I have only been gambling for the past couple of years, but I have had a lot of help along the way from friends and family members who have been playing for decades.
With their help, I have learned about every casino game you can possibly imagine, how to manage my bankroll, and how to take advantage of every opportunity I can to get comps.
For those of you who don’t know, comp stands for complimentary, and they are rewards that brick-and-mortar casinos will give you for free in hopes that you will continue gambling there. The more time you spend gambling, the more comps you can get.
Before I give you my tips on how to earn more comps, let me give you a quick introduction to the most common forms of comps and the differences between land-based and online programs. But first, I want to clear up a couple of myths related to comps in brick-and-mortar casinos.
Myths About Casino Comps
Most people believe that casino comps are based on the amount of money you have lost or spent while at the casino. While that is true to an extent, it is impossible for casinos to keep track of every bet happening for every player at every table game.
Instead of monitoring every single bet, casinos focus a lot more on the time you spend playing. They use the time you spend playing to calculate your probable number of hands and use the average bet for a few hands to represent your overall stakes.
From there, they estimate how much money you are expected to lose and give you a percentage of that amount as comps.
Because of the way they calculate it, you can earn more comps than expected by slowing down your play. Choosing tables games over slot machines is the best way to slow down your play, but it is also a good idea to take frequent bathroom breaks or take some time to talk to your dealer in between hands.
When you can play slower than expected, you can earn more comps while actually spending less.
Another common myth is that casinos will change the payback percentage on slot machines when players swipe their player’s club cards. Some people think that casinos will intentionally make the machine win less frequently when a player’s card is inserted to make up for the cost of the comps.
But slot machines use a random number generator to determine wins, and the card reader is a separate system within the device. There is no way that a slot machine can change the amount you will win based on using a player’s club card, and it would be illegal if it did.
Don’t be fooled by superstition and miss the opportunity to earn more comps! If you are going to play slots, you should swipe your player’s card every time.
Most Common Comps
Each casino that you visit will have a different comp program, but most of the differences will be in how they calculate your comps and other offers. For the most part, the products offered as comps are relatively the same from casino to casino.
Of course, online casinos are different, but I will explain that in the next section.
The most common comp is free drinks. Even if you don’t sign up for the player’s card, cocktail waitresses are trained to look for players without a glass in their hand and offer them a beverage.
As long as you keep playing, the drinks will keep coming. While the drinks are free, it is common courtesy to tip the cocktail waitress. If you tip her well, she will most likely be more attentive.
Most of the time, comps include both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, but the casino is hoping that you choose an alcoholic one. Their goal is to lower your inhibitions so that you play longer and risk more.
Feel free to indulge in as many drinks as you want, but you will most likely spend more money when you do.
Remember that if you take it too far, drunken behavior will get you removed from the casino. I always allow myself to enjoy one or two cocktails before switching to coffee or soda for a little while. I can still get more alcohol later, but once I get drunk, it is a lot harder to keep a straight head.
Food comps are the next most common freebie that casinos will give players. Usually, they will provide you with a coupon that is valid for any meal of up to a certain amount in one of the on-site restaurants. It is important to know that there are different levels of food comps.
For example, when a player has too many free cocktails, casinos will often ask the player to leave, but they will politely offer them a free meal to help them sober up.
Those free meals are usually worth $20 at the food court or a free ticket to the casino buffet. On the other hand, when a player has earned several loyalty points, they may get a coupon for $75 at a fine-dining restaurant, while high-rollers can receive $250 at the gourmet dining options.
Hotel comps are the next tier of common casino comps, and they depend primarily on the casino that you are playing at.
Some casinos know that they can’t make any money off of unbooked rooms, so they regularly give hotel rooms away for free to almost anyone, especially during the week. Other casinos see this as a higher-level reward that they reserve for their most loyal customers.
Players can also get other “perks” in addition to their standard comps.
I define a comp as an actual product that the casino gives you for free, but a perk is something that is worthwhile but not necessarily for sale.
