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Getting those comps

6 August 2015

Comps are part of the fun of playing in casinos. When it comes to mealtime, free is the right price — even if you’re a low-limit player who snags that buffet comp only once every three or four visits.

But casinos can’t comp you if they don’t know who you are. The process starts with signing up for a players' club card and using it while you play.

That’s something a Missouri reader named Eileen discovered when she and her husband Ernie went on their first casino trip.

“Friends of ours had been going to Las Vegas for a long time, and they told about free food and discounted rooms and all the cool stuff they were getting,” she said. “So the first time Ernie and I went, I decided to play some blackjack while he was exploring.

“After a few hands, I asked the dealer how I could get lunch for free. He called over the supervisor, and the supervisor asked for my card. I asked, ‘What card?’ He said the players' club card, that I could sign up for one right there. I told him I didn’t want to give personal information, and he said everybody did, that’s how comps worked.

“I told him I’d be surprised if everyone did, and he pointed out other players at table and said, ‘Look, Jim over there, I have his card. He’s in my computer. Gavin, I have his card, he’s in my computer. You, you’re not in my computer. Right now, you’re a no-name filling a stool, and there are no comps for no-names or stools.’

“He didn’t exactly break it to me gently, did he? But I survived, and Ernie and I got cards later that day.”

Eileen said she now plays about once a month at casinos closer to home, and she has a number of cards. I have dozens – probably hundreds – of them. In many cases, my cards include several versions from the same casino as its club has evolved, such as Harrah’s cards from Atlantic City, Las Vegas, Reno and Joliet, Illinois, in the days before Total Rewards unified them under one national card.

There are ways to maximize your comps while conserving your cash, such as playing at expert level in low house-edge games, taking advantage of multiple-points days, participating in promotions. Jean Scott, “the Queen of Comps” and a high-level video poker player, describes the ins and outs in her books “The Frugal Gambler” and “The Frugal Gambler II.” Max Rubin, who’s been around casinos for decades as a player, consultant and executive, described the pursuit of comps from a blackjack player’s perspective in “Comp City.”

That doesn’t mean I recommend playing more or raising your bets in pursuit of free play, complimentary meals, show tickets or hotel rooms. It’s best just to play your normal amount, not put undue stress on your bankroll, and take whatever comes in return. It’s far too easy to spend more on the games than the value of the comp you’re pursuing.

If you’re a low-limit slot player and find you’re just getting $5 in free play and that it takes three or four trips before you can get a complimentary buffet, then so be it. There’s no point in spending an extra few hundred dollars at a slot machine in pursuit of a $15 meal comp.

Still, even just taking the little comps as they come requires signing up for a card first. Eileen will tell you it doesn’t hurt.

“I didn’t want to be a stool, did I?” she said, laughing.

Look for John Grochowski on Facebook (http://tinyurl.com/7lzdt44) and Twitter (@GrochowskiJ).
Recent Articles
Best of John Grochowski
John Grochowski

John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

The Craps Answer Book

> More Books By John Grochowski

John Grochowski
John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

> More Books By John Grochowski