Reason I like Bovada #4:

It's fair and safe

The best way to avoid losing money by gambling is to not gamble in the first place.  That goes double online, because online gambling is mostly unregulated in the U.S.  That means the casinos serving the whole U.S. don't answer to anyone.  If you have a problem with a casino (like they won't pay you), then you're usually out of luck.  I can't count how many players have written to ask me for help because they didn't get paid by some other casino.  (Not that I helped them, it's not what I do—if a dodgy casino won't pay you then you're on your own.)

So if you're intent on gambling online, then the #1 most important thing is to pick a good casino.  The good ones know they make more money with fair games and consistent payouts than the dodgy casinos, because fair play means repeat customers and good word-of-mouth referrals.  It's no coincidence that the most successful online casinos are the ones that focus on their players.

Many casinos try to find excuses to not pay winning players, especially players who have won big.  Outright cheating (rigged games) is pretty rare, but it happens.  Either way, if you have a problem with most U.S.-facing online casinos, you're usually out of luck.

This is another reason why Bovada is the only online casino I've accepted advertising from for over 15 years.  They use industry-standard software, it's absolutely fair, and players get their payouts, consistently.  I have a choice in whom I advertise, so I purposefully picked a casino with a good reputation where I'm confident my readers will have a good experience.

To be clear, Bovada's not perfect.  Once they got duped by a bad vendor (Betsoft) who provided progressive slots whose jackpots weren't winnable.  When I discovered this I alerted Bovada, and they pulled all the Betsoft games from the site, but I thought they were slow to do so and didn't offer proper restitution to affected players. (more on this)  Still, even with this incident, their overall history is better than most; as just one example, there are many other casinos still offering Betsoft's questionable games.

Another good thing about Bovada is that they allow me to mediate if one of my readers clicks over to them, plays the games, and has a problem they can't get Bovada to resolve.  My time is valuable and I wouldn't offer that service if I had to do it very often.  I think I've gotten maybe one or two inquiries from affected players in the 15+ years I've been advertising Bovada.

Bottom line: I'm confident that Bovada is fair and reasonably safe.  You might have a good experience with another casino...and you might not.  I trust Bovada, and that's why I picked them.

Visit Bovada

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.

The domain name is for sale now on Sedo for $6,000 Buy It Now.
(bid now)

Play these
free slots now

Play 777 Deluxe slot machine Play Dragons slot machine Play Koi Garden slot machine Play Lions Roar slot machine Play Ten Times Win slot machine

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

and my exclusive Comp Calculator

Last update: September 2019

Casinos want to give you free stuff!  Buffets, show tickets, discounted rooms, even free rooms.  They're called "comps", which is short for "complimentary".  And they flow like rain:  It Atlantic City, two-thirds of the hotel rooms are comped!  (I couldn't find figures for Vegas, but I've personally received a healthy amount of comps from Vegas casinos.)  So let's get you dialed into this action right now.

Get a player's card

Sample comp offers the casinos sent me

  • 1 night free
Mandalay Bay
  • 2 nights free
  • 3 nights free
  • $50 in freeplay
  • Free access to spa for 2 people for 2 days, plus $50 credit towards spa services
  • 4 nights free
  • $200 in bonus chips
  • 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
  • 3 nights free plus two tickets to Le Reve

I got the Wynn offers continuously for thirteen years after my last stay, and with only minimal gambling back then.  After 13 years I finally took them up on the 3 free nights, played maybe $30 in the casino and lost $15, and they're still sending me free room offers.

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 continuously got mailers offering free nights at one of the most expensive hotels on the strip, thirteen 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, or use plus-addressing with Gmail.

Comps Calculator:  How much you can get based on your play

Casinos will give you back about 10-40% of your expected loss, in the form of comps.  That bears repeating:  Comps are based on your theoretical loss, not your actual loss.  Put another way, it's based on how much you play not on how much you lose.  You still get comps even if you win—usually the same amount as if you lost.

My exclusive comp calculator shows how you earn 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

$  $ 
Video Poker

$  $ 

$  $ 

$  $ 

$  $ 

$  $ 
Play online casino games with fake money!  It's better than losing real money.
Comp figures are estimates.  • Here are sources for rounds/hr. for comp purposes and comp percentages.

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.

Sometimes 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.

You can also 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.)

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
Est. Comps earned
Net loss per 4 hours

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.

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).  There are three people/places from whom you can request comps.

  1. The Floorperson.  For table game players playing low stakes, 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).
  2. The Player's Club desk.  The job of the player's club staff is to sign people up and to hand out the rewards to slots/video poker players.  (They generally don't handle table game players.)  When you're done playing, go to the club desk and inquire about how much you've earned.  Note that club desk staff have to follow the rules closer than Hosts (below), and are more limited in what kinds and how much stuff they can give you.
  3. Hosts.  A host is a casino employee whose job it is to hook you up with the stuff you've earned.  They have a lot more leeway than the staff at the player's club desk as to how much they can give you, and they can hook you up with things that the club desk simply can't, so usually you'll want a host.  The catch is you'll have to gamble enough to get one, and that amount varies from casino to casino.  If you're a machine player, ask at the club desk how much action you need in order to get a host.  For table game players, ask a floorperson.  If you qualify, any casino staff can summon a host for you, or you can call the casino's phone number and ask 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.

You pay for the 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 the waitstaff.  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

This is such a big topic I moved it to a separate article:  How to Milk Casino Comps.

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.

Resort fees on comped rooms?

Vegas hotels are notorious for charging a mandatory daily "resort fee" which gets you things such as Internet access, gym access, free local calls, etc.  (The last varies from casino to casino.)  When you get a comped room, do you still have to pay the resort fee, and if you don't, do you still get the resort benefits?

The short answer is that you generally don't pay the resort fee on a comped room.  However, you might not get the benefits that come with the resort fee (like free WiFi).  For example, Caesars properties says that players at the Diamond level don't get charged a resort fee, and get the benefits that come with a resort fee, while players below Diamond don't get charged the fee but don't get the benefits.  By contrast, when I got comped at Encore in 2019, I didn't pay a resort fee, but I didn't get the benefits of the resort fee.  So I voluntarily paid the $39/night resort fee to get Internet access.

I don't know the resort fee policy on comped rooms at other Vegas properties, but if you'd like to share your experience so i can add it to the article, feel free to let me know.

Related articles

How to milk casino comps

Happy comp hunting!

Practice gambling with play money

Before you throw down your hard-earned cash in a casino, PRACTICE FIRST!  Learn the games with play money where it doesn't cost you anything if you lose.  Seriously.

I like Bovada's practice games the best, because you can play right away without registering for an account.  Most every other online casino makes you give up your email address just to play the fake-money games — ugh.  That's why Bovada is the only online casino that gets space on my site.  I hope other casinos will eventually start treating their visitors like human beings rather than walking wallets, but until they do, there's Bovada.  One click and you're in.

Play blackjack


Play roulette


Play craps


Play baccarat


Approved by Casinomeister

Proud not only to be an approved Webmeister by Casinomeister,
but also to be one of the very first approved. (#7, May 2020)

Site Contents ©2001-2020 Michael Bluejay Incorporated.
I believe everything herein to be accurate, but I'm not responsible for errors or omissions.  I'm pretty irresponsible, actually.

Home |  About Us   Contact  |  Updates  |  Privacy          Gambling Problem? Call the 800-522-4700 hotline, see horror stories, and know that Parkinson's drugs encourage gambling.

Play:  Slots  •  Blackjack  •  Craps  •  Roulette