the comp game:
- Join the slot club by phone or online.
- Visit the casino website and sign in as a guest.
- Write for information before your visit. (As an added benefit, you will sometimes be sent coupons, fun books, or small souvenirs.)
- Apply for casino credit. At some casinos, applying for a line of credit will bring mail offers, often for a free room for two or three nights, even before you join the slot club.
(A caveat: Be sure you can handle casino credit lines with discipline. It’s all right to stay on these offers without tapping your approved credit line, but do not take markers at a casino where you have a credit line without showing any play. Casinos don’t look favorably upon taking a cash advance to play at another casino or to make interest-free purchases.)
Although applying for a line of credit may help get you some comps at a new casino initially, future comps will be based much more on the amount of your play.
The Host System
Using the host system will let you reap more comps than just using the first two systems we have just described, especially if you’re a dollar-and-above player.
In many casinos, some types of benefits are available only through a host, and using the host system does not decrease your slot club benefits or your direct-mail offers.
So learning your way around the host system can make the whole comp system more flexible for you, and be a great supplement to the other systems, even for the heavy quarter player.
One poster on the Internet put it this way: “Getting comps at the slot club booth is like paying full price; getting comps through your host is like buying on sale.”
However, there are more benefits than purely financial ones for using the player-development system: Having your own host has great psychological impact.
Good host programs are committed to a VIP approach, and everyone likes to feel important.
Bottom line: A smart gambler will often use all three systems, profiting from the unique advantages of each, to maximize the value of comp benefits.
Use – Don’t Abuse – The Casino Comp System
While I was writing The Frugal Gambler, my husband, Brad, commented, “I bet no one would ever want to do all the penny-pinching measures you write about—especially when they’re on vacation in a casino town.”
I agreed. “I doubt that anyone will try to implement all of the hundreds of tips in the book. But people can pick and choose the ones that are easiest and most valuable to them.”
As it turned out, that’s what the great majority of readers did. However, to my surprise, I found that a few grabbed The Frugal Gambler and took it farther than I ever imagined anyone would.
As a teacher, I was always pleased when my students did well, and as an author, one of the greatest joys is learning that my book has made a positive impact.
When readers tells me that before The Frugal Gambler they knew little or nothing about the casino comp system, but now they’re getting their fair share of the freebies, it’s music to my ears.
However—and I never thought I’d have to write this—I must warn against taking my frugal comp suggestions too far.
To avoid disappointment or embarrassment, consider some of the following guidelines.
1. Comps are given to reward casino play
You do not “deserve” comps just for walking into a casino.
Management likes you to stay in their rooms, eat at their restaurants, buy in their shops, and watch their shows, but they won’t give you a comp for doing so.
The comp system is set up to encourage loyalty and reward play; casinos want you to come back and play with them rather than in the casino next door or the one closer to your hometown.
Comps are for those who give the casino a shot at their gambling bankroll; don’t expect them for sightseeing.
2. Match your comp expectations with your play
The comp system is multi-tiered, based mainly on the amount of money you put through the machine (whether by feeding coins or bills, or playing credits).
Obviously, a nickel slot player with four hours of action shouldn’t expect nearly as many comps as a slot player with four hours of dollar play. In addition, many casinos take into consideration other, more complicated factors.
Video poker players often earn half the comps slot players earn; some casinos cut the comp rate on multi-line video poker; and many base comps on the player’s theoretical loss assigned to each machine.
To determine a reasonable comp expectation for your level of play, start at the slot club booth. Brochures often spell out exactly what it takes to earn free rooms, show tickets, meals at the various restaurants, and other perks.
If there are no brochures, the slot club personnel can sometimes give you this information. If the details still seem unclear or if you want to be sure you know as much as possible, ask to see a host.
Be up front—explain that you don’t want to be embarrassed by asking for more comps than you’ve earned. An unassuming manner will usually get you plenty of information about that casino’s comp system. It might even help you get a few more comps than you “deserve.”
