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Reason I like Bovada #2:

Good Odds

Bovada online casino ad

The odds are always against you when you gamble, so it pays to play at a casino that offers good odds.  I spent quite a bit of time looking for an online casino with better-than-average odds, and the result is Bovada.  Let me first tell you about the competition, though.

Most online casinos are too greedy when setting the odds on their games.  They think they'll make more money by setting the games tighter, so the player has less chance of winning, but they're wrong.&nsbp; Most gamblers eventually gamble away all their playing budget anyway.  They're going to lose the same amount of money no matter what, the only question is how long it takes them to do so.  And when they play at a tight casino and lose quickly, they're less likely to return.

A casino which offers good odds will make just as much money as a tight casino, because the players will usually gamble away whatever they deposit anyway, no matter what the odds.  The only difference is that with better odds, they'll get to play longer before they go bust.  And that means they had more fun in the process, and they're more likely to return.

Bovada is one of they few casinos that understands this.  They offer games with good odds, knowing that if your money lasts longer, you'll be a happier, loyal customer.  Among their offerings are:

  • Two blackjack games returning over 99.8%
  • Single-0 roulette
  • Full-pay Jacks or Better (99.54%)
  • Nine other video poker games returning over 99%

You don't have to play at Bovada, but wherever you play, make sure they offer odds at least this good!

Try their blackjack for free.
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Gambling problem?
  1. Call the 800-522-4700 hotline or get online help
  2. See these horror stories.
  3. Know that Parkinson's drugs encourage gambling.
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free slots now

Gambling problem?
  1. Call the 800-522-4700 hotline or get online help
  2. See these horror stories.
  3. Know that Parkinson's drugs encourage gambling.
Example of a comp offer I just in an email from Mandalay Bay:

How to get casino comps

Last update: August 2017

My #1 tip on this website is to sign up for a free Player's Card at every casino you visit, because then they'll send you offers for severely discounted or even free hotel stays.  Even if you don't gamble, you'll likely get some of these offers, just by having signed up for the card.  In fact, many casinos will give you something on the spot just for having signed up for the card, like a t-shirt, free slot play, or coupon book.  This is the easiest discount or freebie you'll ever get.  Just go to the Player's Club and sign up for the card!

In fact, you can often sign up on the casino's website.  So you can easily collect your cards without having to physically visit the different casinos.  And you don't even have to sign up at every casino, because any casino's card works in any other casino owned by the same company.  For example, the M Life card works at a whopping nine casinos (Mandalay Bay, Luxor, Excalibur, New York New York,  Monte Carlo, MGM Grand, Aria, Bellagio, and the Mirage), and the Total Rewards card works at nine more (Bally's, Caesars Palace, The Cromwell, Flamingo, Harrah's, LINQ, Paris, Planet Hollywood, and Rio).  So signing up for the MGM/Mirage card and the Total Rewards card will cover 18 of the casinos in Vegas.

Of course, if you do gamble you can get even more from the casino.  They'll give you meals, show tickets, or free or discounted rooms as a reward for your gambling.  They'll generally give you back about 30% of your expected loss, in the form of comps—if you ask for them.  In fact, between comps and offers to come back to the hotel, Atlantic City casinos give away almost two-thirds of their hotel rooms for free.  I don't know the figures for Vegas, but it's got to be significant.

Don't play just to get comps!  That's like spending a dollar to save a quarter.  If your expected loss is $100 and the casino gives you $30 in "freebies", those freebies have still cost you $70.  In fact, I'd like you to consider not gambling at all.  That's because the odds are stacked against you and you'll probably lose.

