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How to get casino comps and freebies

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Introduction

Today's modern casinos can be imposing places for the unwitting traveler. Losing your next mortgage payment in under an hour can be an all too easy process if you haven't done your research before walking in, but irrespective of whether the dice rolls your way or the aces take a liking to your hand, there is one aspect of casino-going that can see you enjoying a profit on a regular basis - The Art of The 'Comp'. Every casino wants your business and they're prepared to pay to get it. From complimentary rooms and show tickets, to free meals, drink and cigarettes - even cash. If you're prepared to spend your money on the tables, the casino is prepared to give you freebies to make your stay all that more enjoyable.

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In fact, Las Vegas casinos spend over $150 million a year in giveaways to lure you in. So the question for the casual gambler is, how do I get as much bonus swag as possible without gambling away everything I own? Read on and everything will become clear. The first thing to understand about comps is that you should never gamble just to get them. There's really no point in playing $25 blackjack for two hours just to win a free buffet meal worth $15. Comps should be seen as a nice aside, an afterthought to be enjoyed once you're finished gambling what you were planning to gamble anyway.

  1. JOIN A SLOT CLUB The easiest way to earn a freebie is through the casino's equivalent of a frequent flyer program - the 'Slot Club'. Every modern day gambling establishment runs a slot club (or player's club) - the membership is free and everyone who joins is provided with a magnetized card that keeps track of every cent you put through the slots. When you've been playing for a while, you can take these cards to the Slot Club Desk and cash in your points for comps, or even cash back, based on how much you've been playing and for how long. But there are a few tricks to remember.

First, and perhaps most obviously of all, you need to ensure your card is properly sitting in the slot machine's card reader, so it will accrue your points. Make sure you check before you start playing, because nothing's more annoying than spending $200 on the slots and realizing your card wasn't working for the entire time. The next thing to remember is that the card readers in some casinos will work differently to the card readers in others. Some work on a 'countdown' process, essentially counting the coins you're playing and allocating you a point once you've played 20. With these machines, if you move around a lot from machine to machine you lose out, because the countdown begins at zero every time you start on a new machine. Some other casinos work differently, on a progressive basis, meaning they count every coin as a percentage of one point, so you never lose out. The best way to learn how the casino you're in works is to simply ask an attendant. If you usually travel with a friend or partner, don't fall for the trick of getting separate slot club cards. 2000 points on two cards gets you nowhere near as much as 4000 points on one. There's no point in you both cashing in your points for a buffet meal, especially when buffet comps are usually for two, so you might as well pool your earnings and get a free room or show tickets.

When you join the Slot Club, ask for two, or even three extra cards so you can all accrue points on one account at the same time. Even if you're playing by yourself, you can quite often ask the person sitting next to you if they don't mind you parking your extra card in their machine's reader. Why should they care if they're not using it? Atlantic City slot clubs tend to be the most generous, offering rooms, tickets to shows, gifts, cash back, limo rides to and form the airport and even discounted airfare if you play enough. You'll need to be playing pretty long and large to really earn much in the way of freebies, but if you're playing anyway, you might as well use your card and see what you can get. It's very important to make nice with the Host/Hostess of the slot area if you really want to get some good comps. These people are authorized to give you a lot more freebies than the change attendant, slot attendant or Slot Club workers are, and if they think you've been playing a lot they'll do just that. If you're playing a $5 machine, or you've maybe been playing a $1 machine for a few hours, ask a member of staff to send over a Host. Generally, if you've been there a while, the Host will find you first, but if you haven't had a visit after a few hours, call one over. They'll ask you how things are going, where you're from, all the mindless chit-chat you'd expect, but they'll also be gauging what sort of player you are.

When the Host is there, play the maximum bet every time. This won't fool them into thinking you've been playing high all day, especially as they can easily enough see how much you've been playing on their computer screens, but it certainly doesn't hurt to up the ante a touch when they're around. Be strong with these people - don't be afraid to ask for freebies. After all, the casino has no problem taking your money, why shouldn't you take what you can get in return? Another tip is to make sure you see the same Host each time you visit. Ask for their business card and make sure you find that person next time you're in. Once they know you, they'll show you a good time, every time. In fact, many gamblers even leave tips and gifts for the Hosts so they'll be remembered next time they come back!

