Myths vs. Reality Understanding Comps

Why You Should (Almost) Always Use A Casino’s Players Card When Gambling

Players card inserted into a machine
Written by Joshua

What is one of the most guaranteed ways you can get paid at a casino? A Players Club card. Virtually every casino offers a players card, and virtually every casino Players Club offers you some sort of incentives to use the card. In today’s post, we’ll talk about this and why it’s a critical part of your gambling experience to use a players card.

Stepping Past the Myths

I see it quite often on forums and Google groups, when people talk about slot machines and using a player’s card. Someone inevitably says that they only win when they pull their card out, and that the casino controls the payback percentage based on whose card is in the machine.

That’s not true. It simply isn’t. Don’t believe it.

How can I be so sure? Well, if you understand how slot machines are designed, players card systems aren’t built in when a slot machine is manufactured. Casinos add on the system of their choice. The RNG, the slot software, etc. is not built with any of that being known – the slots are designed to allow for them to be embedded, but they have to work regardless of the presence of them – so they’re designed to work with or without them. That means payback, etc. are set in the core software of the slot.

If someone happens to win a lot when their card is out, it could just be luck of the draw. But what is more certain is they’re giving up a portion of their payback expectation to the house because of their irrational fear of the players card.

Your Guaranteed Payback

When you sign up for a Players Club card, you many times get initial incentives as a thank you for registering. But just for using the card when you play, you generally earn points that can then be redeemed for Free Play, spend at restaurants or on your hotel bill, etc. Those earnings are usually factored into the casino’s math when determining payback on the machines, as it’s the total amount they give out for what you bet.

For some casino rewards programs, like MGM’s mLife, when you reach a new tier, you earn points at a faster rate due to bonuses – so leaving out the card could cost you even more if you miss a tier or bonus earnings because you opted not to always use your card.

Each casino has its own determination of how much you ultimately earn through this option, but it could be anywhere from 0.25-1% payback based on your bet in most cases, which is pretty significant if you gamble enough. If you do $10,000 worth of coin in (meaning total bet, not necessarily lost), that’d be between $25 and $100 you left on the table. It certainly won’t make or break you, but the more you use the house money for gambling or paying for things like food or your hotel room, the more you can either keep in your pocket or reallocate to other parts of your trip.

Also remember some casinos will do multiplier days, which give you a bonus when you play those days. I once earned 2500 tier points at a Caesars property on a day where I had a 5x Rewards Credit multiplier. That was good for $125 in points, on top of the fact that I managed to win $1,000 – that’s a nice bonus on my winnings!

Getting Better Offers

The other aspect of using your card whenever you play is that the more the casino sees you playing and betting, the more likely your offers will be stronger.

Casinos tend to calculate offers based on a variety of metrics, including how often you visit and when your last visit was, but the primary factors are almost always based on how long you played, and how much you bet. Those two pieces of data can generally calculate what’s known as Average Daily Theo (ADT).

Based on the amount you bet and the time you’re there, they can generally figure out based on the standard math what they expect you to lose. The higher your ADT, the more comfortable they’ll be sending you bigger offers, because they believe over time the math will work in their favor (which it almost inevitably does as you play longer).

Four hours is generally the magic sweet spot casino marketing teams will mention – if you’re playing for four hours they’ll like you a lot more than those who hit and run, because variance becomes more at play with shorter sessions.

So based on the above, why does your card matter? They can only track when you’re playing with your card, as that’s the only play recorded to their computers. So if you take your card out and then proceed to keep betting, those bets are no longer necessarily captured by the casino’s data system. It’s possible that some systems might, since your money is still in the machine, but they’re likely to err on the side of presuming it’s not you, which also helps to save them money in comps.

So Should I ALWAYS Use My Card?

There’s one scenario which might warrant staying off the grid. If you’re going to a casino where you normally bet a lot, and don’t plan on betting much if at all, or are going to be there for a much shorter window than normal, consider skipping using your card in all circumstances for that specific visit – that means not in a slot machine, not swiping at a promo booth, not using your Free Play offer and not using your points for any purchases.

The moment you trigger any action that leverages your card, you initiate what’s known as a gaming day. If you know you’re not going to be playing to your normal standard, you run the risk of diluting that ADT calculation they have on you, since you now have a zero or low betting day and that will get averaged in with the others. That will serve to hurt your mailer/come back offers in most cases (again, that just serves to save them money on the offers, so the formula will always be tough on players when a casino is given the opportunity).

So the only time you should pass on it is when it could serve to hurt what you have already built up and wish to maintain it – if you don’t care about your offers, then it doesn’t matter. Otherwise, keep that card in there and ensure you’re getting the maximum return on your casino visits.

Do you have other tips about using a players card? Share them in the comments below!

About the author


My name is Joshua, and I’m a slot enthusiast who works in tech as a marketer by day, and dabbles in casinos periodically during off-times. Know Your Slots will reflect my interests in understanding the various ways you can play slots, travel, casino promotions and how you can get the most out of your casino visits.


    • Thanks for checking out the site! I do not live in a state that has legalized any sort of online betting at this point, so I haven’t had the opportunity to personally do much research, nor have any recommendations for you. You can check broader message boards like Vegas Message Board or Vegas Fanatics and may find players who have a bit more to offer. Best of luck!

    • Hi Glenn! My guess is it’s for privacy reasons – they don’t know who you are and how you’re related to a person, and they have to keep accounts secure since comps, offers, etc. have value to them. There are also jurisdictions that may have regulations that impact these decisions, whether around gambling specifically or personal information more broadly, but I presume it’s primarily privacy.

