How to Get the Most From Your Casino Host

Fives ways to get treated like the high roller that you are. 
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Fives ways to get treated like the high roller that you are. 
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Spend enough time gambling in casinos and eventually a guy in a suit will approach you. He’ll slip you his business card and ask if you need a room or dinner or tickets to a show. It will all be comped. That seemingly generous person is a casino host. His job is to divvy out free stuff that will induce you to come back and gamble some more.

The nature of his largess – which can range from a gratis dinner at the buffet to a ride home on the casino’s private jet – is based on how much money you risk. Just as there are ways of winning at games, there are ways of outsmarting hosts. Follow these slightly sneaky but perfectly legal gambits and you’ll be beating the house out of rib eyes and lobster tails in no time.

Reputation is Everything

If you are known as a big gambler in one casino, hosts at competing casinos will be happy to treat you as a high roller before you wager your first dollar. “Let’s say you gamble your ass off at the Mirage and attain a high level of status but don’t ordinarily risk that much money,” says Steve Cyr, super-host at the recently opened Westgate Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas and subject of the book Whale Hunt in the Desert.

“Other casinos will be willing to match that status and give you comps [free rooms, meals, whatever] upfront. You can hit every casino in town, let them check out your action, take advantage of the comps, and stiff them on the gambling.” Of course, you can do that only once, but if there are enough gambling joints around, you can look forward to a few fun months of exploiting casino good will.

Look Like a Loser 

Casino executives like to say that they don’t care whether you win or lose. “They definitely care,” says Max Rubin, author of Comp City, a guide to getting exemplary treatment from casinos. “They love losers and if you look like one, you will get more comps than a winning player gets.” Rubin’s method for achieving this is simple: Surreptitiously pull chips off of the table and squirrel them away in your pocket. Then buy-in for more chips.

“Let’s say you buy-in for $1,000 with the intention of making $50 bets,” Rubin says. “If you make $50 bets for 10 hours, without a significant loss, you will receive about $60 in comps. But if you can hide $300 per hour and play for 10 hours, it will look like you lost $3,000.” Generally speaking, that kind of loss will earn you $300 in comps. Rubin suggests playing at a crowded table and pocketing the chips (a move known as "rat holing") when the dealer and pit-boss are not looking. “Gin up some serious losses and you’ll get nice freebies because the casino will think you’re an idiot.”

Arrive and Depart  in Style

If you normally bet $50 per hand but sometimes go as high as, say, $200 per hand, open with the big bet and close with it as well. “Dealers only have a hand or two for a reference point of your average bet,” Rubin says. “So begin with a big bet and announce it. Make sure the pit boss hears you. He’s entering information on you into the computer when you play that first hand, so you want him to know what you’re betting. After he puts in your details, he’ll have other things to do and won’t be paying much attention.”

When you finish, says Rubin, make a big show of your last bet and raise it nice and high as well. “Then take your chips, cash them in, and find another table in a different part of the casino. You do it all over again, and you’ll spend the weekend looking like a $20,000 gambler when, in reality, you only had a couple thousand on you.”

Play with "Promotional Chips"

Gamble high enough and long enough, and you will eventually receive the ultimate perk: Free money. These come in the form of so-called promotional chips. To woo desirable players, casinos give our free chips. You walk in, present the offer you most likely received in the mail, and get, say, $500 worth of chips that cannot be cashed but only played. It’s known as a free roll. “Guys will capitalize on several of these offers around town.”

Says Cyr: “They go to each casino, play the promotional chips, and then leave without ever digging into their pockets.” Start off winning, and you have the opportunity for a sweet score with no risk. If you lose, who cares? You did it with the house’s money. “Of course,” Cyr points out, “most gamblers are such degenerates that they come in here with that plan in mind but ultimately can’t help themselves. I had one guy tell me he was only going to use the promo chips; then he lost and wound up blowing $6,000 of his own money."

Know your Do's and Don'ts:

In the game of craps, there are two ways to bet. Most players bet "the do",  which is wagering on players to win. But some who bet "the don’t", which is a wager that the house will win. A good way to get big comps while taking virtually no risk is to show up with a partner and make identical bets both ways. When the don’t wins, the do loses, and vice versa.

“You find a crowded table and each bet the opposite way,” says Rubin. “Almost always, the bets will cancel each other out. In the end, you put the money together and both end up pretty close to even while looking like big gamblers.” Rubin hesitates for a beat and brings us back to resembling a loser:

“But you’ll both look like you blew a lot of money because you’ll be pulling chips off the table and putting them in your pocket. With tens of thousands of dollars being wagered on a busy craps table, nobody can keep track of what you and your buddy are doing.”

Photos by Getty