For example, they may give you a complimentary upgrade on your hotel room. You still have to pay for the hotel room, but you get a better version as a perk for being a member of their player’s club.
High-rollers get their own level of comps because casinos are counting on them to spend a lot of money during their visit. Transportation to and from the casino, sometimes even including airfare, is standard for all high-rollers. Tickets to shows and sporting events or VIP passes to nightclubs are also common for big spenders.
Online vs. Land-Based Casinos
Now that you know some of the most common comps in brick-and-mortar casinos, it should be fairly obvious why online casinos have to do things differently.
Until technology advances to the point of allowing websites to materialize cocktails through the internet, online casinos cannot offer the same comps that land-based casinos do.
Instead, most online casinos offer bonus money that can be used to gamble on their site. Players often think of these bonuses as free money, but there are restrictions on bonuses that you have to be aware of.
For more information on online bonuses, visit our bonuses and rewards page.
Tip #1 – Essential Sign-Up Instructions
It may seem obvious to many people, but you can’t get comps if you don’t sign up for the program. Some people think that pit bosses will automatically begin tracking their bets as soon as they sit down, but that is not necessarily true.
My uncle always tells the story of the first time he went to a casino. He greeted the pit boss, so he thought they were rating his play.
When he got ready to leave, he asked the dealer how many comps points he had earned, and he was disappointed to learn that he couldn’t get any comps because he had never presented a player’s card.
Before you start playing, ALWAYS go sign up for the player’s club first.
Many casinos will allow you to sign up online ahead of time, or you can sign up in person. The process is fast and easy; you fill out a form and show your ID, and the casino prints you a card.
You should sign up for a player’s club card at every casino you intend to play at. While it is fun to visit several casinos to see how different they are, the best way to get the most comps is to stick to one main casino.
Some casinos do have alliances that allow you to use the same player’s club card at multiple locations, so be sure to find out that information when you sign up.
If you are visiting Las Vegas or Atlantic City, you will have lots of casinos to choose from, and you should sign up for each player’s club, even if you are just trying it out.
Pretty much everywhere else in the United States, casinos are spread out, so you will most likely choose the most convenient location.
It doesn’t matter if you are just visiting for a short time or if you plan to go to a casino regularly. You should always sign up for the card, and each person in your party should sign up separately.
A husband and wife can earn comp points twice as fast than if only one of them was playing, so you better be sure you are both getting the credits you deserve.
Another advantage of having multiple players with separate accounts is that you can earn twice as many rewards that way. For example, if you each play enough to earn a hotel stay, but you share a room, you can get two nights free by using the other person’s card on the second night.
My husband and I like to use my comp points on a regular basis, while we let the comps on his card accumulate to get us higher-level rewards.
Often, you can get immediate rewards just for signing up. If you create your account online, do so a few weeks in advance so that the casino has time to mail you a coupon for some comps before your visit, especially if you are traveling to get there.
When you sign up in person, ask if there are any comps that you can get immediately. Don’t assume that casinos will always volunteer information and give you comps automatically. Instead, you have to ask for what is available, and the more you ask, the more they give you.
Tip #2 – Always Check In
Some casinos like to keep their comps programs secretive, so they won’t advertise what awards are available. Let me use my parents as an example of why. When my mom first started gambling, she was embarrassed to ask for casino comps.
She signed up for the player’s club, and she regularly used it to get her free drinks. Occasionally, she would ask them for a comp for her meal. But she didn’t want to be a bother, so she left the casino employees alone as much as possible.
On the other hand, my dad knew that they weren’t getting all of the comps that they deserved. So, he regularly stopped by the player’s club desk to ask how many points he had. Even though he rarely asked for anything in particular, he always asked for his points balance.
They offered him a coupon or a promotion whenever he stopped by. It didn’t take long for my mom to realize that my dad was getting more comps than she was, and she quickly learned to ask for her comps on a regular basis.
