Most of my readers probably already know that you can get a lot of free stuff in Las Vegas. What they might not know is how to get free rooms, food, and beverages in Las Vegas on a consistent basis. This post addresses that question.
The thing about all the famous freebies in Vegas is that they aren’t really free. To get the free stuff, you must gamble. And all the casino games are rigged in favor of the house. I don’t mean that the casinos cheat by using non-random outcomes. I just mean that the math that governs the payouts for these games ensure the casino a profit because of the difference between the odds of winning the odds that you get paid.
Which brings me to the 1st rule of getting free stuff at the casino. It’s about the action you bring, not necessarily how much you lose. I’ll explain the difference below.
The only thing you need to do to get free stuff at the casino is gamble. They’ll give you free stuff even if you’re winning. If you’re confused as to why, it’s because you don’t understand the math and probability well enough.Let’s take roulette as an example. You have 38 numbers on the wheel, and if you bet on a single number and win, you get a 35 to 1 payoff. This means the odds of winning are 37 to 1, but the payoff is much smaller than that. If you’ve ever sat at a roulette table—or even played a game of chance—you’ll probably understand that it’s not unusual for a number to come up more than once in the course of 10 or 20 spins. That’s because each spin of the wheel is a random, independent event.
When you sit down at the table for half an hour, you’re dealing with 17 or 18 spins. If you win, great—you’re ahead for the session, almost certainly. If not, well, that’s how it goes. The casino doesn’t care, though, because you’re bringing them closer to the long run, where their theoretical mathematical edge starts to become reality.
The casino defines your “action” as the amount of money you bet, regardless of whether you win or lose. The more action you bring the casino, the likelier they are to profit. Even if they don’t profit, the rooms, food, and beverages they’re giving away represent a small cost compared to the amount of money they win per average gambler.
2- Join the Players Club
The way the casino tracks your action is via your players club card. Anyone can get a free drink at most casinos without a players club card, but the other freebies are based on the action as it gets tracked on your card. Signing up for a players club card is easy and straightforward.
But it has both advantages and disadvantages. The casino knows that by incentivizing you, they’ll get you to play more. Their hope is that the expected value of your additional losses based on that extra play will more than pay for your comps.
Here’s an example:
Let’s say you’re a slot machine gambler who visits the Winstar Casino in Oklahoma 4 times a year. You spend 4 hours or so playing slot machines, and you lose an average of $100 per visit. Your action might be $1000 worth of bets per trip.
The casino gives you $20 or $30 in freebies for each visit, but they also have “tiers” based on how much action you bring them. You’re right on the edge of moving up to another tier and getting better rewards, so now you start visiting the casino 8 times a year instead of 4 times a year.
For example, that buffet that costs $21 only amounts to $7 in food costs for the casino. I’m not saying the players club card is a scam at all. I’m trying to explain why it makes sense for the casino to offer it. They even use the players club card to track your action at their table games. They base that on an estimate based on your rating—how much you’re betting on average and how many bets you’re making per hour.
3- Always Insert the Players Club Card When Playing on a Machine
You’ll find plenty of slot machine nuts who are convinced that when you use the players club card on a slot machine, your probability of winning goes down. That’s simply not true.
I’ve already explained why the casino doesn’t mind you winning. They don’t care about an individual’s wins or losses on a single trip to the casino. They’re playing the long game. If you win in the short run, great! You’ll be back to play again, and they’ll get to whittle away at your bankroll with the house edge some more. The card reader simply tracks how much money you’re running through the machine so that the casino knows how much to award you. The devices that power the results—the random number generator software—are not connected to the club card reader.
Let me ask you this question, though:
Why would the casinos punish you for using a tracking device and advertising tool that they put in place themselves? It just doesn’t make sense. You might object to the players club card because you don’t want to subject yourself to additional advertising from the casino. That’s a rational reason for not using the players club card. But don’t miss out on the comps because you think you’re going to miss out on casino winnings otherwise. That’s just not how it works.
