No matter who you are or what types of betting you like to do, one way to swing the odds in your favor is to take advantage of bonuses, comps, and free bets that casinos, sportsbooks, and poker rooms offer to players.
This guide will cover the topic of free gambling bonuses in-depth including how online gambling bonuses and casino comps work, plus strategies for taking advantage of these offers.
How to Get Comped
Let’s say you’re going to Vegas. You may spend a couple hours meticulously calculating how much you’re going to spend on your trip, dutifully taking into account the cost of lodging, spa treatment, food, show tickets, and even tips. After all that mathematical work, you might feel a little jealous when you come across a guy who’s laying down hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars on a craps game who seems to get almost everything for free.
He’s been comped, friends. In other words, because he’s a high roller or a big spender, the casino is willing to pay his way with free room and meals, since the management knows they’ll get back all the complimentary expense and then some from the house’s percentage at the casino.
Complimentary goodies, or comps for short, are a definite bonus to recreational gamblers—who doesn’t like a bit of free stuff? High rollers are most often the recipients of these freebies: gifts of items or services from the casino for their most loyal customers. They do this in the hopes of getting you to stay in their hotel and lay your money down exclusively in their casino.
Online casino & sportsbook bonuses operate differently. Since online gambling sites don’t have free hotel rooms or buffets to offer players, they offer bonuses in the form of free money to gamble online with.
The Old Way of Comps
In the 1960s, casinos started gambling junkets, which gave birth to comping players. Casinos would offer potential VIP players limousine service, airfare, and even room and board if they would come to their establishments and gamble exclusively. The catch involved these players putting up a certain amount of front money with a promise to dedicate a certain number of hours to high-stakes games. The front money was used to either prove to the casino that the VIP was bringing enough money to play or to establish credit at the casino itself. VIPs simply weren’t invited back if they didn’t meet the gambling requirements.
Ten years later, in the 1970s, overnight getaways and cheap turnarounds became more available. This allowed casinos to extend gambling junkets to low rollers. They didn’t offer chartered air service to low rollers, but they did offer free rooms and a couple meals. It usually only took a commitment of a few hours at a $5 minimum table to qualify for a comped weekend. Four short hours and the town could be yours, with a lot of the expense covered by the casino!
There was still another way to take advantage of casino comps; when driving into town, just collect as many fun books and coupons as you can. You can find a rack of casino giveaways in just about every gas station and restaurant on the way to Las Vegas—anything from free shrimp cocktails to cheap rooms, lucky-buck coupons to pulls on a slot machine. Find the right mailing lists and these coupons can even find their way right to your own mailbox! Unfortunately, airline junkets are extinct now. They’ve been replaced by bus overnights and regular comps, but those can still be just as great!
How Casino Comps are Calculated Today
There are several different categories of comps. Slots players earn their comps by joining a slots club, most of which have their own reward structures. Your playtime and average bet size are the only limits governing the comps you receive from table games. Your bankroll may be the biggest part of calculating your comps. You’re likely to get at least something if you lay down a sack of gold at a casino cage. A stack of $100s will probably get you room and board for the weekend. A briefcase full of $100s most likely gets you an entire week of comps, including suites, limos, bountiful feasts and perhaps even a private plane!
For those of you with a smaller bankroll, the equation works like this: Let’s say you decide to cash in on the room, food, and beverages (RFB) that may be available to you. Just tell the pit boss supervising your favorite game that you’d like to begin earning comps by getting rated. The pit boss will give you a plastic card after taking down your name and essential information. Then you simply give the card to each pit boss surveying whatever game you’re playing.
They will occasionally watch you as you gamble (they won’t stand over your shoulder), and keep track of your average buy-in, bet size and play time. Sometimes players will temporarily increase their bet when the pit boss comes around in the hopes of increasing their rating and getting a better level of comp. You should stick to a game for a few hours if you’re looking for good comps. Once you’re ready to move on, ask for your card back. The pit boss will enter all the information they’ve gathered into a computer that will calculate your comp level.
Earning comps has evolved into almost an art form. Tip the dealers every once in a while, increase your bet size when the pit boss comes around, and treat the cocktail waitress right. These seemingly little things can make a big difference between getting comped a couple of free buffets and an entire weekend with a full RFB.
A word of caution here: Don’t even consider playing higher-stakes games than you can afford just to earn some comps. What you save on room and board isn’t equal to what you’d probably wind up losing. Always keep in mind that the purpose of casino comps is to get you to stay and play – and lose, so the house earns its percentage. Try to work the system so that comps help you spend less, not more, on your gambling entertainment.
It takes more than a couple hours of play to earn the best comps. You may have to lay down $75 a hand for around 8 hours to get a full weekend of comps. If you’d rather just get a free room, $25 to $50 is the way to go. Some, though not all, casinos will allow you to play twice as long betting half the regular amount to earn comps. Don’t be afraid to ask! Casinos will be straightforward with you about their comp requirements if you just ask upfront. It’s not a bad idea to shop around, either. You should at least earn a free meal after several long hours at a low minimum table. If not, you’re in the wrong casino!