3. Match your comp expectations to the property and its location
Obviously, the newest luxury resort on the Las Vegas Strip will demand more play for a room comp than a downtown casino that’s scrambling for business.
An isolated casino that enjoys a monopoly can be less generous than one that’s sitting in the middle of umpteen competing ones.
4. Don’t expect too much too fast
Some people read about how Brad and I have stayed in casino rooms for more than half the year for free, and they want to get free rooms their first trip to Vegas.
Although a high roller can often get his room comped the first time he visits a particular casino, the typical recreational player or first-timer goes the low-roller route.
Nearly 20 years ago, I booked our first Vegas vacation, an air-room package, through a travel agent.
We were blackjack players at the time, and we played a lot at one casino, with the pit bosses rating our action. A few weeks after returning home, we received an offer for a free three-night stay on our second visit.
Then we started “collecting” casinos, using the same routine: playing, getting rated, and fielding free room offers. After we switched to video poker and joined the slot clubs, we went through the same procedure, playing in one “core” casino until we’d reached the required level for the free-room offers, then adding one casino at a time.
After about eight years, we had enough free room offers that we could combine them into long stays.
5. Many casinos reward long-term loyalty
We found that the more we visited a casino, the less play per day it took to keep qualified for the free-room offers.
At one casino, after achieving a certain number of lifetime slot club points, we were eligible for a suite without having to earn any daily points to keep qualified.
We earned this high-roller comp in just a few years of frequent visits, though we were low-roller quarter video poker players at the time.
6. Don’t expect everything to be comped
I charge everything to my comped rooms, hoping that the charges will be “forgiven” at the end of the stay. But in most cases, the casino won’t pick up tips and phone calls.
We always expect to pay our own tips; this is our biggest casino expense.
Charges for phone calls, however, really bug me. I’m used to losing thousands of dollars without complaining, but pleeeeeese don’t charge me $1 every time I want to call a local friend or business.
Occasionally, complaints to my host make these piddly charges disappear—but not nearly often enough.
7. Always Be a Good Guest
Some people hint that they think I abuse comps. Most people figure that because I’m called the Queen of Comps, I stretch the system to its outer limits.
But I don’t take advantage of the comp system as much as I could. Even though we play enough to get unlimited room offers, we now have our own place in Vegas, so we only use our free rooms when we want a “mini-vacation” in a luxury setting or when family or friends come to visit.
In fact, Brad accuses me of being as tight with comps as I am with money; he says we won’t live long enough to eat all the meals in our casino comp accounts all over the country.
I can’t change, I guess. I keep saving my comps for some rainy day that might come up in the future.
When I’m in a casino, I always remember that I’m their guest. I want to be as easy to get along with as I would be when I visit anyone’s home.
I certainly don’t want to be demanding, rude, or take hospitality for granted. After all, I want to be invited back.
Finding Good Casino Promotions – Slot Club
Whether you’re a first time visitor to a casino or a seasoned veteran, there are always opportunities to explore, new promotions to try and maybe even a little homework to do before you arrive.
Players often ask how to find the best deals and promotions. We’ll try to help by offering some tips and suggestions for finding good casino promotions to help you make the most of your trip and to help you make the most of your preparations.
First, if you’re not a member of every slot club where you’re playing, that is step one and you should have “been there-done that” already.
The slot clubs are the keys to opening doors in the casino and rewarding you for your patronage and play. It’s like getting a rebate for playing or as some say, like earning mileage in your frequent flyers club, or getting discounts with your grocery store card.
Best of all, it’s always free to join!
Which Casino Has the Best Slot Club?
The simple answer is “That depends…” The best slot club for you may be entirely different from what is best for someone else.
The features and benefits of each slot club may vary widely.
While some may concentrate on providing you with good future room offers and packages, others may be more willing to provide you with comps and/or cash back for your current play.
It also depends largely on your level of play, (how much money you’re willing to risk with the casino) as to the type of benefits you’ll receive both on your current visit and future visits as well.
Check with the slot club to see what rewards they offer for your level of play. If you’re playing at a higher level, you can also ask to see a casino host, who can help you receive even greater rewards and benefits.
