Player's Clubs

Every casino in the world has a player's club. But not every player takes advantage of these clubs, and that is a sure-fire way to miss out on a full menu of comps. Player's clubs help the casinos keep track of who their customers are, including how often they play and how much they wager. Interestingly, for some, this is the main argument against joining these clubs; critics contend that they don't want casinos to know how much they spend or how often they play, and they worry that government agencies also can use that information.

The fact is, if you win anything substantial, the federal and state governments are going to know about it and you will pay taxes on those winnings, whether you join the player's club or not. As for the casino, you want the house to keep track of how much you spend and how often; this is how the casino determines what comps you're eligible for. If you pass up joining the player's club, you're essentially giving up the freebies the casino would offer just for gambling the way you normally do.

There's a popular misconception that comps are reserved for the high rollers, those betting hundreds or even thousands of dollars per hand. But there are a lot more “low” and “moderate” rollers out there, and the casinos willingly give out comps to keep these players happy and coming back. No matter what your level of play, chances are you'll qualify for some sort of comp.

Joining the player's club is free and easy. Usually, you fill out a brief form with your name and address. Sometimes the form will ask for your e-mail address, phone number, and even your date of birth; this latter helps the casino ensure that its patrons are of legal gambling age, but it also is used for special promotions, such as birthday slots tournaments or match-play coupons. You present the form and a photo I.D., usually a driver's license, at the player's club booth, and you are issued a plastic card, similar to a credit card, with an account number and a personal identification number (PIN).

If I join a player's club, won't I get put on a mailing list?

Yes, and that's a good thing. You will probably receive a mailing only once or twice a month. Casinos use their mailing lists to let you know about special promotions and discounts, such as “double points” days and match-play coupons. You can't take advantage of these offers if you don't know about them.

Using Your Player's Card

When you play slot machines, video poker, or other machine games, you insert your card into the machine, enter your PIN, and begin playing. The card keeps track of each bet you make and how many bets you make per hour. The casino's computer system translates your level of play into a point system, which determines what kind of comps, and how many, you're entitled to.

Most player's clubs have brochures explaining the comp system. At most casinos, you have to rack up a predetermined set of points to earn a free meal, hotel room, or other comp. When you register, be sure to ask how the comp system works so you know what your bankroll is working toward. Also be sure to ask if the casino offers any specials for new club members or out-of-state members; some casinos have additional one-time incentives for these players.

You also can ask a casino host for help. After you've been playing for a while, say thirty minutes or so, ask an attendant to page a casino host for you. When the host arrives, give him or her your card and ask him or her whether you've earned any comps; if you haven't, ask how much more you'll have to play.

Multiple Cards

Most experts recommend asking for at least two player's club cards when you join. There are a couple of good reasons to do this. First, if you go to the casino with a spouse or friend, both of you can use the cards to earn comp points, and those comp points will add up more quickly on one account than they would if each of you opened separate accounts.

Second, if you play alone, sometimes you can insert your second card into an adjacent slot machine and earn comp points from someone else's play. If you notice another player who isn't using a player's club card, ask for permission to insert your card. The worst that can happen is that the player will say no; if he or she agrees, you have a chance to significantly boost your own comp rating.

If you should lose your player's club card, or if you forget to bring it with you on a visit, you can always get a duplicate at the player's club booth.

Don't start playing a slot machine until you've inserted your player's club card and made sure the machine has accepted it. If, for some reason, your card isn't accepted or stops tracking play in the middle of a session, ask a casino host for help; usually, they'll give you at least partial credit for the play that wasn't recorded on your card.

Tracking Your Play

The point system used by most player's clubs focuses your attention on the rewards you've earned rather than the money you've spent. Your account will show that you've racked up 1,000 points, for example, but it won't tell you that you dropped a total of $3,500 into the quarter slots to get those 1,000 points. So, while the club card is a great way for the casino to keep track of your wagers, it's not a very useful tool for the player when it comes to figuring out your gambling budget.

However, because you do earn comps, it is important to keep track of your play. Pay attention at the slot machines and make sure your card is recording your play. If there's a problem, ask a slot attendant or casino host to adjust your account. At the table games, keep track of how long you play and your average bet per hand so you can ask the floor person or pit boss to rate you correctly. Finally, pay attention to the rules for using your comps.

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