CasinoCityTimes.com

Gurus
News
Newsletter
Author Home Author Archives Author Books Search Articles Subscribe
Stay informed with the
NEW Casino City Times newsletter!
Newsletter Signup
Stay informed with the
NEW Casino City Times newsletter!
Recent Articles
Best of John Robison

Gaming Guru

author's picture
 

Ask the Slot Expert: What does "free play" mean?

13 November 2019

Question: What does the term "free play" mean?

Answer: Free play is the new name for what used to be called bounceback cash. When I first started going to the casinos in Atlantic City, they would send players coupons that could be exchanged for cold, hard cash at one of the coin redemption booths. (Remember them?) When I say cold, hard cash I mean cold, hard cash. Bill acceptors were not common then, so the casinos would give you a roll or half-roll of quarters. You could walk out of the casino with the cash or play it through the machines. It was your choice. Good for the players, not so good for the casinos. They were planning on your playing the bounceback cash plus some of your own money.

I always took the half-roll of quarters. I don't know whether you could have requested bills instead. As I said before, the casino's desire was for you to play back the cash, not walk out with it. Who wants to walk around with a roll of quarters in their pockets? Maybe you could have requested dollar tokens instead.

With the evolution of slot clubs and slot club hardware and software, I remember that one of the casinos offered a new benefit: redeem your bounceback offer right at your slot machine. No more waiting in line. I'm pretty certain that after you redeemed your offer and the credits were added to your machine, you could cash them out.

Fast forward to today. The term "free play" is a bit like the term "congress." Sometimes people mean the House of Representatives whan they say "congress" and sometimes they mean the entire legislative branch. You have to look at the context to see exactly what they mean.

One meaning of free play is the one I gave in the first sentence. Free play is money that the casino spots you to get you to come back. The only way you can use this money is to play it through a machine. You download it to your credit meter, but you can't cash it out. Today's slots are able to distinguish between cashable credits and non-cashable credits and free play is — you guessed it — non-cashable.

You can also win free play in slot tournaments, kiosk games and other promotions.

You typically do not earn slot club points when you use your free play. After all, you're not playing on your money. You'll also frequently see machines on which you can't redeem your free play. These are machines on which the casino shares the money it wins from it with another party, usually the manufacturer. The casino is not going to give the third party a percentage of the money it gave to you to play with.

The common denominator in all these free play scenarios is that the casino gave you the ability to play a machine without taking anything from you. It is truly free play — well, ignoring all of the money you might have lost and time you spent qualifying for the offers!

Now things get a little muddy. What do you call it when you redeem slot club points at a machine or kiosk to get credits to play a machine? There's no good term for those credits, so many players refer to that as free play too.

When I first moved to Las Vegas four years ago, all of the casinos I played in gave slot club points on redeemed-points credits played. That made sense because you could redeem the points for cash and then put the cash in the machine. Less work for the booth folks and the cashier.

Today none of the casinos give points on those credits. I complained about that to Jean Scott and she told me that it doesn't bother her. There's nothing you can do about not getting points on the free free play and if you really want points on your redeemed points, you can always convert them to cash first. Besides, the number of points you could have earned with your redeemed points is minuscule compared with the number of points you earn from playing with your own money.

Just to add one more thing to give yet another free play scenario, the free play may be treated as a rebate of your bet. After you activate your free play at a machine, Stations Casinos here in Las Vegas forces you to make a bet with your own money first and then it rebates the amount you bet from your available free play. The same restriction applies to redeemed points. On more than one occasion I've been tripped up while playing a multi-hand machine. I redeemed points when I was nearly out of credits, but I didn't have enough left on the meter to fund a max bet, so I had to put more money in anyway.

I think this covers everything anyone could mean when they say "free play." If I missed something, please let me know.

John Robison
John Robison is an expert on slot machines and how to play them. John is a slot and video poker columnist and has written for many of gaming’s leading publications. He holds a master's degree in computer science from the prestigious Stevens Institute of Technology.

You may hear John give his slot and video poker tips live on The Good Times Show, hosted by Rudi Schiffer and Mike Schiffer, which is broadcast from Memphis on KXIQ 1180AM Friday afternoon from from 2PM to 5PM Central Time. John is on the show from 4:30 to 5. You can listen to archives of the show on the web anytime.

Books by John Robison:

The Slot Expert's Guide to Playing Slots
John Robison
John Robison is an expert on slot machines and how to play them. John is a slot and video poker columnist and has written for many of gaming’s leading publications. He holds a master's degree in computer science from the prestigious Stevens Institute of Technology.

You may hear John give his slot and video poker tips live on The Good Times Show, hosted by Rudi Schiffer and Mike Schiffer, which is broadcast from Memphis on KXIQ 1180AM Friday afternoon from from 2PM to 5PM Central Time. John is on the show from 4:30 to 5. You can listen to archives of the show on the web anytime.

Books by John Robison:

The Slot Expert's Guide to Playing Slots