Honing Your Slot Etiquette

Etiquette in slots? You think we’re joking, right? Actually, even though playing slots is a solitary activity, a few little courtesies can ensure that you keep the peace with the blue-haired lady to your left. This section focuses on the main do’s and don’ts of slot-machine etiquette.

Saving a machine

How can you tell if a machine’s been saved? Well, it doesn’t shout, “Hallelujah, I’ve seen the light!” But, trust us, you definitely want to know if the seemingly unattended machine has been claimed by someone else. Otherwise, the wrath you incur just might feel like Judgment Day. There’s no quicker way to turn a kindly old grandmother into the avenging angel than by stealing her favorite machine (especially when, after only a few coins, you magically win her jackpot).

It’s common practice in casinos for a player to save a machine for a short while when she needs a break. The length of time you can hold a machine varies, depending on the casino and whether you’re a high roller; 10 to 15 minutes is rarely a problem. But expecting the machine to remain exclusively yours while you chomp down crab legs in the buffet for an hour may be pushing it. You can save a slot by leaving your coat on the chair or by tipping the chair forward so it leans against the machine.

Playing two machines at once: Double trouble

Many avid slots players like to play two machines at once. They do so by sitting in one seat and reaching back and forth between two machines. In those cases, you may think a machine is available because the seat is empty. Beware: Before you get a chance to slip in a dollar, you will get a stinging rebuke from the serious “I can’t lose my money fast enough, so I play two machines at once” gambler in the next stool.

Minding your manners

Slots may be a solitary game, but you’re still playing in an open environment, so be sensitive to your neighbors to your right and left. Consider these helpful tips for being a polite gambler and keeping the peace.

If you aren’t actually playing, stay out of the way. If you’re watching a friend or spouse play, make sure you aren’t in the way of another player. Just like at the table games, nonplaying guests must give up the seat to a player who wants to play.

If you find a slot card in a machine you want to play, be careful. If the player is nowhere in sight, feel free to remove the card and play. But don’t toss it in the trash; just put the card on top of the machine. Chances are, the player is already headed back to retrieve it and will be grateful for the gesture.

Never covet thy neighbor’s jackpot. Slots are different from table games like poker. You’re not competing against each other; everyone is competing against the house. So don’t sulk when an adjacent machine hits a big winner. Cheer him on and help him enjoy the moment. Being a good sport won’t change your luck, but it makes the overall gaming experience more enjoyable.

Playing for Comps

One of the best incentives for slot players is the generous comps that casinos bestow on them. Typically, the more you play, the more freebies you receive (comped meals, entertainment tickets, cashbacks, and other perks). There’s just one drawback to playing for comps — it can become too enticing. Just like some people go crazy over frequent-flyer miles and take extra trips to get to the next level, some gamblers play longer and for more money just to score a comp to the buffet.

Slots can be very entertaining, but those free meals can end up being very expensive. Always stick to your budget when gambling, and never chase the comps. But hey, as long as you’re there, feel free to enjoy the great side benefits that come your way.

This section focuses on how to take advantage of slot comps, including how to sign up for a slot club and how to cash in.

Taking advantage of the comps

Today’s casinos use club cards to keep track of how much individual gamblers bet and how long they play. Slots are the perfect vehicle for this system because the machine automatically tallies every wager you make. The longer you play or the more you bet, the more club points you accumulate.

The main reason you should want a club card is to turn those points into comps. Comps come in many shapes and forms, from free hats to penthouse suites. But the premise is the same for all gamblers, whether high rollers or nickel slot players — the amount of time you play and the average amount you bet is tabulated to determine what comps you receive. A comp is truly a great benefit and can help defray your losses. Although formulas vary among casinos, the basic principle is this: A percentage of your theoretical loss is returned to you in the form of comps (such as free meals, shows, or complimentary hotel accommodations).

You don’t get comps only when you lose. The casinos never care whether you win or lose in the short run — they only want to see some action from you. Because they’re always the favorite, they know they’re going to win in the long run.

Some comps are immediate, although others may accrue over a few trips to the casino and finally bring you up to a new level, such as an invitation to a special event or a tournament. Because casinos want to develop a loyal customer base, they aggressively reward their best customers with little extras to keep them coming back.

Signing up for a slot club

Casinos strongly encourage new players to sign up for the slot club, and they make it simple. With just a few minutes of your time and a valid ID, you receive a shiny laminated card with your name on it (and usually a handy little key chain to fasten the card to your body). Also, be sure and ask if there are any sign-up perks. Many casinos offer special deals to attract new players.

When you play the slots, simply insert your card into a card reader on the machine; the computer automatically tracks how long you play and how much you bet.

If you ever lose your card, which is very easy to do, just go back to the desk where you first signed up and ask for a duplicate. Or you may want to ask for an extra card to begin with, especially if your spouse also wants to play under your account or you intend to play two machines at once.

Cashing in on cash rebates

What’s even better than free meals? Free cash! Many contemporary casinos offer cashback programs (up to 1 percent) in addition to their generous comps. Of course, casinos can afford to be generous because slots are so profitable for the house.

Casinos normally figure your comps and potential cashback rewards on a point system. The more points you accrue (based on the machine denomination and how many hours you play), the larger your perks. Also, just like with grocery store coupons, you can get double or triple points on certain days of the month, putting you on the fast track to cashing in. Points are usually nontransferable and often have an expiration date.

Your cashback typically comes in two flavors:

You receive the cashback the same day you earn it.
You’re mailed a cashback certificate, good for your next trip to the

casino. This program is called a bounce-back.

Bounce-back programs typically require you to return within a certain time. If your favorite casino is within a short drive, that isn’t a problem. But if you have to fly across the country to cash it in, your certificate becomes much less valuable.

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