If you’re coming to Las Vegas to gamble you’ll want to make the most of it. Yes, true, today, Las Vegas offers a lot more than gambling, you can take a helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon, go skydiving indoors, shoot guns, watch comedy shows, concerts, magic acts and the list goes on and on. It’s the entertainment capital of the world. If you’re not much of a gambler, you’ll still have a great time in Las Vegas and this article isn’t for you. If you’re visiting Las Vegas to gamble keep reading. In this article I’ll cover Las Vegas rewards and give you tips beyond what typical Las Vegas articles mention. After reading, your chances of having an enjoyable gambling trip are greatly increased.
Las Vegas Rewards Cards
Every casino I know of in Las Vegas offers reward cards. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking the strip, downtown or local’s casino, there is a program you can sign up, get a rewards card and start earning comps. The programs are different at each casino, but generally speaking how it works is you’ll earn comp points based on coin-in for video poker and slots, and also earn at table games based on your average bet size, hours played and type of game selected. At most casinos these comp points can be used in lieu of cash for all non-gaming purchases. This means purchases made in the gift shops, food courts and restaurants, and for all hotel charges, including room cost, resort frees, movies ordered, room service and anything else. At some casinos comp points can also be redeemed for machine based gambling credits (video poker and slots). Where at a select few rewards programs they’ll actually allow you to receive your comps as cash.
Most casinos also offer a VIP program associated with their rewards card scheme. Members start out at entry level and once they reach a certain number of year-to-date comp point earnings their rewards card is upgraded to a fancier version; usually a different color card that displays a new title (example going from Gold VIP to Platinum VIP). The benefits for reaching a higher VIP level often involves free hotel stays (that don’t require you to use comp points) special seating in restaurants, discounts in the gift shop and front of the line access to the cage, taxi stand, hotel counters etc. At some casinos higher tier VIPs accumulate comp points faster, get lounge access, free show tickets, gaming comps and more. Again, each program is different.
The final area to comment on regarding reward cards is many cards are valid at multiple casinos. For example Total Rewards by Caesars Entertainment (formerly Harrah’s Entertainment) is valid at 38 casinos in the United States, seven of them on Las Vegas BLVD, six in Atlantic City, multiple properties in Lake Tahoe, New Orleans and Tunica, and a dozen or so additional US cities have a single Total Rewards casino. The top four multiple-casino reward card programs and their Las Vegas properties are covered below.
Top Rewards Programs valid at 5+ Casinos in Las Vegas
Total Rewards – Operated by the largest gambling company in the world Caesars Entertainment, Total Rewards is the rewards program of Rio Suites which is located just off the Las Vegas strip and is where the World Series of Poker (WSOP) is played each summer. They are also networked in with 7 casinos located on the Las Vegas strip. The complete list of strip casinos is Caesars Palace, Planet Hollywood, Harrah’s, Bally’s, Flamingo, Imperial Palace and Paris. Expert Tip: Total Rewards is the most liberal VIP program on the strip when it comes to giving complimentary hotel stays. These offers are emailed to existing card holders quite regularly.
M Life – Operated by MGM Resorts International, M Life is the largest casino loyalty program on the Las Vegas strip, with a full dozen casinos networked in. The complete list is Bellagio, Aria, Vdara, MGM Grand, Signature at MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay, THE Hotel, Mirage, Monte Carlo, New York-New York, Luxor and Excalibur. Expert Tip: M Life has by far the nicest resorts in Las Vegas. If you want to earn comps towards staying in 5* hotels this is the comp program of choice.
Bconnected – This is the rewards card program of Boyd Gaming casinos. In Las Vegas they have two casinos located just off the strip (The Orleans and Gold Coast), three located in historical downtown Las Vegas within EASY walking distance of Golden Nugget and Binions which are Freemont Casino, California Casino and Main Street Station. They also own a casino in Las Vegas suburb Summerlin called Suncoast and another on Boulder Highway Strip called Sam’s Town. Expert Tip: Downtown casinos are known for offering better odds than the strip. The hotels at Bconnected’s downtown properties, while nothing special, are absolutely dirt cheap. Add these facts to an outstanding VIP program where comp points can be withdrawn as cash, and their three downtown properties are an excellent choice for Las Vegas value hunters.
Boarding Pass –Station Casinos Inc. has casinos designed for Las Vegas locals spread all over the city, most of them a several miles from the strip. This includes Aliante Station, Boulder Station, Fiesta Henderson, Fiesta Rancho, Green Valley Ranch, Palace Station, Red Rock, Santa Fe Station, Sunset Station and Texas Station. Expert Tip: If you’re a tourist looking for something different, check out Red Rock; this is one of our favorite off-strip resorts, with Green Valley our second favorite; both are well suitable for a tourist looking for a change of pace.
That’s 37 casinos covered between just 4 reward card programs; how’s that for a nice line up of VIP programs to choose from? However a ton of value can be found at other single-casino or two-casino programs just as well. Did you know there are 122 casinos just in a Las Vegas? This doesn’t count cities just outside Las Vegas which have properties as well. A Google.com search for Las Vegas rewards program will turn up a plethora of options.