Two important suggestions to consider:
- Try not to spread yourself too thin. If you’re playing on a limited budget and pass through small amounts of cash at each casino, chances are you’ll end up with very little. You’d be better off to concentrate your play to two or three casinos at most to achieve greater rewards. Casinos love player loyalty and will really work pretty hard to maintain yours.
- Don’t continue to play beyond your intended budget or bankroll just to acquire a certain comp or particular benefit. Play at the level you’re comfortable with and let the rewards and benefits fall where they may, so that comps truly become an asset for you.
In other words, if your luck at the machines has soured for a time, don’t succumb to spending another $500 to get your “free” $10 buffet!
Another way that players can attempt to get an edge in the casinos is to acquire and utilize “fun books.”
Basically, a fun book is a booklet or page of coupons that can be used in the casinos to offer players slot bonuses, gifts, table game matchplay certificates, show and dining discounts and just about anything in between.
Not all casinos offer them and their contents may vary widely, but it pays to investigate and see what you can find. Here’s where a little homework comes in to play.
Fun books are distributed in various ways even sometimes through your travel agency or charter airlines and packages, or maybe when you sign up for a slot club card. Some require a coupon or voucher to obtain one or you need to be a registered guest of the hotel to get their book.
Still others will send or offer you a coupon book when you visit their online websites or write to them individually. Don’t be afraid to ask at the registration desks, slot clubs and bell desks.
Coupon racks can usually be found all around most casino towns including hotel lobbies, at the airport terminals, car rental offices, tourist information booths and visitor centers.
Still another method to gain an advantage in the casinos is to work the promotions and earn extra benefits from your slot clubs. A
lmost all of the casinos have something special going on every month, from drawings to scratch cards, or jackpot bonuses and multiple point days, and more.
Again, check for details at each casino prior to playing to see what they might be offering.
Keeping Up With Casino Promotions – Jean Scott
The first of January always sets me to reminiscing. When I wrote The Frugal Gambler, I thought I had pretty thoroughly covered all the money-saving ways to stretch your budget in a casino.
But I soon realized that I would never be “finished” with that subject.
Actually the biggest job is to go through my bulging files and decide which information is crying out the loudest to be shared.
However, that doesn’t mean that writing about casinos is always easy. A gaming writer has to be so careful. I go to Herculean lengths to write as accurate information as possible at all times.
But despite my best efforts, I face some real problems in getting up-to-date and accurate casino and gambling information. I thought this month I would share with you some of these problems.
I don’t want your sympathy, but perhaps this will help you understand why you might sometimes question something I (or other gaming writers, who have the same problems) have written.
Sometimes you get more and better information after you write about a particular subject.
Reader input is powerful! For example, in a recent column here I wrote that I knew of no casino that has a written policy on what happens to unredeemed slot club points and unused earned comps when a person dies.
Fortunately, a slot club expert reads this column — Jeff Compton — probably one of the few people on Earth who has joined more slot clubs than I have. He e-mailed me some additional information.
Yes, some slot clubs do have a written policy on this. In fact, when he works with a casino that’s starting or changing their slot club, as he sometimes does when he puts on his casino consultant hat, he suggests that they write up a very detailed policy on this.
Some casinos without a written policy have had some not-so-pleasant dealings with divorce lawyers who are representing couples with joint slot club accounts.
(See — another reason, albeit pessimistic, for ALWAYS having your own slot club account and not letting your points build up too high before redeeming them!)
He recommends that casinos include some rather strict guidelines in this litigious environment, with the understanding that a host can waiver or give a lot of leeway on a case-by-case basis where good will can be the deciding factor.
Sometimes people give you the wrong information. I know this happens in all areas of life — but it seems, for me, that I get more bad information from casinos than from any other business.
“Yes, we will have double points next month,” says the slot club director I had just phoned on June 29. So I would write that fact about Casino Change-A-Lot.
Then, someone e-mails me on July 1 that they went to Casino Change-A-Lot and played and did not get double points. I call back the slot director.
