Evaluating costs vs. benefits of slot club cards

May 29, 2001 10:00 AM
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Most video poker writers - no, make that every video poker writer but me - will tell you not to leave home without your beloved slot club card. Why? Mostly, because of the constant hype slot clubs gets via the media, and from the casinos. Today you’ll learn why the card can, for the right type of player, be a friend, but for most of us, it is a strong foe that we would be far better off living without.

Actually, up until the end of last year, I religiously used my cards everywhere I played. Like many, I took pride in that big box of colorful club cards from all the fancy casinos. Then one day something hit me as I was going through my mail. I received a letter from a major Strip casino telling me they didn’t appreciate my playing methods (when I win my goal, I leave for home), and that I would no longer receive free offers to come in. It was a bit vague but I got the idea. Shortly after that, I called another Strip property for a reservation where I had an offer for two free nights and a show, and an executive casino host took over the call to tell me that my play would have to be evaluated during my visit to actually have my room covered. When I asked why that was, she came right out and said management disliked how I pop in from time to time, win on a consistent basis, then leave. I didn’t argue, because that’s what I do!

I immediately changed my thinking about slot club cards. Since I play professionally and make a sizeable profit doing so, do I really want these people in my business? Of course not. At casinos that give cash-back, I still use the cards, for now, because I am still trying to wean myself from them. Do I miss the comps at other places? Yes, in some cases, but I’ll get over it. And my mailbox has a lot less junk mail to sift through these days.

OK, that’s my circumstance, but what about the rest of the planet? Here’s where common sense comes in, and I just don’t understand how I missed this in all of my years of playing. We’ve all had the "gurus" of the game tell us for years how we are throwing money out the window when we don’t use a slot club card. We hear unwitting people brag about staying at hotels in Las Vegas "for free" for long periods of time, while they are handed free tickets to shows and eat at the best restaurants inside the hotels. Sounds great to most of us, correct? It kind of makes you want to go right out and buy whatever it is these folks are selling, doesn’t it? These people are geniuses, right? Not quite.

Think about what the purpose of the slot club card is. Who came up with the concept, the players? No. IT WAS A CASINO INVENTION! And what is the main reason they came up with this tool? Yes, exactly, to make players believe they are getting something for nothing! And what do most people do who gamble in a casino? LOSE! I believe you’ve got it now, McFly! All casinos know (and players should too, although they try to hide this fact from reality) that players who use cards will normally pay 5-10 times or more for any comps, cash-back, gifts, or anything else they receive from the use of their cards. However, by issuing comps and other goodies, the casino knows the losing players can now return home and have something positive to talk about, as they figure out how to pay the rent. Let me put it another way. If the cards did not mean extreme profits for the casinos, you’d neither see club representatives walking around from machine to machine with clipboards, looking for people playing without a card - ready to sign them up, nor would you see such heavy, expensive promotion of club cards in the media.

How many of you don’t feel your hands start to sweat, your heart start beating faster, or your blood begin to boil as you open that magical piece of mail saying you’re invited in for several days of fun, with free room, food and beverage? Or what about all those slot tournaments you get invited to because you allowed the casino to track your playing habits? You feel special, right? Guess what? You’re feeling exactly as the casino hopes you will, because if you bite, there’s a better than 9 in 10 chance you will make a significant deposit to the machines before you return home. Who do you think gets invited to slot tournaments anyway? And how do you think the casinos are able to hold such lavish functions, hand out all those free rooms and meals, and give away tens of thousands of dollars in cash, gifts, cars, or other prizes? Did you think they were paying for all that from some millionaire’s grant?

I know some of you are going "wait a minute, that’s not me!" I believe you, because not everyone gets caught up in this baloney. A slot club card can be a friend to any player who visits the casinos only several times a year, IF they are able to not overspend their gambling budget if they lose, are capable of doing other things on their trip besides gambling, and DO NOT play for the points in order to chase privileges associated with more play. I believe the key word here is control, a difficult trait when involved in casino action.

But what of these "pros" that make such a big deal over all the goodies they are showered with? Casinos hate them, right? Wrong, in fact, they are loved more than anyone, and not only because of the free advertising they give. You thought they were "killing" the casinos? Name one of these folks you’ve ever heard of who’s been asked not to come back because they are too skillful and win too much. Now list the names of those who you read about all the time telling us how much they win, how many comps they get, and how special they are to be invited to countless tournaments. I think you get the point.

The fact is, for the right person, using a slot club card can be a positive if they know how to control what they are doing. Chasing points for the freebees - something casinos know players do all the time and count on it - makes no sense if you like to win. You want points? Then forget about playing longer than normal for them, and buy that meal or room with your credit card that gives you miles or points with every purchase! It’s an individual decision, but remember, no one ever won because they used their slot club cards, and no one ever will. It takes luck to win, for everybody.