  1. WATCH FOR SPECIAL PROMOTIONS Some casinos are in prime locations and know they'll get a lot of business, but others are a little out of the way and are usually desperate for your patronage. The Stratosphere Casino in Las Vegas for example is on the Strip, but it's far enough away from the action for them to be desperate for your business. They run several special promotions to get people through the door, and the best of these is their New Player's Guarantee.

If it's your first time at the casino, join their slot club and they'll actually cover all your slot losses, up to $125, for your first hour of play. That's a great deal by itself, but they don't stop there - if you don't win, they'll not only refund your losses but they'll give you an extra 10% on top! This kind of promotion makes the Stratosphere the first stop for many Vegas visitors, and no matter what your opinion on slot machines is; the New Player's Guarantee is a no-lose situation. Many of the Vegas casinos a little off the Strip run promotions like these, be they machines set to return 100% (or more) of your investment, double and triple points, free meals and more, so have a look through the various tourist guides and keep your eye out for something good whenever you stay. Similarly, when you go home after your trip out, you'll find that a lot of casinos will send you freebie offers if you've joined their slot clubs. These can range from discounted rooms and airfares to actual free trips and bonus chips during the off-season (June to August and late December). Every few months, the Las Vegas MGM Grand tends to send some of their members coupons for $50 in free chips and a free room, and some of the smaller casinos will stretch that to multiple nights of accommodation to try to lure you to 'old Vegas'. Even if you don't get a whole lot of comps your first time out, you might just hit it big next time around with these mail-outs - junk mail has never been so profitable!

4. GET RATED

If you're playing the tables, you need to get your play 'rated' by the pit boss if you want them to give you freebies.

This is a simple process, essentially you tell the dealer you want to be rated and they, or the pit boss, will either take your name or have you fill in a card with your details. After you do that, your average play per hand is recorded and when you finish playing you simply ask what your rating is and if you've earned a freebie. Some casinos will insist that unless you're betting $10 a hand ($25 in Atlantic City), they can't rate you, but it doesn't mean you can't still earn a comp if you play the tables for long enough and bother asking for one. Generally, even if you're only playing for $5 a hand, if you're on the table for a few hours and ask for a comp as you leave, they'll slip you a free buffet or two. If you're being rated at a decent rate, you'll be offered free drinks as you play (just don't get drunk and lose everything you own!) or even free cigarettes - anything to keep you at the tables. Life can be good in Vegas if you can afford to bet high. The rating record of your play will include the amount you bought in with, your speed of play, the total wagered, and your win/loss ratio, but all the casino really cares about for rating purposes is the total amount wagered, not whether you win or lose. Some venues will combine your table and slot ratings, others won't. If you're under the rating limit and playing with a friend, asked to be rated as one so you can earn the big freebies - show tickets, rooms and more.

  1. WORK OUT THE BEST RATES One thing to consider is that your rating is based on the percentage house return on whatever game you're playing. You can get rated playing anything, from baccarat to keno, but since every game returns a different percentage to the house, some games will get you a higher rating than others. If you put $1000 through a slot machine with a 5% house advantage, they will calculate how much they should have earned from you, figure you've dropped $50, and generally give you about 40% of that ($20) in comp credit. Regardless of whether you lost the $1000 or won $100,000, your comp total is based on how much the casino assesses they've taken from you. The important lesson here is that if you don't ask for comps, you rarely get them. It never hurts to ask; the worst that can happen is they tell you, "Sorry, you have to play another half hour." No loss in giving it a try, and the upside is free rooms, free meals, free tickets to the big shows and a whole lot more, which will make your casino stay a whole lot easier to swallow - especially if you come out behind. Reclaim what's rightfully yours. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
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