“Oh, we were going to give double points, but at the last minute we decided to have a drawing promotion instead.” So there’s a big fat lie on MY list that I try so hard to keep extremely accurate and up to date.
How many people drove clear across Las Vegas to Casino Change-A-Lot, in the horrendous traffic, to take advantage of this non-existent promotion that I had touted?
Sometimes — yes, often — there’s more than one point of view. Obviously, not everything I write is pure fact; some has to be personal opinion.
If I say, “Casino A gives .5% cashback,” that’s a fact that can be verified. If I say, “Casino A, therefore, is better than Casino B…” that’s not a fact, but an opinion. And then I get e-mails that strongly debate that issue, even if I have added, “…better for Brad and me.”
They tell me that they’re more interested in finding a casino that will give them free rooms and meals and luxurious perks for their play, something they can’t get at our “good” Casino A.
Often, even facts are colored by the kind of glasses the fact writer wears.
I try to not be too dogmatic in my writings. When I’m taking about what “Brad and I do,” I often add qualifiers — “Not everyone will want to do it this way,” or “This may not work for every gambler.”
However, there’s a tone in all writing that sometimes shouts louder than the actual words. I’m accused sometimes of writing about video poker in a way that makes it sound like it’s an easy thing to reach the winning long term.
I don’t ever mean to convey that idea, but I seem to have been born to teach and I get excited when I talk about the rosy possibilities that can be achieved when a student studies hard.
As a reader, you need to watch that you don’t interrupt enthusiasm as a magic bullet.
Exceptions to the Rule
There are always exceptions. I sometimes feel my writing gets boring, because so often I have to use the same words — usually, almost always, probably, most of the time, in most cases — all those boring qualifiers instead of lively positive words that can stand alone.
Can I say, “You can depend on slot clubs to give you points based on your coin-in?
No. Instead, I have to say, “Most slot clubs” and name the few that don’t. I once made a strong-sounding statement that I was sure was true, that you NEVER have to pay to join a slot club.
Then I heard of a small Native American casino in the woods somewhere, in Michigan or Minnesota or somewhere I knew I didn’t want to be in the winter, that charged $10 to join their slot club.
I heard later that they dropped the fee, but I’m scared to make that absolute statement even now. As soon as I do, some casino will decide to make a liar out of me!
And lastly, there’s change. Sometimes I change my mind about things.
Getting old will certainly do that to you. You no longer hear me talk about spending hours riding free shuttles from casino to casino to redeem coupons. Re-reading some of Brad’s and my gambling adventures in The Frugal Gambler even makes me tired these days.
(Although you young just-starting-out-to-gamble whippersnappers might remember that the reason we don’t have to squeeze every penny out of a coupon these days is due to those early frugal practices!)
Sometimes circumstances change. Moving up from quarter video poker to dollar play opened up a whole new wealth of casino information for me.
What I wrote about casinos when we played only quarters was accurate, but certainly not as complete as it is now. With the plague of age comes the wealth of experience.
Casinos change. Notice I didn’t preface that sentence with “sometimes.” Casinos change perhaps more often than any other businesses on Earth.
I figure there’s at least one casino somewhere changing a policy during every sentence I write. When I get an article finished, I just hope I can get it to an editor before some piece of information I’ve written is no longer valid.
And I know that there’s no way to solve the problem of those necessary but dreadful deadlines — five to six weeks before publication — the enemy of completely accurate up-to-date information.
Yes, I have some problems in writing about casinos, but I imagine I’ll keep doing it as long as I have strength to sit at a computer. I keep threatening to retire, but I think I love writing more than I’m willing to admit.
Are You Playing the Right Casino Game for Your Personality Type?
A few years ago, Brad and I were at one of our favorite casino “homes,” The Orleans in Las Vegas, a large brightly-lit, very attractively themed casino off the Strip.
We were playing video poker within sight of the high-limit area, where we noticed a man, sharply dressed, playing all by himself, at a $25 video poker machine.
He seemed very serious, like he was concentrating hard. I watched him out of the corner of my eye for a while, and he looked like he was having anything but a good time.
