Most people have figured out by now that best casinos in the US will give you “free” stuff if you come into their property and gamble. Free stuff is usually called “comps.”
It’s not really free, though, because the casino expects you to lose money over time. You might not lose money yourself, but the mathematical expectation is that the action from all its players will result in winnings for the casino and losses for the player.
Smart gamblers figure out ways to get more comps at the casino than they might otherwise. Consider this a guide to being a smart casino gambler and getting more comps.
1 – Join the Players Club
You can enjoy free drinks at most casinos without being a member of the players club, but that’s pretty much the only comp you’re eligible for if you’re not a member of the players club.
Joining is easy. You can ask anyone at the casino where the players club desk is. When you find it, you’ll present your ID and fill out a membership application.
If you happen to be in Las Vegas, know that all the popular casinos have some sort of players club. Be sure to compare the top Las Vegas loyalty programs to see what your favorite casino has to offer.
They’ll give you a card to insert into the slot machines and other gambling machines when you play. It will track how much money you’ve gambled during your time at the casino. Most casinos award freebies at a rate of about 0.2% of your total action.
If you play slots at 600 spins per hour and bet $3 per spin, you’ve put $1800 per hour into action. You get $3.60 worth of comps based on that.
Of course, if you understand that most slot machines have a house edge of at least 5%, your expected loss is $90 per hour, making the slots club hugely profitable for the casino.
But don’t forget that you get the comp points whether you win or lose. They’re based on your action not your losses. Even if you win, you’re entitled to your comps.
You also present this card at the tables when you’re playing table games. The pit boss will evaluate how much you’re betting on average and award you comps based on that estimated action.
The easiest way to get more comps is to just join the players club and use the card every time you gamble. And if you lose your card, just ask for a replacement.
2 – Look for Player Club Promotions
Most casinos offer time periods where they award double or triple points for your play. This is usually during hours where they don’t see a lot of action. If you make sure to play during those hours, you’ll see more comps faster.
In the example in the last point, where you’re a slots player betting $3 per spin, you’re looking at getting $7 or $10 per hour in freebies instead of just $3 or $4 in freebies.
You can find other promotions that entitle you to more freebies. The casinos advertise these by sending you emails and snail mail flyers. Look for them and take advantage of them.
If your goal is to get more comps at the casino, paying attention to the promotions is crucial.
3 – Think About Playing Games With a Lower House Edge
This won’t directly affect how many comps you get. Though, it will affect how much money you’re going to lose in an attempt to get those casino comps.
Remember how I mentioned the expected loss on that slot machine? Let’s assume you put that money through a video poker machine instead. Let’s also assume that the video poker machine has a house edge of 0.5% instead of 5%.
The trick with this is twofold:
- You need to be able to recognize the video poker games offering the best pay tables.
- You need to be able to play those video poker games with close to optimal strategy.
Some frugal gamblers even find situations where their expected value per hour on the video poker games is positive rather than negative.
4 – Try to Optimize Your Play at the Tables
Suppose you’re playing blackjack instead. The house edge, if you’re playing the right games, with basic strategy is only 0.5%, so 0.2% in rebates is a big deal. But you can do even better than that.
When you’re playing table games, the casinos aren’t tracking your action dollar for dollar like they are when you’re playing gambling machines. They’re estimating the number of hours you’re playing and how much you’re betting per hand.
If you can get them to estimate that you’re betting more per hand, you’ll get rewards based on their estimate rather than your actual action. If you can also play fewer hands per hour, you can get even more rewards for less play.
How do you do that? If you’re playing a table game, vary the size of your bets. Ask the dealer and pit boss what they have you rated at per bet. If you’re betting more than that on average, ask them to consider revising your rating.
For example, if you’re playing real money blackjack for $10 per hand, try placing occasional $20 and $40 bets. Your goal is to convince the pit boss that you’re playing for an average of $20 per hand instead of an average of $10 per hand.
You should also take occasional breaks and sit out some occasional hands to reduce the amount of action you’re giving at the table.
5 – Speak up and Ask for Free Stuff
One of the best tips, and one of the easiest, is to speak up and ask for comps. The trick is to be charming and demanding at the same time. Pissed off casino employees are less likely to give you something for free.
I had some big fun going back and forth with the cardroom manager at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino several years ago. I was trying to convince him that the casino should buy us all hot dogs from Pink’s. It didn’t work, by the way.
Want to know why? It’s simple! We were playing at the lowest stakes tables in the room. The rake on those games isn’t high enough to warrant freebies.
He did tell us if we started playing for higher stakes that he’d buy us all hot dogs. That’s not true at all casinos, though. I also used to play poker during the day shift at Excalibur Hotel & Casino. It was mostly low rollers and older men playing.
But we got a free lunch every day, and it was always excellent. In fact, that was some of the best clam chowder I’ve ever had.
6 – Read These Books
Anyone who’s committed to getting the most comps possible from the casino should invest in and read the following two books:
- Comp City by Max Rubin
- The Frugal Gambler by Jean Scott
Comp City mostly covers how to use a combination of basic strategy in blackjack with some techniques for slowing down your rate of play to get more comps than the casino would expect to give you for the amount you’ll lose. Rubin’s big idea is for you to become a “comp wizard.”
The Frugal Gambler, on the other hand, focuses on using coupons, video poker, and the players club to gamble for free and enjoy vacations that don’t cost a lot of money.
Comp City is aimed at a higher-end audience, while The Frugal Gambler is focused more on low rollers. But you should read both of them.
I want to close this post with a single caveat… Don’t believe that the free stuff in Vegas or another casino destination is really free. These comps are just a small rebate on your expected losses.
Sure, on the occasional visit to Vegas, you’ll beat the odds. But in the long run, the casinos will always make a profit on any comps they award you.