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The truth about casino comps

May 11, 2004 12:50 AM

This week I’m going to break away from my normal lessons on how to approach the game of video poker — and the one to stay away from. Instead, I will take on a subject that you’ve seen me warn you about many times over: playing for comps instead of for the money.

It’s such a popular subject and I receive so many e-mails on it that I feel it’s about time to clean up any loose ends any of my readers may still have. And what could be more fun than talking about getting things ”˜for free’ anyway?

Back in the days when I played that dreaded long-term strategy, I also played for as many of the comps I could handle. I didn’t have a strategy for any of it — I just took whatever they gave me and felt like a VIP. The casino hosts and managers treated me like royalty, and I just couldn’t get enough of the attention. But during those dark years, I never got to the next level of comps because I didn’t realize there WAS one. Today, pick up most gaming publications and you’ll see one of the famous names blabbing about how much of this or that they got ”˜for free’ while trying to make the rest of us feel like back seat players.

And they’re right. They’ve discovered the many behind-the-scenes things that’s needed to do in order to extract the next yard out of the slot clubs and hosts that many of us never even see. But what does that make them: King of Comps, Queen of Comps, Boss of Comps, or Top Banana of Comps? Well, in a way, yes. These few people really are up near the top when it comes to grabbing more and writing all about it in their columns and books. But I said NEAR the top — not at it.

I’ve studied every comp-hound’s habits at certain casinos, and of course it isn’t difficult finding that they write about the same exploits over and over again. The theme is always the same: Extract a few extras or manipulate a casino error, and that’s a nice little percent or two that can be added to a machine’s theoretical pay out - giving the player who already plays far too often for their own good yet another reason to go in there and do it again. Yes, if a 100% or higher game can be created out of any set of circumstances, it can be beaten. But if it’s a paltry 99.95%, then it’s a sure loser. Such logic in this day and age”¦.

So blinded do players get at the mention of certain casino promotions that only the obvious is now able to come into focus. As soon as they enter the gaming arenas, their savvy in the comp area begins to melt like warm butter. The mere sight of their favorite video poker machines takes over their minds like no other entity can do. And what about those casino hosts, who play the part perfectly of being the player’s best friend in the whole wide world for all gamblers to see? They are in their offices smiling from cheekbone to cheekbone, and writing up their reports on how they ”˜did it again’. Of course, none of it would be possible without the incredible lure of the video poker machines.

Because I will not allow myself ever again to become entangled in and overcome by the thought of receiving countless comps, endless free meals, tantalizing gifts, and more attention than I received as a newborn, my approach to the slot club end of playing video poker is quite different. I have one Play Strategy that I will never again use a card with because of the restrictions and bans I faced in the past, but other than that, I always do use a slot card. And when I do, I’ve been able to squeeze far more than my fair share out of the clubs, and I will continue to do so.

Over the years I have been a reader who has subjected myself to the ramblings of those few who believe they are the end-all in getting the most out of their slot card in the way of freebies. I’ve seen how they sit for hours on end at higher-limit machines just to attain a certain slot club plateau, or to build up enough points to get the free watch or expensive gift. I’ve read where they go in to any number of casinos day after day, always holding several out as their "home away from home" for player loyalty purposes”¦.along with all the ”˜special attention’ that comes with it. And I learned.

These days, I play FAR less than I ever did before. But, I’ve developed a way that gives me FAR more freebies than I’ve ever received in the past — regardless of now nearly unbelievable numbers of hours I played back then. How can that be? Because of the Romp-Thru-Town play strategy I developed a little over a year ago. Since it incorporates hitting as many as 24 different casinos on any one romp (trip) playing limited amounts of time at various machines, the relatively small amount of play I give them all creates an almost insatiable thirst to invite me back in for more play (and most of the time it’s to get their money back). So when I return — and I end up having to toss most of my offers anyway because it would be impossible to make that many trips, eat that much food or see that many shows — the cycle starts up once again. However, this time more than half the offers are their top deal — with free leather jackets, watches, airplane tickets, and suites added in.

But it doesn’t end there. I find that whenever I call and argue for even MORE, I usually get it. I really don’t know exactly why this is, but my guess is that the casinos share information, and because my Romps include play all the way up to the $25 machines at times, they have a need to compete to get my business. Plus, the more I romp, the more the mail box fills up. The God of Comps? No, not really. But it’s certainly several notches above Royalty.