Then I saw his machine light start blinking; he had hit a royal flush.
This being a $25 machine, the royal was worth $100,000!
Because it was in the high-limit area, which was empty at the time, this man didn’t have a crowd around him, no onlookers celebrating with him and congratulating him and getting a vicarious thrill by imagining what they would do with that much money.
He sat alone and silently at his machine, waiting to get paid, still looking so serious.
So I walked over and congratulated him on his jackpot. He didn’t seem the least bit thrilled; he didn’t even smile. I was more excited than he was, just seeing a $100,000 royal on the machine.
I had to ask him, “Aren’t you excited?”
And he answered, “Well, yeah, but I’ve dropped a hundred grand into these machines over the last few days.”
I later talked to a casino employee and she said that he was probably right: The royal had just gotten him even.
A few weeks later, we were in a tiny shabby casino in North Las Vegas, in a blue-collar neighborhood. Brad and I were there only because of a valuable coupon play.
When we had entered the casino, we had passed a man, dressed in dirty working clothes, playing a penny slot machine.
We had noticed him immediately because he had a woman hanging on both sides of him and they all three were laughing and joking, smoking cigarettes, and enjoying their free drinks. This trio was definitely having a good time.
Brad is always interested in offbeat characters, so he walked over to see what was going on.
Though you could bet up to 120 pennies a hand on the slot machine, the man was playing only one penny at a time.
Brad commented, “You sure look like you’re having fun.”
And the man replied, “We’re having a blast! You know, your money lasts such a long time on these machines!”
The Cult of Personality – With which of the above gamblers do you more closely identify? Or do you fall somewhere in-between?
Are you an extrovert who simply loves to play, whether it’s penny slots, craps, or the big six, always rooting loudly for your money and making fast friends with other players at every turn?
Or are you an introvert, cool and calculating, playing blackjack, video poker, or baccarat on your own terms for your own reasons?
Conversely, are you a grim introvert who stands, dark and determined, at a crap table, while everyone else is cheering and hooting, slapping high fives with their friends, and swilling and spilling beer after beer? Or are you a flamboyant extrovert, trying to yuk it up with a blackjack table full of players trying to concentrate on basic strategy or the count?
I often thought, though vaguely, that personality types corresponded to the choice of games in a casino.
But I never realized how specifically they could correspond until I read an article in Casino Player Magazine by Henry Tamburin, called “Choosing the Right Game for Your Personality.”
Henry came up with a very clever typology (a system for classifying behavior based on universal characteristics) that casino patrons could use to determine if they’re playing the game that best suits their personality.
Henry identified 10 personality types, which he matched up with the best casino games for them.
I was happy to see a category called “Frugal,” which Henry defined as “Someone who hates to spend money and wants to get as much value as possible.”
And which gaming activities do you suppose best suited the frugal gambler? Brilliant deduction, Holmes: video poker and slot club promotions!
For “Extrovert,” Henry recommends craps, though I might add Let It Ride, where you’re all rooting for the dealer to turn up good cards, and the big six, which is so mindless that there’s nothing else to do but cheer for everyone’s number.
“Introvert” types, according to Henry, do better at slots, video poker, roulette, and mini-baccarat, though I might add poker to that list.
Other Types of Gamblers
Henry also lists “Risk Taker,” (keno, progressive slots, and crap prop bets), “Competitive” (poker and tournaments), “Flamboyant” (baccarat, blackjack, craps), “Intuitive” (Let It Ride, Three Card Poker, Caribbean Stud, and the new slot machines), “Thinking” (blackjack, video poker, poker, and tournaments), “Insightful” (card counting, video poker, and comps), and “Feeling” (slots and video poker).
Are You Ripe for a Type? – Some of these categories, of course, overlap.
Thus, Henry’s typology would identify our $25 video poker player above as a Risk-Taking Thinking Introvert, and our penny slot gambler as a Feeling Flamboyant Extrovert.
Both were certainly playing the right games for their gambling types.