But I know you'll probably gamble anyway because that's why most people come to Vegas, so if you must gamble then please at least choose the games with the best odds:

Don't play Do play

You get less comps by playing the better games because you lose less money, but that's to your advantage.  Again, you don't want to lose more than necessary just to get a "free" meal.  For example, for four hours of play:

Slots, 25¢ x3
Craps, $5
Est. Loss
Est. Comps earned
Net loss per 4 hours

Slots get you more comps for sure, but only because you're losing more.  If you play craps instead you'll save $51/hr. on average.  In fact, your savings from playing craps could let you buy a couple of buffets and not even have to worry about comps.

Here's a more complete list of games for four hours of play.  Remember, you earn comps by how much you play, not how much you lose.  The casino looks at your expected loss, not your actual loss (or win).

Typical Comps Earned (and typical net loss after comps)

5¢ x5
25¢ x3
$1 x2
Video poker,
25¢ x5
Video poker,
$1 x5
Other table games, $5

Avg. hourly loss


Avg. hourly comps


Net hourly loss

See assumptions.

This means if you do play, play the games in the green boxes to lose the least amount of money.  And make sure to use the proper strategy.


How to earn casino comps

To get credit for your play, you'll need a free Player's Card.  Go to the Player's Club desk or to the casino website and sign up for one.  You should get a card even if you don't intend to gamble much, because just by having one the casino will often mail you offers for severely discounted rooms, sometimes even free.

Okay, so you've got your card.  If you play slot machines (and I hope you don't) or video poker, just stick the card in the machine before you play.  The little printout on the card reader will tell you how many comp points you've earned, and the better casinos will have a brochure at the Player's Club desk to tell you how many points you need in order to get a buffet, a room discount, etc.

If you play table games, just set your card down next to your money when you're buying chips, and the dealer will handle it to the floorperson.  With table games you'll get credit in the computer system, but you can't see it.  (And no, it doesn't work to play some table games and then stick your card in a machine. You still won't see your credit from table games; your table game credit is always invisible.)  To figure your comp credit from table games, use my table above.  If you want to figure it yourself, then you'd use this formula:

$ per round × rounds per hour × house edge x rebate % = Comps

For example, let's say you play roulette at $5 per round for two hours.  That would be $5 x 38 rounds/hr x 5.26% x 30% = $3.  For the rounds per hour, every casino uses their own in-house figure, but they're pretty similar from one casino to the next.  Most if not all casinos use one "speed" for each specific game, regardless of how many people are at the table or how fast the game is actually played.  Typical rounds per hour figures are blackjack & baccarat=70, roulette=38, craps=48.  (Here's a source for those figures, and here are the actual typical rounds per hour, depending on how many people are at the table.)  For the house edge part of the formula, see my special page about the house edge.

Comps are usually based on how much you play, not how much you lose.  You'll still get comps even if you win.  The casino knows that $X of wagers is worth $Y of profit to them on average, so they just look at the amount you bet and pretty much ignore whether you won or lost.

One exception is that you can get more comps if you have a large loss.  What qualifies as "large" depends on the size of the casino.  The smaller the casino, the less you have to lose to get your consolation prize.  At the Hard Rock Casino, which is pretty small, a loss of more than $4000 can reportedly net you 10% of your loss in comps.

Another exception is that you can get big comps if you have a large win.  When you win big the casino will comp the hell out of you to keep you in the casino so they can win their money back from you.  You might be surprised that when you win big the pit boss won't be sour, s/he'll be happy for you, and eagerly congratulate you on your good fortune.  You can also expect to stay in a nice comped room or suite -- for as long as it takes for you to lose the money you won.

Sample Comp Offers the casinos sent me

  • 1 night free
Mandalay Bay
  • 2 nights free
  • 3 nights free
  • $50 in freeplay
  • Free access to spa for 2 people for 2 days, plus $50 credit towards spa services
  • 4 nights free
  • $200 in bonus chips
  • 2 Complimentary Midweek Nights & a $30 discount per extra room night
  • Complimentary Room Upgrade to a Tower Room
  • $25 in Promotional Gaming Chips
  • Players Club check-in at Main Lobby
  • Complimentary admission to Nurture, the spa
  • 3 nights free plus two tickets to Le Reve
  • I still get these offers eleven years after my last stay, and with only minimal gambling back then.


