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DO YOU NEED A HOST? Part 2

by Jean Scott

Note: Jean Scott, the Queen of Comps, is the author of "Frugal Gambling," "More Frugal Gambling," and "Frugal Video Poker." Her blog appears on www.lasvegasadvisor.com. What follows is an excerpt from Section IV of "More Frugal Gambling" on casino hosts. (Even though most of the information is geared toward video poker and slot players, much can be learned that could be applied to table play.)

Editorís Note: Thanks to Anthony Curtis, publisher of "More Frugal Gambling," for giving us permission to reprint the section on casino hosts.

Note: Part 1 appeared in the December issue of BJI.

Where Do I Find a Host?

I canít count how many people have told me that theyíve played in casinos for years, have never seen a host, and wouldnít know if they fell over one in the aisle.

If youíve seen hosts in action and even used one on occasion, you still might not be sure where you fit into a particular casinoís system. If youíre planning on staying or playing in a casino, you should talk to a host to find out. You can phone or ask to meet one any time, just to inquire about the requirements. Simply call the casinoís toll-free number and ask to be connected to a slot host. Max Rubinís book, Comp City, has excellent information on "Scouting Casinos" by talking to a host before you go.

What if youíre in a casino, have played awhile, and wonder if youíve logged enough time or action for a comp? How do you find out?

One thing you can do is to go to the slot club desk and ask to speak to a host; one can usually be paged and will meet you right there at the booth. Most larger casinos have a host office somewhere on the premises; just walk in and talk to a host on duty or a clerk will find one for you (sometimes itís called the VIP office, although any level of player can get information there).

However, the best way, in my opinion, is to stay at your machine and tell a change person or floorperson youíd like to speak to a host as soon as possible. Floorpeople can get a host your message by relaying it to a supervisor or by using their own pager.

Having a host meet you at your machine has several advantages. First, theyíre often very busy and canít always respond to pages immediatelyóso you can continue playing during a possibly long wait.

Second, if a host sees you actually playing, she may write you an immediate comp based on the coin denomination youíre playing, without bothering to go to a computer to check your past play record. This is why I suggest meeting a new host when youíre playing at the highest denomination you ever choose in that casino.

Donít try to pull a fast one here and play for several hours on quarters, then move to a $5 machine and slow-play until the host arrives; youíll get nothing but a hustler reputation when she checks the computer.

However, if youíve been switching back and forth between quarter and dollar play, ask for a comp while youíre playing a dollar machine. This may score you a higher-level compóe.g., a meal for two in a better restaurant instead of the buffet or perhaps expensive show tickets. For room-comp requests, a host almost always checks your past-play record on the computer.

One high-roller friend of mine makes scouting for a host a careful scienceóbecause once youíre assigned to a host, he says, itís often difficult to change later. Although Iíve found most hosts quite easy to work with, a few shouldnít be in a customer-relations job. Also, some hosts are so scared of losing their jobs that they tend to stay at the low end of the range of comps theyíre allowed to give; this is why some savvy players look for a host whoís been on the job for a while and is comfortable in giving comps at the highest level possible. In large casinos that have a host hierarchy, "executive" or "senior" hosts usually have more experience and more authority to grant better comps.

Itís good to find a host who fits your personality. Some players feel they can do better with a host of the opposite sex. But regardless of gender, itís always advantageous, as it is in all relationships, if that indefinable element we call chemistry is good between the player and the host.

How do you find a generous host rather than a timid bean counter? My high-roller friend is good at going into a casino and observing hosts in action and assessing them, but most players have neither the time nor the experience for this. However, if you know someone who has used a host in a certain casino, you could ask for his recommendation. Networking, both with gambling friends and casino employees, is an important tool for experienced gamblers.

If youíre on gambling bulletin boards on the Internet, youíre in luck. Iím on a couple of big boards where all I have to do is ask for a host recommendation at a particular casino anywhere in the U.S. and within the day, Iíll have anywhere from two to a dozen posts giving me names and experiences with the good, the bad, and the ugly. This can be an important search, because for a heavy or frequent player, a generous host can mean thousands more dollars worth of comps every year.

How Do I Get Comps Without Feeling Like Iím Begging?

When the host arrives at your machine, stop playing, smile, and introduce yourself like you would to anyone new youíre meeting. Donít feel like youíre in an inferior position or that the host is some kind of god. Remember, comps arenít charity; you earn them as a reward from the casino for putting your hard-earned money at risk. Casinos include the expense of giving out comps in their marketing budgets, so they expect to give them out. Hosts are hired for that very purpose.

One Internet friend described it well: "Think of your gambling action as a bank deposit and comps as earned interest. Your host is simply a friendly bank teller who checks your account and pays you some of that interest when you ask for it. The more you play, the more interest you earn. And after youíve shown yourself to be a good loyal customer, you can expect to be rewarded even more. Instead of the toasters, book bags, pen sets, or traditional bank incentives, hosts can now offer (or again, give you when you ask) such goodies as room upgrades, party and tournament invitations, show tickets, and more."

On the other hand, a good host is not just another impersonal casino clerk. Once youíve met, she often becomes more like a good friend. When you visit, seek her out and behave like an invited guest in the home (the casino) of a friend. Thatís what you are. Just like good friends, good hosts like to be generous and helpful, especially to players who are willing to play and behave properly.

"But Iím afraid Iíll ask for more comps than Iíve earned and Iíll feel so embarrassed when she says no."

Thereís a very simple way to avoid the bugaboo, which almost everyone fears, of being turned down. First, remember a host hates to say no. I stressed this in The Frugal Gambler and Iíll stress it again: Use language in your interaction with a host, whether at the first meeting or one that occurs many years after you meet, that doesnít require a yes-or-no answer:

ē "How much longer would I need to play to get two comps for the buffet?"

ē "I was wondering how many hours I need to play at the quarter level to get my room comped."

ē "Can you evaluate my play and let me know what comps Iím entitled to?"

These non-questions are neutral enough that you shouldnít experience any sort of discomfort. They make the hostís job much easier as well. An added bonus is that you get valuable information that will help you in the future to know better what the requirements are in that casino.

A good attitude goes a long way in smoothing your encounters with hosts. Hosts follow guidelines, not strict rules, so they have some leeway. But remember, hosts are human, not casino robots. Be demanding and picky and youíll find yourself with only the minimum for your level of play. Be friendly and appreciative and youíll be amazed at the comps youíll be readily offered.

Note: You can purchase More Frugal Gambling at the special price of only $13.50.

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