I’d describe myself as a Frugal Insightful Extrovert, since I like to play video poker and focus on promotions and comps.
And I am friendly and outgoing to my fellow players — both at nearby machines and anywhere else on the floor I might wind up during my wandering breaks (as anyone who’s ever met me in a casino will surely testify!).
But what about you? If you can apply the above typology to yourself in such a way that it fits, then you’re on the right track.
If, however, you think of yourself as a Flamboyant Competitive Risk Taker and you’re playing roulette or slots, it might explain why you’re not getting as much enjoyment as you want in a casino.
Casino Coupon Runs with Linda Boyd
There’s been lots of grumbling lately about the downgrading of both video poker and table games. The fact that most good plays have evaporated can’t be denied, even for talented players in games requiring skill.
However, some players use casino coupon runs to get extra value for their gaming dollars.
You can grab some of the expected return (ER) back by making the most of casino coupons and promotional offers.
In fact, the term, coupon run, has entered the lexicon of advantage players and it refers to the speedy redemption of the most valuable coupons by rushing from casino to casino.
If you want to just disappear any time the pit boss shouts “coupon in play,” or “you can’t use POV and ACG coupons on the same day,” or if you’re like me and tend to socialize (that’s stopping when you’re supposed to be running) then don’t even attempt it.
You’ll still get more than your money’s worth from casino coupon runs by making sure they’re well-organized and redeeming on your visits.
For those who consider gaining an advantage over the casino like a sport and have thick skin, stamina, and know their way around Las Vegas casinos, a casino coupon run is likely to be part of your vacation’s entertainment.
Residents with high energy and excellent organization skills will be good at fast and profitable coupon redemption as well.
Best Coupon Sources: A coupon for anything you value is good, but make sure you’re not wasting time on something you don’t really want just because it’s free.
Check out Las Vegas Advisor’s (LVA) Pocketbook of Values (POV) for some great coupon deals.
Casino Mailers: Sent with the purpose of getting you inside the casino, they tend to be good– otherwise they wouldn’t work
Others: Examples are fun books, gaming magazines, newspapers, publications/offers in hotel rooms, and on restaurant placemats. Keep your eyes peeled once you get to Vegas because coupons and special offers are all over the place.
Best Vegas Coupons
You may wonder why you would purchase coupons when you can get so many for free, but the adage, “you get what you pay for” really does apply.
ACG and POV will cost money, but are worth it since they have coupons that can return the purchase price in a single visit.
Here’s a list of the offers that I consider most valuable because they translate to cash, directly or indirectly.
- Bounceback Cash: Coupons that are good for cash but require you to redeem in person, usually on specified dates; mostly, these come in mailers and are based on past play.
- Free Play: Sometimes bounceback is in the form of free play, which has to be downloaded onto a machine and run through once before it can be cashed.
- Matchplay (MP): The casino matches your bet for the amount indicated on the coupon. For example, if it’s a $5 blackjack matchplay, then you wager $5 of your own money and the casino matches it for a $10 bet.
- First Card Ace: Used to represent an ace and the dealer simply skips you on the first card dealt in blackjack.
- Multiple Points: Slot club points earned are multiplied by a specified number.
- Free Tournaments: Competition for blackjack, video poker, slots, or any other game selected by the casino.
- Slot Club Points: Free points are added to your slot card.
- Fun Book: Some require a coupon before you receive a special book of coupons from a casino.
- Bingo: Use this coupon to play free games of bingo.
- Gift Cards: There’s a wide range of gift cards for Visa, gas, department stores and other businesses; these are excellent for gifts or personal use.
- Card of the Day (COD): You’re paid extra cash if you get a specific four-of-a-kind on video poker games.
- Drawing Entries: Good if they’re for major prizes, like a car, and you’re going to be present (usually required) and have a reasonable chance of winning; lots of conditions, but mostly common sense and easy to determine.
*Note that I didn’t list food comps, although you may want to “eat and run” along the way. Mostly, the best ones are for relaxed/fine dining and you’d want to spread them out rather than worry about a few dollars off fast foods.