How to claim your comps

To get your goodies you generally have to ask for them.  If you play machines, go back to the Player's Club and they can hook you up with buffets or whatever else you've earned.  For table game players, ask the floorperson.  (The person in the suit who supervises the dealers.)  If you're not sure how much you have to play to get what you want, ask.  They usually won't give you a very specific answer, but they can give you a good clue.

Use 'em or lose 'em

At the strip and downtown casinos, the points you earn are usually good only for your current "trip", and disappear from your card after a month or two.  You might still get offers in the mail for free or discounted rooms, but you can't redeem your old points for, say, a buffet on your next trip, because when you return to Vegas those points will be gone.  (I'm currently compiling a list of how long points last at various casinos.  If you know how long points last at any Vegas casino, please let me know!)

Milking comps

When you play table games your comps are based on your average bet size.  The pit crew looks at how much you're betting and punches that figure into their little computer.  The most important bet is the first one you make when you sit down, and the next few are the bets right after that.  If you bet higher than normal for the first few hands, the pit boss may record a higher average bet size for you in the system.

Another way to milk comps is to slow the play down.   Play at a full table, and take your time making decisions.   The slower you play, the less you'll lose -- but you'll probably get comped as though you were playing at normal speed.   Of course, don't slow down so much that you annoy the other players!

You can read more about taking advantage of comps in the books The Frugal Gambler and Comp City.

Skip the Venetian and Palazzo

In February 2011 the Venetian and Palazzo made the controversial decision to stop offering comps for any but the high rollers.  (LV Review-Journal)  So unless you're a high roller, skip those casinos, because you won't get comps there.  The Venetian had the worst slot odds of any casino in the Wizard of Odds slot survey, anyway.

Drinks to disappear for low-rollers?

The most famous comp and the easiest one to get has always been free drinks.  You play any game, even penny slots, and the cocktail waitress will bring you as much as you can pack away, one drink at a time.  Well, as of Oct. 2016, Caesars Entertainment and MGM Resorts (which collectively own most of the casinos on the strip) are experimenting with rigging the machines to make sure you're betting enough before they serve you (either by having a light come on to show that you've earned a drink, or else printing out a voucher for a free one).  But I'm skeptical that this will be the end of free drinks for low-rollers.  First of all, most gamblers have earned their free drinks, and the casinos would probably spend more time and money trying to deny free drinks to those few who don't "deserve" them rather than just giving drinks to everyone like they always have.  Second, the cocktail waitresses are the gatekeepers: they earn their living from tips, and couldn't give a flying flip whether you "deserve" your drink as long as you're tipping.  I'm confident that if you wave a dollar around you'll get your first drink, and as long as you tip at least a dollar every other drink they'll keep coming.  Oh, you wonder whether the waitresses would get in trouble for that?  Well, that would require someone supervising them closely to make sure they don't give out drinks to the few patrons who haven't "earned" them.  The labor cost of such supervision would dwarf the cost of just giving free drinks to all.  So, I don't think the waitresses are gonna have managers scrutinizing their every move; it's just too expensive.

Assumptions for the expected loss/comps table above: Proper strategy assumed. All results are rounded. Comp credit = 30% of theoretical loss. Slots house edge at 7%, 6%, and 5% respectively on 5¢, 25¢, and $1 machines. Slots played at 500 spins/hr. Video poker house edge at 3%, and 2% respectively on 25¢, and $1 machines. Video poker played at 400 hands/hr. Blackjack = 0.75% house edge and 70 hands/hr. Baccarat 1.2% house edge and 72 hands/hr. Craps 1.6% house edge and 48 rounds/hr. Roulette 5.26% house edge and 38 rounds/hr. Other table games 2% house edge and 50 rounds/hr.