Getting the Most from Your Slot Play
Points, Bounceback, Mail Offers and Good Machines
by Frank Scoblete
The savvy slot player knows that there is more to playing slots than just putting in your coins or paper and watching the reels spin while hoping and praying that a win is in the next decision. There are three elements to successful slots play. These are:
1. Always play the machines with the best returns.
2. Always use your player’s card when you play.
3. Always take advantage of as many of the casino’s comps as you can.
The fact is that there are good slot players and there are bad slot players, just as there are good and bad doctors, dentists, dancers and detectives. Some slot players just walk into the casino, plop themselves down on a chair and start playing this, that, or the other machine, never knowing if the machine is any good in its payback return. They don’t use a player’s club card either, so all their play is hit or miss. They get no extras from the casino marketers.
The Ploppies, as I have dubbed the outrageously poor casino players that litter the gambling landscape, don’t know what they are missing—and they don’t care. They are like drivers heading 100 miles per hour into a solid brick wall. They figure luck will decide their fate. I’d bet the brick wall wins every time.
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of all the casino perks offered slot players, let’s first outline what machines you should play in order to get these perks with the least cost to yourself. The casinos want you to play, play and play some more in order for the house edge to grind away at your bankroll. We want to play, yes, but we want to select machines that give us the least house edge to go up against.
The machines with the highest house edges are the progressive machines that offer million –dollar prizes. These progressives are usually holding about 15 percent of all the money played in them. That means for every $100 you wager, your average loss will be $15. It’s hard to come away a winner facing such edges—they are the brick walls of slot play.
Now if you take a careful look at the Strictly Slots payback percentages on the machines in this issue, you will see a curious thing. The 25-cent and dollar machines are returning a lot more than 85 percent of the money played in them. Why is this? Because there are machines out there that are giving good returns in all denominations. These good machines are in all casinos. These machines are not, I repeat, are not those progressives with million-dollar jackpots. They are stand-alone machines with fixed pay schedules. So just by playing the non-progressives, you have given yourself a much better chance to win today or tonight.
The Player’s Card
The casinos all want to give you “free” treats, known as comps, based on your play. Actually, the “free” treats they want to give you are based on your theoretical loss at the type of machine that you are playing. Some casinos actually have a different formula for different machines—which means they give you more “free” stuff because you lost more on the progressives. They give you less free stuff because you are playing high return video poker machines.
My advice—even if your casino does this comping formula machine-by-machine—don’t play the progressives. The value of the comps they are giving you will not make up the difference between your losses at the progressives and your losses on stand-alone machines. You are almost always better off playing stand-alones. (There are rare cases where some progressives get to a point where they are good bets—but as a rule of thumb, they aren’t, so pass them by.)
While different casinos might call this theoretical loss something else (like total wager, player expectation and we gotcha!), the effects are the same. The casino will give you back a percentage of your theoretical loss in the form of comps. But you get nothing if you don’t use your player’s card.
The world of free casino stuff for slot playing is a strange world indeed. It is all based on points, and some slot clubs make it very hard to figure it all out. However, in general, you play “X” amount of money in the machine and you get “Y” points. If you play $100 through a machine, you might get five points. Each five points is worth one dollar. If the machine is calculated as holding a five percent edge over you, then you lose a theoretical five dollars but you got one dollar back.
All casinos have their own methods for determining points, so my example is just one of hundreds of possible ways the casino figures out what you are worth to them. That’s fine. Our job as players is to determine how valuable the casino is for us. Casinos shouldn’t be the only ones in the judging business.
If the casino merely gave you a dollar credit on the machine every time you put through a hundred dollars, figuring out comps would be an easy thing to do. But that is not what the casino does. There are a whole host of comps the casino gives slot players based on the theoretical loss.
Let us say that you put through $10,000 in a machine. You won some spins, lost more spins, but after all was said and done, you played that $10,000. The casino gives you back 500 points, which is $100. (If the machine is holding five percent of all money played, your theoretical loss is $500.)
Now, the casino has to decide how to give you back your $100. Rarely does the casino slot executive walk up to you and hand you the $100. (“Here you go, Sally, thanks for playing.”) The casino brain trust wants to give you your comps in a way that makes you want to come back to the casino again. Here are the most common ways the casino gives you back your comps based on your theoretical loss. (I’ll use $100 as the amount they are returning to you.)
Same-Day Cash-Back: The casino might give you a percentage of your comps as same-day cash-back. That is almost the same as the casino slot executive walking up to you and handing you some money. However, you have to go over to the slot player’s club desk to get the cash-back or put your card into one of the automatic kiosks that can print you up the necessary cash-back coupon. The casino might give you $20 for your same-day cash-back in our example.
