Casinos, like credit card companies, are in competition with other companies over a market share and where the vast majority of the customers lose a lot of money patronizing their businesses. As a result, they often throw in little perks to keep their customer base happy. A small portion of that customer base actually makes money off the company. A prime example of this would be an advantage player, or a cash-back credit card holder who makes use of the rewards system but always pays his balance during the grace period so that he never pays any interest. Interestingly enough, these people are called “deadbeats” in the credit industry. We as poker players should strive to be “deadbeats” to the casino industry.
There was once a time where I assumed it would be rather banal to even discuss such a topic. Surely there was no poker player who did not know his casino’s reward system like the back of his hand? Would somebody take employment within a company and remain ignorant to the benefits provided to them by their employer? Much to my surprise, the latter and former are both true in some cases. I need to emphasize this: we should be slightly more concerned with our businesses overall bottom line then our hourly rate at the poker table. Simply put, if we could have made or saved money through a casino promotion or rewards system but failed to because of ignorance, we have lost money. With that out of the way, let’s focus on some points of attack.
Comps and Rewards
Perhaps the easiest way to take advantage of the casino is the comps or rewards system. Some casinos have a graduated earning system, i.e. this level earns more than that level and so on. Before I even get a card from a casino in which I am not currently affiliated, I ask them if they do a tier match with a competing casino. Sometimes they do, and sometimes they do not. Knowing where we can redeem these points is critical. For example, if you frequent a Caesars brand casino, you can use your “total rewards” points on gift cards or even purchase entries into WSOP events. If you’re a decent tournament player, that is HUGE. Many casinos also allow you to redeem points for “free” play. Spending those hard earned points on items that have some monetary return generally provides a better return on investment than spending it in the food court.
Casino’s also frequently have affiliations with other businesses that can benefit you. I probably only spend a few hundred dollars a year on gasoline but I'm guessing most of you in the U.S. spend a lot more than that annually. Caesars Entertainment actually has a partnership with shell gas so I accumulate gas discounts on my fuel rewards card just by sitting at the table. Furthermore, I spend a lot of my rewards points on shell gift cards in the TR marketplace. It doesn’t stop there though. I have heard of multiple people getting free or very cheap cruises because of casino affiliations. Discounts on hotels and airfare are also pretty commonplace. Being able to take your family on a cheap or even free vacation is a pretty awesome perk of casino patronage.
Take advantage of the free stuff. Casino’s frequently have giveaways. You should be participating in every single one, even if it’s not something you want. Sometimes they will have pretty cool stuff. If not, you can always give it to somebody else later on. If my friends and family knew how much Caesars has subsidized their holiday gifts they may look at me a little different. I once received one of the lower-end Wolf watch winders (I forget the model). Those aren’t cheap. At the time it was retailing for ~$100. I took it despite the fact that I don’t wear watches because I knew it had some value. I ended up trading it into a pawnshop for a nice little cordless drill that I needed and even managed to pocket a few dollars. The same goes for free play and promo chips. If the casino regularly offers you promo chips or free play that you are not taking full advantage of, I don’t know what to say to you.
Stop Missing Value!
The main theme is that we should be taking any opportunities presented to us to improve our bottom line. If you’re unsure of just how far your membership benefits reach, you’ve got some homework to do. Outside of patronizing the stingiest casino, we should be able to enjoy much more than a free garbage meal in a food court. Get creative on how to maximally exploit your casino in the same way you do the players at the table. Remember that if you do not ask, you will not receive. I once witnessed a regular get screwed over in a pot by a bad dealer mistake. The floor and dealer were very apologetic to this guy. Being the avid hustler that he was, he asked for a comped entry into a daily tournament and it was granted. I could do nothing but applaud in my head. We need to be frequently asking ourselves “How can I benefit from this?” when opportunities arise. It may not seem like much, but over time a few bbs here and a few bbs there can increase our true hourly rate and diminish some of the related expenses with our job.