Comp worthiness is calculated by how much a casino expects to profit from your gambling. The first thing a casino does is to multiply your average bet by the number of hands you play in an hour. This yields your total action. The casino then multiplies your total action by the normal house edge, which is how much they expect to win for themselves while you play. Depending on the casino, you’re likely to receive R, F or B comps comparable to 30 to 50 percent of their expected profit. Let’s say you’re betting $25 per hand for 8 hours in a game of blackjack. With a house edge of 2 percent, the comp equation looks like this:
$25 x 60/hr. x 8 hr. x 2% = $240
You’ll usually get $75 to $120 in comps, be it a room or meal credits if the casino expects to collect $240 from your playing. You probably won’t get a room and food playing at this level in a luxury casino, but you may get a free dinner for two or a reduced rate on a hotel room known as a casino rate. The same level of play at a less opulent casino might earn you even more comps! Just ask the pit boss what they can do for you when you decide to end your session. They will either tell you themselves what you’ve earned or set you up with a casino host who will explain the entire complimentary program for you.
While high rollers usually get RFB comps, players with more modest budgets can still qualify for food comps and sometimes room comps as well. Talk to casino marketing staff when planning a trip if you don’t feel comfortable betting at high levels for so long, or you’re not too sure of your level of comp worthiness. They’ll talk you through your style of play, and let you know the requirements for the different comp levels. Marketing departments usually have toll-free 800 numbers, or you can find casino phone numbers online.
How To Sleep Cheap Anyway
You can usually get the casino rate, which is 50 percent off the regular room rate, even if you aren’t able to get your room fully comped. It often only takes 4 hours of table games at $5 to $25 per hand to earn a night of inexpensive accommodations.
Slots players can get the casino rate from most slots clubs. Strip hotels are a bit less liberal with casino rates and slots than the downtown Las Vegas hotels. The easiest way to find out how to qualify for the casino rate is to call the casino marketing departments for wherever you’re planning to go. You can also ask about getting the casino rate when you check in at your destination. If you manage to qualify for it, the front desk will switch your reservation to the casino rate when you check out. You can even stay on the casino rate list for the entire year once you’ve qualified, no matter how often you make the trip!
You don’t necessarily even have to be a player to cash in on the fun in Vegas. Using coupons from place to place and collecting giveaways is a good way to grab cheap fun.
Are Slots Clubs for You?
Slots players generate more than 60 percent of a casino’s revenue these days. Casinos have realized this, and begun catering to them because of it. Slot machines are no longer scattered around the outer edges of the house. The competition for attracting slots players has become downright ruthless between casinos.
Almost all of the casinos in both Atlantic City and Las Vegas have slots clubs now, and joining as many as you can is a great way to earn rewards. Once you’ve joined, you’ll begin receiving tournament invitations, qualify for reduced rates on rooms, and even get birthday cards and party invitations from the casino!
Casino credits will start racking up for you every time you play slots or video poker after you’ve joined a club. Just ask to sign up at the casino slots club booth. You’ll be asked by the host or hostess to fill out an application as they explain to you how the club operates, then give you your very own plastic club card.
Be sure to insert your card into the card reader at every machine you play. The reader keeps track of how many coins you play at the machine, uploading that information to the slots club’s computer. Always be sure to take your card with you when leaving a machine. You’ll need to insert your card into the next machine you play to continue earning credits. Most casinos are even willing to give you multiple cards if you feel like playing two or three machines at once. You can also give one of your cards to a friend and earn credits on their playing, too.
Don’t forget that if you win $1,200 or more playing slots, the casino reports your winnings to the Internal Revenue Service. To offset these taxes, be sure that you keep track of your losses as well. One of the benefits of joining an automated slots club is that the casino can supply records about which machines you played and how much you lost at them. Whatever you do, don’t try to stiff the IRS on your gambling wins; those guys play rougher than any casino.
How Casinos Track Your Play
A casino can keep track of how much action you’re giving them if they have an automated player-tracking system. They’ll even track marketing information about you: which machines are your favorites, how much you’re playing for, and how well you’re doing at given point during the day. The automated system also keeps track of the popular machines in general, as well as how often those machines payout to players.
Management tracks down the players worthy of exquisite treatment using this information. They plan out the casino’s floor space based on which machines players most want to play. It may seem as though the casino is tracking your every move, but this automated system benefits you as well! There are rumors floating around these tracking systems might start appearing at table games, too. With all of this tracking going on, you might as well collect all the credits you can.
At this point, it may seem like a good idea to run out and join every possible slots club available to you, but hold on! Keep in mind that some clubs let you earn your credits and comps from quarter machines and up, but others require you to play at the dollar-machine level. Don’t move up to dollar machines if you’re a quarter-machine player. The credits and comps you earn from the higher level won’t be worth it since you’re playing outside your risk level and bankroll. Join slots clubs that reward quarter players if quarters is your limit. They exist; you just have to track them down!
If dollar slots are more your thing, you’ll have greater playing freedom. The added comps may seem like a great reward, but don’t let them convince you to play beyond your means. Stick to the slots clubs that will reward you for playing the machines you want to play. The increased comps may be better or more abundant, but they’re likely to cost you even more money in the long run.