Bounce-back Cash: So you now go home and several days later you receive a coupon or check worth $60 for your next trip. (“Thanks for coming to our casino, Jim, and we want you to come back again soon, so here’s $60 for you that you can use on your next visit! Coupon expires by such and such a date.”) The thing is you have to go back to the casino to cash in the coupon or check you received in the mail. The casino wants you to “bounce back” to them. You can’t get the money if you don’t show your face on the property. The casino assumes, correctly, that most slot players who come back with their bounceback coupons or checks will play the machines.
Mail Offers: All mail offers are bounce-backs. Let’s see how these work. Okay, you’ve gotten $80 back in the form of same day cash-back and bounce-back coupon or check. Now you note that a mailer has been sent to you offering you discounted or free rooms, a super-dooper pooper-scooper for your doggie or a “never dies ever” flashlight for your car. These offers change on a monthly basis—sometimes on a weekly basis—and some slot players have gotten so much stuff from the casinos that they have to put it all in specially-built rooms in their homes! The mail offers usually reflect the level of play that you are at. With the remaining $20 in comps coming your way, you can estimate that the super-dooper pooper-scooper and the “never dies ever” flashlight will be valued at around $20.
Okay, the comping I have outlined all looks pretty easy up to this point. However, casino marketing executives must earn their salaries and their Rolls Royces and to do that, the saying around marketing enclaves is, “Hey, that’s too darn easy!” Marketing executives don’t want you to know exactly how they figure out the total comp package you can get for your play, so the example I gave above will not fit most casino slot clubs perfectly. It is, as we say in non-marketing circles, an easy norm to understand. But there is more added to the comp package and you can take advantage of these add-ons.
In slow months—and most casinos still have slow months all around this gambling land of ours—the comps will be greater because the casinos can’t make money if you aren’t in their pleasure palaces playing their machines. So instead of the normal $60 bounce-back mentioned above, you get a $100 bounce-back coupon in February and March. But come April, you suddenly get that $60 again. You get free rooms in February and March but you have to pay a small price the rest of the year. You get crystal glasses in those slow months, but ashtrays in May. Café in February; buffet in May.
In “locals” casinos in Vegas and other states, you will find that certain days of the week that used to be considered slow now offer double, triple or more points for your play. Many of these days aren’t that slow anymore. Rather than end these special “extra point days,” some casinos will subtract points if they ascertain that you only play on these “extra point days.” Yes, that is a little weird isn’t it; they give you points and subtract points at the same time?
Now there are some things you should keep in mind about points—they come and go. If you take your bounce-back coupon to the casino, cash it, and head out the door, it is quite possible, even likely, that the casino will judge that trip as a zero dollar one—and reduce your theoretical loss on your next mailings. You get no points for no play. In fact, you lose points. However, some casinos will give you extra points if you have a credit line. Casinos like credit players because that credit line is there to be played and gives the casino a good insight into what you are willing to lose. Credit players are cash in the casinos’ vaults.
Now, the best way to find out how the casino figures all this out is to call them. You can ask to speak with a slot host who should know the formula for the full range of comps. That doesn’t mean he’ll tell you all the ins and outs, but he’ll tell you enough ins and enough outs to give you a solid idea of whether this club is one you want to be in.
In some venues, such as Atlantic City, the formulas can be so arcane that even Einstein, the great thinker who said that God doesn’t play dice with the universe, wouldn’t be able to figure them out. So there is a good chance the Atlantic City casino slot host you call will not know exactly how everything works. But he should have some idea, however vague, of what kind of play will give you what kind of general comp.
Be warned about Atlantic City: Because the New Jersey legislature has passed some weird gambling laws, there are certain things the casino hosts can’t say—for example, anything that encourages people to gamble is verboten. Yes, that is strange. But Jersey is strange, so there is a nice fit.
Okay, let’s sum it all up: Play good machines, get a player’s card and get those comps and you will be one happy slot player.
Frank Scoblete is the #1 best-selling gaming author. He is executive director of the Golden Touch advantage-play seminars in craps and blackjack. If you are looking to get an edge using a controlled dice throw or to learn the revolutionary and easiest advantage-play method at blackjack, call 1-800-944-0406. Frank’s websites are www.goldentouchcraps.com, www.goldentouchblackjack.com and www.scoblete.com in association with CasinoCity.com. His newest book is The Golden Touch Dice Control Revolution! For more information or a free brochure, call 1-800-944-0406 or write to Frank Scoblete Enterprises, PO Box 446, Malverne, NY 11565.
Getting the Most from Your Slot Play.