  • Great article! I play a lot of craps and get free rooms at many casinos because of that. However recently I noticed that when I play slot machines (I just putter around at $.60 a spin while resting my back) it seems to hurt my ‘offers’. I always wondered if my ‘cheap’ betting on slots is bringing down my average (I normally bet between $50 – $120 per roll at craps, not counting free-odds). Reading your article it seems likely that it is hurting my average. Some casinos where I had free room offers have yanked that priviledge, and I think this may be the reason.

    • Hey Kevin! I suspect the high betting amounts on the tables, vs. the much smaller slot amounts, could be the culprit. The casino looks at three basic values: Total amount of wagers, how much time per day you wager it, and the house edge on the game. If you used to play on tables four hours and now do three, and are doing an hour on small bets on slots, even though slots have a higher house edge, it’s not making up the sizes of the wagers on the tables.

      Keep in mind though offers are getting impacted by other headwinds, and free rooms have been most heavily impacted because many properties are having trouble fully staffing up their hotels, and demand has been very high. So you could also simply be hitting that wall.

      I will say as someone who has much of my gambling career been a sub-$1 better, I get free rooms quite often from a lot of places, but it’s because I play enough hours that it adds up. So just the act of betting that alone won’t hurt you necessarily; it just depends on the overall mix of gambling on a visit, as noted above. Hope this helps!

  • I got a win loss statement from a casino and they say money in 80,000 plus and money out 70,000plus i did not ever play 80,000 in one year. I do not even have that kind of money how did they figure it.

    • Win/loss doesn’t calculate how much money you actually inserted into the machine, but the totality of your wagers. Imagine you put $20 in a machine. Now imagine you keep getting some hits, and you do 1000 spins at $1 a spin on that $20. That’s $1,000 in coin-in, even though you put $20 into the machine.

      Most of us recycle our wins and keep playing, at least for awhile, and that’s how win/loss numbers can get so big over the course of a year. It doesn’t mean you’ve actually brought that much to the casino.

  • Dear Anyone.

    Can someone please help me understand slot denoms?

    So I’m on a fictional-for-illustration-purposes-only slot machine and it’s on $1 denom and it has 25 winlines. Would that make the max. bet $25? I’m sure I’ve seen streams on YouTube where the max. bet’s higher than the amount of winlines multiplied by the denom., though you’re welcome to tell me I’m wrong on this.

    Here’s the question I’ve been trying to get answered for YEARS now and nobody will tell me! I’ve seen streamers playing – for example only, on my mythical 25-line machine – $25 a spin on a dollar denom. Then they say ‘Changing it up a little….’ and they change to 50c denom – BUT THEY’RE STILL DOING THE SAME AMOUNT PER SPIN!! As they’re still doing the same amount per spin, what’s the point of them changing the denom? And how come they ARE doing the same amount per spin? I mean if the bet is amount of lines times denom (stake per line) how can the bet possibly be the same on two different denoms?

    I’m very, very confused over all the above, go gentle with your answer if you choose to reply!

    Yours feeling-stupidly


    • Hi Chris! Thanks for the questions, and all fair ones. I got into this topic a bit in this previous post, but I think your questions go in a few new directions so I’ll focus on that here, and likely structure this into a new post.

      When it comes to your total overall bet, the denomination is one of 2-3 components of what make up a bet. The other are number of lines (sometimes; some machines don’t let you decide how many lines you’re playing, while some do), and then there’s the line bet, or bet multiplier as it’s sometimes called.

      So if you’re playing a $1 denomination machine with 25 lines, a line bet of 1 would be 1 credit ($1 in this case) on each of 25 lines, or $25. But a line bet of 2 would mean 2 credits (or $2) on each line, a total of $50. So that’s where you get a scenario where the bets are much higher than the win lines, because you’re missing that factor of the line bet.

      This also addresses your question about how changing the denomination can yield the same bet – that multiplier is the great equalizer that allows the same wager to be played on multiple denominations in certain cases (usually the max bet on a lower denomination will be lower than the max bet on a higher denomination). So a 50 cent denomination with 25 lines and a line multiplier of 2 works out to the same overall spend per spin as a $1 denomination with 25 lines and a line multiplier of 1.

      As far as changing the denomination, some players think it changes their luck. It might, but no one truly knows whether they’re improving or worsening their outcome vs. if they just left things alone, so that’s more harmless superstition than anything else. The one significant change that may factor into changing denominations is there might be a different line count, which plays and pays a bit differently.

      Doing 50 lines on pennies at $5 a spin vs. doing 25 lines on dimes at $5 a spin does work out differently on a spin to spin basis, in that the line pays will be higher, but less frequent, on dimes vs. pennies. But ultimately it balances out in the long run.

  • Is it better to have your card linked with your spouse. All offers go in his name and I am the bigger gambler. Would we get double the offers if we are not linked?

    • You may get offers for each, but you also would get smaller offers since each of you playing individually would be less than playing together. If you tend to only need one room, it can make more sense to be linked and pool together your play.

  • My father and mother eat at buffets a lot at Red Hawk Casino. Every time they go my dad scans his card to get points, then they both go to eat at the buffet prior to playing any slots. They scan his card there too. Then for some reason EVERY TIME my dad wins $100 in a couple minutes after eating, then he gets the money and leaves up $100. This happened again today. Every time though he wins about $100…. Is it something they do in regard to scanning his card when eating, or when hescans his card at the kiosk when he steps into the casino? I don’t get this. He wins every time. and when I say every time it’s literally every time..

  • Do Vegas casinos allow you to play using her spouses players card or will that void any winnings?

    • Hi Kelli – there’s no one size fits all answer to this. Some explicitly allow this, some don’t and some it’s a gray area. Generally speaking, if you and your spouse are sharing a card, it’s advisable for you to both be nearby in case something like a handpay occurs. Or, if it’s a casino that allows companion cards or other such linked options, you can set that up and you’ll be fine. A quick check with the players club desk will confirm your options.

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