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Best of Jerry Stickman

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Those slot club promotions

13 February 2016

The first slot clubs were introduced to generate loyalty for the casino from its patrons. The popularity of slot clubs grew exponentially. Now, virtually every casino in the U.S. has some form of slot club. Most of them are affiliated with other casinos within the same casino conglomerate, so benefits earned in one casino can be enjoyed at another casino within the same group.

Just having a slot club is no longer a differentiator. In order to stand out from the crowd, casinos have chosen to run special promotions.

It seems casinos have special slot club promotions almost every week. Whether it is multiple points on certain days or drawings for free slot play, casinos are scrambling for gamblers' slot play (and the gamblers' hard-earned money).

  • How good are these promotions?

They vary widely (and wildly). Let’s look at some of the more popular slot club features and promotions.

Almost all slot clubs allow the gambler to earn bonus points, which are good for free play or even cash. The amount of play required to earn a point varies from casino to casino. The “norm” for downtown Las Vegas as well as most locals joints is one point for every dollar played in reel or video slots and about half that for play on video poker machines.

On the Las Vegas Strip, it might take $5 or $10 worth of video poker play for one point. In most cases 1,000 points is worth one dollar in free play. Depending on the formula for earning points and how much the points are worth, this feature can add roughly .05 to .1% to the return from the casino.

  • Free play differs from cash.

Free play must be used for play. If you have $10 free play, you must play that amount of through the machine. Once that is completed you are free to cash out anything won during play. With cash, you can simply “take the money and run.” Cash is worth more because it is 100% return with no variance. Free play is subject to the return and variance on the games played.

Most slot clubs have tier systems in place. The more you play, the more points you earn. If you reach certain thresholds of points in a given time period (usually six months or one year), you qualify for enhanced benefits.

Many clubs offer multiple bonus points as you increase the tier levels. Usually the base level is one time points, the next level two times, and the next three times. Attaining an elite level can improve the actual casino return by roughly .15 to .3%.

A popular promotion for slot clubs is offering multiple points on certain days or times. These are usually slower days or times so it gets additional activity in the casino. These promotions offer 2x, 3x, 5x or sometimes even 10x the normal base rate for earning points. It can mean as much as .5 to 1% additional return.

These promotions can be very profitable – if you're going to be there the day(s) and time(s) of the promotion. If it takes a special trip and especially if you need to travel some distance to take advantage of the promotion, it loses much of its value due to the extra travel expenses. Also, many times the multiplied points earned are limited to a few thousand points. This dramatically reduces the value of this promotion.

Almost all slot clubs give some sort of “bounce-back” free play based on historical play. While this is a real bonus, it tends to be a fairly paltry amount – usually about one-fourth of 1% of play. More importantly, it cannot be collected unless you return to the casino at another time. This is not a big thing if you regularly play at the casino anyway, but if it means you have to travel halfway across the country to collect, its value is greatly reduced.

In addition to the free play and bounce-back cash, players usually earn other freebies such as food, drink and rooms with their slot play. The levels of play required for the additional comps vary significantly among casinos, but are of real value and worth joining a slot club and always using the slot club card during play.

  • Just how valuable are slot club benefits?

It is somewhat cliché, but the answer really is – it depends. If the casino is close, if you really enjoy the atmosphere and other intangibles, and most importantly if the video poker returns are excellent; these benefits will add to your long term profits. Even if the video poker returns are just decent, adding good slot club benefits can turn negative expectation play into advantage (positive expectation) play.

If you have several places that are close where you enjoy playing, looking at the slot club benefits could help make the decision as to where to play.

Occasionally there are special promotions offered by casinos in an effort to increase traffic in their casinos.

One of them offers to return all money lost during a certain period of time. With this promotion it appears you cannot lose – when you win, you get to keep your wins and when you lose, the loss will be refunded – you can’t lose. A great deal, yes?

Well maybe not so great. It is true that a losing player will get all of his losses back – but only over time and only as free play. To collect the free play for all of the losses requires many trips back to the casino over many weeks. Only a small percentage would be available on each weekly visit, and the amount available would be subject to the return and variance of the games played. Not exactly my definition of “you can’t lose.”

Another special promotion – actually a promotion along with changes in the benefits of the slot club – offers better returns along with matching other casino’s slot club tier rating. The player would immediately enjoy the benefits of this casino’s matching tier level.

Every 1,000 points earns $5 in free play. This is very good by today’s standards and adds .5% for slot play. However, video poker play earns point at one-third the slot rate, so the return for video poker play is only .17%. Combine this with a 2x points tier level bonus and the return is .34% – which is still very good.

The problem with the promotion was the best video poker return I could find in the place was 98.45% and these were scarce. Adding the .34% gives a total return of 98.79%. This may be very good by Strip standards, but it is not so good for locals or downtown Vegas casinos.

The bottom line is, whenever you see slot club promotions that seem too good to be true – they probably are. Make sure you check all the details of the offer as well as the return of the video poker games available before deciding to risk you hard-earned money attempting to cash in on them. The return and variance of the available games are the major influence in any decision on where to play. Make sure you do your homework. It will pay off.

May all your wins be swift and large and all your losses slow and small.


Jerry “Stickman” is an expert in craps, blackjack, video poker and advantage slot machine play. He authored the video poker section of "Everything Casino Poker: Get the Edge at Video Poker, Texas Hold'em, Omaha Hi-Lo, and Pai Gow Poker!" You can contact Jerry “Stickman” at stickmanjerry@aol.com
Recent Articles
Best of Jerry Stickman
Jerry Stickman

Jerry "Stickman" is an expert in dice control at craps, blackjack, advantage slots and video poker. He is a regular contributor to top gaming magazines. The "Stickman" is also a certified instructor for Golden Touch Craps dice control classes and Golden Touch Blackjack's advantage classes. He also teaches a course in advantage-play slots and video poker. For more information visit www.goldentouchcraps.com or www.goldentouchblackjack.com or call 1-800-944-0406 for a free brochure. You can contact Jerry "Stickman" at stickmanGTC@aol.com.

Jerry Stickman Websites:

www.goldentouchcraps.com
www.goldentouchblackjack.com
Jerry Stickman
Jerry "Stickman" is an expert in dice control at craps, blackjack, advantage slots and video poker. He is a regular contributor to top gaming magazines. The "Stickman" is also a certified instructor for Golden Touch Craps dice control classes and Golden Touch Blackjack's advantage classes. He also teaches a course in advantage-play slots and video poker. For more information visit www.goldentouchcraps.com or www.goldentouchblackjack.com or call 1-800-944-0406 for a free brochure. You can contact Jerry "Stickman" at stickmanGTC@aol.com.

Jerry Stickman Websites:

www.goldentouchcraps.com
www.goldentouchblackjack.com