The casino is going to try to get away with giving you the least amount of comps possible.
If you gratefully accept your free drinks and occasional dinner coupons without ever making a fuss, a casino will assume that you are happy with that, especially if you keep coming back. As soon as you start asking questions, they get worried that they are losing you, so they throw in another comp or two.
In addition, casinos often run different promotions or specials for the player’s club members. For example, they might offer double loyalty points on blackjack for one weekend and triple points on slot machines during the next weekend.
So, you should always check with the player’s club desk as soon as you arrive at the casino. Ask them what specials or promotions they have available that day before you decide what game you will play.
Similarly, you should also check with them before you leave the casino each night. Just ask them how many points you earned that night, and they will often be so anxious to keep you playing that they will offer you extra comps then and there.
My husband and I have gotten in the habit of checking in with the player’s club desk every time we arrive at and leave the casino. We have gotten to know some of the employees who work there because we have run into them several times.
The best part about getting to know them is that they now know our interests, and they will often give us specific comps on things they know we like. Carla always gives us show tickets because she remembers us telling her that we enjoy seeing them.
When we are polite and conversational, they often give us more details than we would have known to ask for, and they give us more comps because they know we are loyal customers.
Tip #3 – Show off at the Right Times
I like to think of myself as a humble person, and I would not say that I intentionally show off very often. But there is a right time to show off at the casino, especially if your goal is to earn comps. In fact, there are two right times.
When you exchange your cash for chips upon arrival at the casino is the first time that you should be flashier than usual. Even if you only plan on betting a bankroll of $500, exchange $5,000 in chips. It will catch the attention of the pit bosses, and they will be expecting you to spend a lot of money in the next few hours.
Many times, they will give you an upgraded comp on the spot, just because they want to encourage you to spend the whole $5,000.
You have to have enough self-control to not use the extra $4,500 in chips and to return them for your cash at the end of the night. But if you can have that self-control, you can trick the casino into giving you more comps than you deserve.
Similarly, you should show off when the pit boss is rating you. If you choose to play table games, your player’s club points will not be tracked automatically. Instead, you will have to hand your card to the dealer, and they will ask the pit boss to rate you.
Pit bosses rate you by watching a few of your hands and taking note of the average size of your bet and how many hands you play.
The information pit bosses record is used to calculate your comp percentage. Without getting into too many mathematical details, casinos use the number of hands an average player can play in an hour, your average bet size, and your odds of winning to calculate how much you will most likely lose.
They give you a percentage of your expected losses back in the form of comps. People often forget about the other variables and focus on the fact that the pit boss monitors your bet size, which leads them to believe that you have to place high bets all the time to earn comps.
In reality, the pit boss can only watch a few of your hands, so you can take advantage of that to get more comps. Make larger bets for the hands that the pit boss is watching, and place lower bets when he goes to another table. Be sure to raise your bet again if the pit boss comes back.
It can be difficult to trick a pit boss, especially when you are obvious about raising your bets when they are around. Be subtle enough that the dealer doesn’t notice a drastic change when the pit boss is there.
If you are successful, they will think that you are consistently betting much higher amounts, even though you are only doing so when they are there. The more they think you are making large bets, the easier it will be to get comps.
Casino comps are nothing more than a marketing strategy that casinos use to convince you to remain loyal to their facility, but smart gamblers can also take advantage of them.
If gambling is a part your entertainment budget (as it should be), comps can allow you to experience other forms of entertainment, such as an expensive dinner, for free.
You should remember that the casino’s main goal is to make money off of players, and they do that by convincing players to spend as much time as possible on the casino floor. The cost for comps is really taken out of the money that you lost while you are playing.
So, you should never spend extra money that you usually wouldn’t just to earn a comp. But you can learn to employ some of these tips to take full advantage of the comps that are available to you.
You are going to spend the money gambling anyway, so you might as well get what you can out of the experience. Good luck racking up your loyalty points!
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