4- Always Present the Players Club Card to the Dealer When Playing Table Games
When you’re playing a table game like blackjack or roulette, you should present your players club card to the dealer when you start. They’ll rate you based on how much money you’re betting per hand. Then they’ll track how many hands you play.By the nature of this system, this is just an estimate. If you can give them reason to believe you’re betting more per hand than you are, you can earn more comps than you’re possibly due. Max Rubin explains this in some detail in his book, Comp City.
Here’s an example from the blackjack table:
You sit down at the blackjack table with the intention of averaging $10/hand. You want the casino to think you’re risking an average of $50/hand, though. You might start by betting $50/hand on the 1st couple of bets. If you win, you might let your winnings ride now and then. You might even throw in some $100 bets later if you’re getting lucky.
If you play perfect basic strategy, you also stand to lose less over time than the average player. A basic strategy blackjack player can whittle the house edge down to between 0.5% and 1%. The average blackjack player loses closer to 4%. This again multiplies the amount of comps you’re getting, again, by a similar factor. I understand that some people don’t want to use the players club card for reasons of their own. But if you have a card, use it. That’s how you get the free stuff.
5- Ask, Ask, Ask
It doesn’t hurt to be aggressive when asking for comps. The pit bosses have a certain amount of authority when giving out freebies right there on the floor without the players club card. The easiest free stuff to get is a meal at one of the lower-priced restaurants at the casino, like the coffee shop.
In the case of earning comps at the casino, they’re the customer, and you’re the salesperson. You want to sell them on the idea that you’re going to give them a lot of action. And it’s your job to ask for rewards for that action. Don’t be shy. Don’t be afraid to have a little bit of an attitude about it, either. You can get away with saying a lot if you have a twinkle in your eye and a smile on your face.
6- Tip Well
The easiest freebie to get at the casino is a cocktail. All you need to do to earn a free drink is gamble. You should be able to get the attention of a cocktail waitress without too much trouble. When she brings you a drink, give her a $5 tip. That will keep her checking back with you and bringing more drinks. You can start tipping her $1 every time she brings you a drink after the 1st one.When you’re playing blackjack, tip the dealer or place a bet on his behalf, especially when you’re winning. They have some leeway when deciding how to rate your play. If they like you, they might rate you for playing for more money than you’re actually playing for.
Tipping well also ensures that you’re well-liked at the casino. It’s always easier to get what you want to when people like you. People in the service industry like customers who tip.
7- Use Google and Bing
You can find lots of freebies and special offers at casinos just by doing some inventive searching on the internet. For example, you might search for the phrase “Las Vegas special offers and freebies.” You’ll be surprised at the volume of results you’ll see for that search.
Not all of the offers you find using a search engine are going to be valid. Some of them might have expiration dates. But the better you are at researching freebies online, the more free stuff you’ll be able to get. You can probably come up with search strings just as good (or better) than mine. Have fun with it, be specific, and use at least 4 or 5 words in your search phrase.
Getting free rooms, food, and beverage from the casinos is easy if you’re gambling. It gets easier when you understand how the comp system works, because that’s the best way to take advantage of it. It’s a good idea to dispel some of the myths surrounding the players club card, for example.
I have 3 resources to recommend the aspiring Las Vegas freebie hunter, by the way:
- Las Vegas Advisor – This is a subscription newsletter which describes a lot of the best offers in Las Vegas. You can find lots of opportunities to get free stuff by subscribing to Las Vegas Advisor. It costs a little money, but it’s worth it.
- Comp City by Max Rubin – This is the original book about how to get the most out of the comps system in Vegas. The book is a little dated now, but it still has much to offer the aspiring comp wizard.
- The Frugal Gambling books by Jean Scott – Rubin focuses mostly on how to get free stuff while playing blackjack. Jean Scott doesn’t have as big a bankroll, so she focuses more on video poker. She focuses more on the smaller comps, too—her book is probably more appropriate for readers of this column.
Next time you’re in a casino, speak up and ask for the free stuff. That’s how you get it.