Get Comps Before You Even Play
In most every taxi, shopping area, and hotel lobby you can find magazines and coupon books which have articles, and more importantly advertisements for Las Vegas casinos. A good idea when you get to Las Vegas, take the taxi (not the shuttle) to your hotel, get a copy of a magazine, flip through it and make gambling plans from there. In these books you’ll find all sorts of offers such as free play bonuses, free buffets, and other comps where all you need to do is show up and join their rewards program to benefit. In many cases you’ll need the coupon from the book or magazine to get these perks.
Getting the Most out of Casino Rewards
Everyone wants to hype the need to be part of a single VIP program, because it’s all about comps. Did you know Sam’s Town out on Boulder Highway Strip offers old fashion video poker machines that still use coins as opposed to tickets most casinos now use AND some of them offer 99.95% payback (and these are labeled so you know which ones). That’s right, that’s unheard of in casinos these days; Sam’s has a loss leader that pays back virtually every single coin it takes in. Playing this machine over the ones on the strip is going to increase a player’s chance of winning far more than some special VIP seating. Casinos are good at sucking players in to chase comps and tier scores which often results in them playing less than optimal games. If you want to get the most out of Vegas, choose the best casino for you based on the game you like to play. From there forget comps, but at the same time take advantage of them. More or less what I am saying is seek out the best casino for the game you play, and then let comps be icing on the cake. Let me go ahead and give you some tips.
- Blackjack – If you’re okay with $100 minimum bet you can find blackjack games at Luxor that when played perfect have just a 0.20% house advantage. The rules are 2 Decks, S17, DAS, and RSA (resplit-aces) that’s all the perfect rules the only missing is the very rare, late surrender. Moving down to $25.00 min limit you can find games at the Mirage that when played perfect have a 0.27% advantage, the only difference (no re-split on aces). Just off the strip (and one of my favorite casinos) Tuscany has single deck blackjack with a $10.00 minimum bet with rules H17 and no double after split, or resplit aces (single deck is huge) and downtown Las Vegas El Cortez has this available as well with just a $5.00 limit! The house edge in these games is just 0.30%. The typical house edge a Las Vegas casino has for perfect play is 0.59%.
- Baccarat – Located on the main casino floor NOT the baccarat room, Caesars Palace has 8-deck shoe mini baccarat tables. In times where the minimum bet is $25.00 this is one the best games in the casino. The reason for this is Caesars doesn’t use quarters, takes commission every hand, and rounds down. At most casinos a $25.00 banker bet win would cost $1.25 in commission, at Caesars it cost just $1.00. This cuts the house advantage on a banker bet from 1.058% down to 0.599% when playing $25.00 per hand. Tip: Most $25.00 per hand bettors prefer not to pay the high room costs Caesars Palace charges. My suggestion is stay off the strip at Gold Coast which has awesome baccarat and also has a free shuttle to the strip. Or if you really like the strip Imperial Palace, Flamingo, Bally’s, and Harrah’s are all part of the same VIP program as Caesars and are in easy walking distance. While there are not that many tables on the strip, out of those properties Harrah’s would be the best for baccarat.
- Roulette – You won’t find too many favourable games in Las Vegas. To start the house advantage for American Roulette on 50/50 bets is 5.76%. Yes, roulette is a horrible game for the player and a great game for the house. Now if you’re betting $100.00 per game you can find French roulette at MGM, Mirage, Bellagio and Wynn which has a 1.35% advantage. They call it European Roulette which means it has a single 0, the reason we call it French roulette is they have the rule where only half your money is taken on 50/50 bets when the zero is spun (that’s a French rule). For those betting small stakes, for sure the best roulette in Las Vegas can be found at the Stratosphere which offers European Roulette (single-zero w/out French rules) that has just a 2.70% house advantage and a $10.00 minimum bet.
- Pai Gow Poker – Imperial Palace has unique rules for setting their hands. For example two small pairs are kept together regardless of the top, so for example a hand of T763322 they’d play 33226 with T7 on the top. This is far from optimal strategy and they’re one of only a rare few casinos that does this. ALSO, in many Las Vegas casinos there is a button that goes around the table giving players the option of when they can bank, at Imperial you can call for the bank at anytime.
- Craps – If you’re a craps player your best bet is to stay off the strip unless you’re a high roller. Short odds on the field, 3x caps on the point, added sucker bets all over, the strip really isn’t that ideal for smaller time craps players. Consider heading downtown to where 10x free odds can be found, or out to Boulder Highway Strip where 20x free odds can be found at Sam’s Town.
- Slots – Slots players will want to avoid the strip. Consider staying at The Orleans which is not far from the strip, has a solid free play VIP program and offers considerably looser slots than you’ll find on the strip. Or if you like historic downtown Las Vegas you cannot go wrong there as well, where almost every casino offers soft slots.
- Video Poker – If you’re around the strip head to Elis Island. If you’re next to Bally’s don’t piss off a cab driver with a $3.00 taxi ride. It’s a quite easy walk. When on Las Vegas BLVD the same side of the strip Ballys is on, walk down that side street. The very next road you’ll hit is Koval Lane. Cross that street, take a right and Ellis Island is a short walk from there. Here you’ll find progressive machines and machines with 99.95% payback. These are perhaps the loosest slots in Las Vegas and to top it off they give away free money in drawings and have a comp point scheme.
I could go on and on, but let me end this here by restating my earlier point. Gamble at whichever casino is best for you and let the comps be extra. This gives you the best chance to come out ahead. Whatever you decide, we at Casino Loyalty Programs wish you the best of luck.