Also, if you’re really pinching pennies, focus on food coupons that can be used in casino-owned restaurants, that way it’s non-taxable in Nevada.
Tips for Your Next Coupon Run
- Getting Organized
You’re likely to have coupons from many sources so it’s important to put them in order before you leave for the casinos.
The object is to zip in and out quickly, leaving others to wonder “who was that masked man?” as you gallop away.
It’s worth the time it takes to arrange your coupons, make notes and determine which casinos you’ll visit before you leave.
- Arrange Coupons
One good system is to put all the coupons for each casino together, regardless of the source, and then put them in alphabetical order.
If you want to further organize, then you can prioritize by putting the “best” ones on top. For example, you may have some food or inexpensive gift coupons in the stack that you probably won’t use on the run, but want to keep them for possible future use–put them last.
Another method that works well for Vegas is to follow the same procedure but alphabetize by location–the Strip, Downtown, off-the-beaten-path.
- Make Notes
This is a huge time-saver for both your planned run and future visits. Two kinds of notes, specific coupon and future reference, will be helpful.
Coupon Notes: Write these directly on the coupon as reminders.
For example, promotions that don’t require a coupon, like COD or days where double points are given can be recorded on a coupon.
Usually this information is on the marketing mailers and jotting it down on the first coupon doesn’t take long. You can include the casino’s phone number as well if you have questions.
- Reference Notes
Most frequent players already have a small notebook for tax win/loss information; this is an excellent place to make alphabetized casino notes for Vegas.
Include things like the phone number, “special rules” (for example, some let you use more than one MP coupon on the same visit while others don’t) or any other reminders for future visits.
This is especially useful for keeping track of long-term bonuses.
For example, 500 points for 2 free buffets or extra coins for four sevens on video poker.
Making Your Coupon Run
Now that all your coupons are organised you’ll be able to chart your course saving the “best for last”.
- Casino Locations
You may not have time to go to all the casinos you want to, especially if you don’t have a vehicle. Whether you have your own car or you’re relying on public transportation you’ll want to think about the most logical route before you take off.
- No Vehicle
In Vegas you can make a “casino run” without a car but your options are limited. Hitting the Downtown casinos using a free shuttle to get there, for example, is an option.
If you want to redeem offers on the Strip be careful because some of the locations using a map are deceptive. The Wynn and Venetian, for example, look close together, but it takes a long time to get from one to another on foot.
Going from one locals’ place to another will take lots of planning and you’d have to study the public transportation schedules–taking a cab would defeat the purpose.
- Private Vehicle
If you have your own transportation you’ll still have limitations due to time constraints. Give careful thought to the places that have the best coupons for you and be reasonable.
Parking and traffic on the Strip can be a problem, especially if there’s a convention or special event in town; it’s easy to find a spot and get in and out quickly at many locals’ spots, even though they’re further apart.
- Make Notes
You’ll know right away whether or not this is your kind of activity. If it is then make notes for future runs. For example, if parking on the roof near the door at Caesars works for you (it may not during peak times) make a note.
Also, if some casinos give you a hard time, like requiring you to keep the coupons in the book or show your ACG card, then record it (use the reference notebook mentioned above) so you’re prepared for the next time.
- Take a Shot
Don’t be afraid to use a coupon for a new game once you get to the casino.
Most dealers are more than happy to help and BJ players grumbling about “third base” usually know less about the game than you. (Position is important in some table games, but BJ isn’t one of them.)
If you get a grouchy dealer or unfriendly players then use your coupon anyway–you’re not likely to see them again and the next time you use a similar offer you’ll know what you’re doing.
- Saving the Best for Last
It makes sense to save the casino where you want to spend the most time for your last stop. This could be the place where you want to dine or the spot with the games you want to play.
You may have to go north by northwest, but it’s worth the extra miles.
Coupon runs clearly aren’t for everyone–you have to be skilled and have the right temperament.
If you were “born to run” (you’ll definitely know after one try), then you’ll improve every time you go.
Those cut out for it not only come out ahead, but have a great time in the process.