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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.
Play these
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.

How to get casino comps

Last update: August 2018

Casinos want to give you free stuff!  Buffets, show tickets, discounted rooms, even free rooms.  Let's get you dialed into this action right now.

Sample Comp Offers the casinos sent me

Stratosphere
  • 1 night free
Mandalay Bay
  • 2 nights free
Aria
  • 3 nights free
  • $50 in freeplay
  • Free access to spa for 2 people for 2 days, plus $50 credit towards spa services
Hilton
  • 4 nights free
  • $200 in bonus chips
Luxor
  • 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
Wynn
  • 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.

Get a player's card

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.  I still get mailers offering three free nights at one of the most expensive hotels on the strip, twelve years after I last played there, and even then I just barely played.  I certainly didn't lose as much as a single night at the hotel costs.

Also, 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 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,  Park MGM, 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.

Give your email address when you sign up.  They'll often give you extra points for doing so, and you'll get freebie offers, notices about promotions, and other goodies by email.  If you'd rather not clutter your main mailbox, set those messages to go to a special folder automatically, or get a second email account just for stuff like this.

Comps demystified

Casinos will give you back about 10-40% 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 couldn't find 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 good 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, 75¢/spin
Craps, $5
Est. Loss
$89
$16
Est. Comps earned
$28
$5
Net loss per 4 hours
$61
$11

Slots get you more comps for sure, but only because you're losing more.  If you play craps instead you'll save $50/hr. on average over four hours.  In fact, your savings from playing craps could let you buy a couple of buffets and not even have to worry about comps.

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.  If your win was huge then 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.  (If they offer this and you accept, don't feel obligated to continue playing.  You didn't ask for the room, they offered.)

As one of the many exclusives on this site, here's my handy calculator which shows you how much value you can earn in comps.

Turn your phone sideways to fit the calculator, baby.
Comps CalculatorCasino comp policy: 
Game Rounds
Per Hour
Bet per round House Edge Average Avg. Loss for
hour(s) hrs
of play
Comps
Earned
Slots

$  $ 
Video Poker

$  $ 
Roulette

$  $ 
Baccarat

$  $ 
Craps

$  $ 
Blackjack

$  $ 
Play online casino games with fake money!  It's better than losing real money.

Source for comp percentages: Henry Tamburin

You might have noticed in the calculator that the comp value isn't always a straight percentage of expected loss.  That's normal, and we'll cover that later.


Slot points aren't all that

Most casinos give you "points" based on how much you play.  A popular way to tally is that $5 of play on a slot machine or $10 on a video poker machine gets you one point, which is worth a penny towards free slot play, dining credits, etc.  Example:  You play $100 on a slot machine, and assuming a 90% payback, your expected loss is $10.  You earn 20 points, which are worth $0.20.  That's a mere 2% of your loss that you'd get back.  That's a far cry from the 10-40% I said that you can get back in comps.  So what's going on here?

Two things:  First, you can usually get much more in comps than your point balance suggests.  If your expected loss for your trip is at least $100, go to the player's club and ask to talk to a host.  Ask the host if you can get comps to the buffet, or show tickets, or a discount on your room, or whatever else your play suggests that you've earned.  (You can ask for a little more than the calculator suggests you've earned; the worst that can happen is the host says no.)  Quite often you can get these benefits, even if you couldn't buy them with your slot points.

Next, casinos frequently offer bonus points on certain days.  2x points is common, but some casinos offer 10x points.  Bonus points days are usually in the middle of the week, because that's the hardest time to get people to come to the casino.  Here's a list of which casinos are offering how much bonus points and when.  10x points can take your 2% point rate up to 20%.


How to use your Player's 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.  Though as I mentioned above, if you have a decent amount of expected loss, you can potentially get more comps than your point balance suggests, by talking to a host.

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 calculator above.

 

Decide on a separate account for a spouse or partner

Should you and your partner play on the same Player's Club account, or get separate accounts?  Each way has its advantages.  If you both play on the same account then you'll rack up points and comp credit faster.  For example if you're low-rollers and play separately, neither of you might get enough points for a buffet, but with your combined players you could at least get one buffet comped.  Also, many slot rewards programs give you bonuses when you reach a certain level of play, and combining your play lets you get to the next level faster.  Finally, some casinos require that spouses be on the same account, so if that's the case at your casino then you don't have a choice.

On the other hand, if you're both putting in a fair amount of play, then two accounts could mean two separate mailers for free rooms.  He gets three free nights, you get three free nights, and boom, you're staying in Vegas for a week for free.


How to claim your comps

To get your goodies you generally have to ask for them (outside of the mailers for free & discounted rooms).  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.  By the way, the buffet is generally the easiest comp to get (outside of the free drinks).

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.  Though as mentioned, you can probably get better rewards by asking to talk to a host. 


