Slot clubs: Are they really there to benefit the average player?

Jan 29, 2001 6:29 AM

Rob Singer

Comps, gifts, jackpot bonuses, recognition, and of course everybody’s favorite — cash back — these are all words readily recognizable to the regular video poker player.

And why not?

Anything that we can get for "free" certainly is well worth the tiny effort. But before we make a final decision on this, let’s take a look at the whole picture, one that many times remains clouded in the minds of gamblers on a one-way mission to winning, or even getting that little extra something for their efforts.

I play all over Nevada, and nowhere else. I have just what you’d expect — a box full of player’s cards from probably every casino that offers one, and I’ve been collecting them for the past 11 years.

Up until about four years ago, I was a strict follower of long-term strategy (playing to the math).

I was only able to play once a month because of my job assignments, but when I did visit the casinos, I played like there was no tomorrow. And I always used my slot club card, which afforded me endless free rooms, gourmet meals, shows, and other impressive gifts.

Cash back really hadn’t been kicked into high gear yet, but it was there. Offers filled my mailbox, and I really felt special. The trouble with all this was the end result. I lost every year — even adding in all the comps, cash, and other goodies I earned by being a loyal customer. I was very disenchanted.

When I changed my play strategy four years ago to one which I developed on my own, I also changed my policy of how I "use" those cards.

My new strategy, which has been consistently successful, tells me it is more important to win than to be constantly playing for the comps. I insert my cards, but not always.

While others manufacture reports of year-end winnings by applying some type of inflated value to all the slot club benefits they’ve received, I simply look at these as a bonus the casino pays for my being a customer at their property. Although I play full-time now, I play far less than years ago due to my ability to quit at pre-determined goals many times each session. My mailbox has a lot more room in it each day, but I win. It is the true meaning of "positive expectation."

I’m sure you’ve seen the slot host or hostess visit players with no cards in their machines, trying to get them to join. It’s all part of the casino’s efforts to reel in repeat customers in a competitive business. I don’t blame them for this. The problem is some people just cannot resist temptation. They make a big deal about the comps, while they pay for them tens or even hundreds of times over.

The game is simple: get the players in, keep them at the machines for as long as possible while recording their play, then rope ’em in over and over again with "free" offers. You decide if it’s been good or bad for you.

(Rob Singer is a professional gambler from Scottsdale, Arizona, and an expert in winning at video poker. His knowledge of the game — and the gaming industry in general — is revealed in his book "The Undeniable Truth About Video Poker." His column appears in GamingToday weekly.)