Playing the rebate game

Did you hear about the gambler who beat Atlantic City for several million dollars in blackjack a couple of months ago? He must be some sort of master card counter, right? Nope. He’s something better—a real good dealmaker. It turns out that the guy was able to negotiate gambling terms that mathematically turned the tables on the casinos. Explaining all the ins and outs of what he did would be complicated, but all you really need to know is that the key to his deal was getting a rebate on losses.

You already know that rebates are good. You get them all the time when you buy anything from cell phones to groceries. Rebates are also a big part of the casino-marketing scheme. Getting cash back from gambling with your player’s card is the most common form, but it can get a lot juicier than that.

Casinos sometimes run loss-rebate deals to attract business or, more commonly, to build players club membership. The typical offer is a rebate on one-day gambling losses up to $100. That means you can jump in and play with impunity until you accrue $100 in losses, because if that happens, you’re getting it all back at the club booth.

Sound like fun? Sure it is. But it’s also profitable, because while many players will lose the hundred, a significant number will drift (or explode) upward, and you get to keep whatever you win. Think about sitting down to play video poker and hitting a couple of four-of-a-kinds or even a royal. When that happens you don’t get a loss rebate; you just walk with the cash.

These deals come and go all the time, but right now there are three different rebates available in Las Vegas, collectively worth $400 in freeplay. Rebates on losses up to $100 are currently running at the Cosmopolitan and Riviera, and the Tropicana has a $200 offer. Each is a little different and may require first-time membership (i.e., if you’re already in the players club, you don’t qualify), but if you can play them all, it works out to a sweet $400 freeroll.

Now that you know where to find them, the next goal is to maximize your results. I’ll hit that in a future column, but until then it’s enough to know that you should either walk with a profit or lose the limit. Under no circumstances should you stop in the middle with a loss that’s less than the entire $100.