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'll probably 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.


Tip when you get comped meals

If you get a comped ticket for, say, $15 at the diner, you can't use any of that value to tip.  That is, you can't get $10 of food and give the $5 in unused credit as a tip.  You have to tip from your own money.  Similarly, if you get a $15 comp ticket and order only $10 worth of food, you don't get the unused $5 back in cash either, nor can you apply it to a future meal.  It's use-it-or-lose-it, baby.


Milking comps

There are a number of ways to increase the amount of comps you get.

Bet more at first

When you play table games your comps are based on your average bet size.  The floorperson looks at how much you're betting and punches that figure into the 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, because that's what the floorperson is paying the most attention to.  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.

Slow it down

On table games, your expected loss is based on your average bet size times how many rounds per hour you're expected to play.  So play fewer rounds than they expect.  Casinos typically use a single standard speed value for each game, regardless of the actual speed.  For example, they may figure 70 rounds an hour for blackjack, 48 rounds an hour for craps, etc.  If you play at full tables you'll almost certainly get in fewer rounds than that.  So, play at full tables!

You can also leave your chips at the table and taking a bathroom break once an hour.  (Don't do this with craps—craps chips are easy to steal without the dealers noticing.)  And you can sit out a round every once in a while.  And you can play slowly when you do play.  Of course, don't slow down so much that you annoy the other players!

Use the calculator above to see how that can benefit you.  Set the speed on Craps to 30 rounds per hour, and you'll see that at a 30% comp rate, you can actually expect to earn 50% of your average losses in the form of comps.

Play smarter than they expect

When figuring your expected loss, casinos typically use a single value for the house edge for each casino game.  For example 0.75% for blackjack and 1.58% for craps.  You can get better odds than that, lowering your average loss, but the casino will comp you as though you had the higher average loss.

Here are house edge rates for comp purposes at one strip casino:

True House Edge vs. Comp House Edge

House edge w/optimal play House edge for comp purposes Difference
Blackjack 0.48 0.75 0.27
Craps 1.36 1.58 0.22
Baccarat 1.06 1.20 0.14
source 

My calculator above uses the house edge figures from this table, rather than the actual house edge, so you can more accurately figure how much comp value you're earning—assuming you make the best bets.

Let's see an example.  You're betting a total of $10,000 on blackjack (e.g., $25/hand for about six hours).  The casino figures you'll lose 0.75% of that, or $75, and at a 33% comp rate, you'll earn $25 in comps.  But if you play a low-edge game using proper basic strategy, the house edge might be around 0.48%, for an expected loss of only $48.  You'll still get the same $25 in comps, so suddenly you're getting close to 50% comp value instead of 33%.

When you combine this method with slow play, the rewards are even greater.


Use the casino ATM

Casinos don't just provide the games and hope you play them, they do everything they can to get you to play more.  Even if—make that especially if—you're a problem gambler. (source)  You can use this to your advantage when trying to get free room offers from the casino.

When people use the ATM in the casino, that's a sign that they're probably gambling compulsively. Using the ATM means they've burned through the gambling budget they brought with them and now they're withdrawing money that they weren't initially planning on touching.  So casinos use ATM data to target those customers.  People using the casino ATM get more and better free-room offers than those who don't.  So, use the ATM in the casino to withdraw some cash.  Hell, do it in several casinos.  Just don't give that money back to the casinos by gambling it away.  Also, withdraw only with a debit card, never take a cash advance on a credit card.  The fees are exorbitant, and they start charging you high interest the millisecond you press the button on the ATM machine.


Tip the dealers

Regardless of comps, you should tip the dealers at least $5 an hour because, like waitstaff, they make their living from tips.  If you're hunting comps then there's another reason to tip:  you'll get more comps.  The floorperson is going to be more generous in hooking you up if you've been taking care of the dealers.  Who wants to help a tightwad?

Be nice

A host's job is basically to give out comps.  It's a tough job because many players are jerks and treat their hosts badly.  Don't be one of those people.  They're hooking you up with free stuff, what's not to like?  So smile, say please and thank you, and just show your appreciation in general.  The nicer you are, the more likely your host will hook you up with what you want.

Note that while you should tip the dealers, you don't actually need to tip the host. (source)  Since the host decides what stuff you get from the casino, tipping the host could seem like bribery and feel a bit awkward.  Of course if you really want to, there's no rule against it, although some casinos do impose limits.  You're always safe tipping $25 or less, either cash, a gift card, or a gift.

Study up

Entire books have been written on getting and maximizing comps.  The best-known are The Frugal Gambler and Comp City, which are must-reading for the serious comp hunter.

Without having to shell out money on books (or wait for them to arrive), here's a lengthy article on getting comps written by a whole group of well-known casino experts.  It's not a substitute for the books, but it's a good continuation from this article.


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.


Happy comp hunting!