Don’t pay for comps

Mar 8, 2004 10:42 PM

Getting comps has, for the last seven or so years of my playing video poker, never really been a driving factor in gambling for me. Certainly, when I played expert/optimal/computer-
perfect strategy from 1990-1996, I always wanted to see how much I could get "for free" and when anything was handed over to me I admittedly was thrilled.

Getting comps, the VIP treatment, and especially all those offers in the mail that I could not possibly have used was the end-all. I loved the recognition and the attention. Only problem was, I was constantly funneling money into the casino’s bank accounts through the use of their video poker machines. It’s easy now for me to see the incredible contradiction of my ways, but when being controlled by the powerful marketing forces of the slot club programs, all is not so readily visible.

Now that I look back at all that nonsense, aside from shaking my head I have to wonder how so many players today can continuously be bamboozled.

When you play and lose most of the time, you become disinterested in keeping records of your play other than what’s required for IRS purposes. I have no real idea of the value of the numerous comps I received in the past, but I can estimate. Bottom line: Even if I tripled the value of all the goodies I was still a loser!

To expand upon my point, I’ll take you back to a real-life experience (and lesson for future discipline) that I had in 1995 ”” which to me is the epitome of all slot club genius. Several weeks earlier I walked into the MGM (where I occasionally played at the time) with $4500 after hitting a dollar Royal over at the RIO. Back then, I would never had thought of going home with the winnings. After all, ”˜experts’ don’t do that. Upon wandering the massive casino floor I discovered something I never knew existed in there: the Hollywood Slots area of high-limit slot and video poker machines. When I walked in my eye was caught by the $100 9/6 Jacks or Better games. I was immediately under a spell that could only be lifted by some play.

And play I did”¦ only it was just one hand. After almost reluctantly inserting five $100 coins into the slot, the machine I chose dealt me four 10’s for a $12,000 profit! In amazement, I was paid and got up to leave ”” but not without a slot hostess nearly begging me to stay. She said I’d be back and I said I wouldn’t. Guess who was right.

As sure as the sun coming up over the horizon each morning
in Arizona, soon enough there was a very tempting offer in my mail box from the MGM. It was a little over-the-top, I thought, for my overall level of play there, but in hindsight it had a very targeted purpose. It said "We like to invite you and up to 3 other guests in for 4 nights, with complete RFB and limo pick-up at the airport if needed." Naturally I made a call to confirm this almost unbelievable deal. Yes, it was true. Yes, all of us could eat any any restaurant free of charge. And yes, all shows were covered as long as we stayed. There were no stipulations, and if I did not play I am sure they would simply write it off as a mistake.

A week later I gathered my wife, teenage daughter and a friend of hers, and grabbed $20,000 in cash. I certainly didn’t expect to lose any of it — as every gambler feels before they travel to their gaming destination. We went to the Phoenix airport, and as soon as we arrived in Las Vegas we were treated first class all the way. Into an area now called The Mansion we went. I still couldn’t believe it.

Of course, we all ate very well, we saw every show (including what I consider the best EFX show in its run - with Michael Crawford), and we had the time of our lives. But guess what? We returned home without a dime. Did the slot club do their job on me perfectly or what? The casino got their $12,000 back along with $8,000 of mine. What does that say to you? I know that some of you comp-hounds out there are saying I probably got my money’s worth in freebies. Really? Did we eat, drink, sleep and entertain our way through $8,000 in 4 days?

These days, my offers were far and few between because I at times play without a card. But since I’ve invented Romp-Thru-Town style of play, I almost always use my cards everywhere I go. The results have been interesting. I do not play for long at any one location, and I win at a 90% clip. But I’ve found that since I dabble in up to the $10 games, casinos seem to have no choice but to send me some of their top offers as they try their best to get their money back.

My enjoyment comes in the form of MY enticing THEM to give me whatever they feel will get me back in, and then I do it all over again. I play very little in all but a few casinos, and they can’t help themselves as they fire out the offers. It took a while, but I now control them. They actually pay me to be there, when in the past I paid dearly. Think of that the next time you read about our so-called comp specialists out there who get dizzying offers and gifts all the time. Make sense yet?