Las Vegas Bonus Whoring: Tropicana Edition

February 21, 2012

Before we begin, I would like to explain "bonus whoring" to you. Despite the salacious terminology, it has nothing to do with sex or prostitution.

Simply put, bonus whoring is the act of taking advantage of special casino promotions in order to greatly (and temporarily) swing the odds of winning into your favor. Once the promotion is used up, you leave the casino and move on to the next one. It is called "whoring" because you're using the casino for what you need (in this case, money), and leaving immediately when you're done.

Bonus whoring won't make you big money. However, it's a good thing to do for a few extra bucks, especially if your bankroll isn't particularly big. There are some really great things about bonus whoring. Among them:

Unfortunately, not all casino promotions are created equal. Some are great, some are flawed but still worth doing, and others are terrible and useless.

This is Part 1 in a series. In these bonus whore blogs, I will give my experience with a particular casino's promotion, suggest what I believe to be the optimal strategy, and give a letter grade for the quality of the promotion.

I will do more bonus whoring blogs as I personally experience each promotion (or talk to someone reliable who has done so). Also keep in mind that some of these promotions are short-lived, so always check with the casino that the promotion still exists before going down there.


The Grading Scale

All casino promotions reviewed on this site will get a letter grade from A to F.

The breakdown of grades is as follows:


The Tropicana "First $200 is On Us" Promotion

At first glance, this looks like a great promotion. This heavily-advertised and apparently long-running promotion supposedly allows you to get reimbursed for your first $200 in losses at the machines at the Tropicana. So is this a freeroll where you either win or break even? Not quite.

Here is the way the promotion actually works:

  1. You sign up for a new player's card at Tropicana. If you already have one, you're not eligible.

  2. You go to any eligible machine in the Tropicana casino, and start playing. From the moment you start until 11:59pm that same day, the promotion takes place. Once midnight strikes, the promotion turns into a pumpkin and is over.

  3. If you are up money when the promotion is over, nothing further happens. Congratulations, you're a winner!

  4. If you are down money at the end of the day, or whenever you decide to quit the promotion (which you can do any time), you are eligible for free slot play, based upon your losses. However, you are NOT necessarily eligible for the same amount you lost, and you can't claim all of your free slot play on the same visit. Half of it is available immediately, half is available in 30 days. A chart showing the free slot play you earn (based upon amount lost) is shown on Tropicana's web page about this promotion.

  5. You need to cycle your free play through at least once in order to cash out. For example, if you earn $200 in free slot play, you need to make at least $200 in bets with the free credits before you can cash anything out.


Flaws With the Tropicana Promotion

While this promotion isn't terrible, it's not great, either. The flaws of this promotion are:


Optimal Strategy

The key here is to "Go Big or Go Home".

That is, unless you actually enjoy playing video poker or slots, there's no point to waste your time grinding limits you'd typically play with a $200 bankroll.

The reason for this is the fact that you're trying to do one of two things -- either win a lot of money without having to use the reimbursement feature (the best result, obviously), or lose your first $200 quickly while trying.

There is no point to "grind", because you're not trying to eke out a small profit. Remember, unless the clock strikes midnight, YOU choose when to quit when you're up. It would be foolish to quit when just a few dollars up, since you'd be costing yourself the chance to win a lot more money on dollars they'll (sort of) reimburse you if you lose. Your goal should be to win enough to where you're not likely to do much better from that point forward, even with the "free" $200 behind. Otherwise, you should bust the entire $200.

The best way of accomplishing this is to do what poker players are always told NOT to do: Play above your bankroll.

First, make sure you have ample time to play. It doesn't have to be early in the day, but make sure it's earlier than 10:30pm.

Next, go to the promotions desk, sign up for the card, and let them explain everything to you.

Stroll yourself into the high limit slots section. Your best bet odds-wise is to play $5-per-credit, Jacks or Better video poker, and max bet, meaning it will be $25 per hand. If you don't like video poker (or suck at it), you can also play slots with similar limits. Note that the variance will be huge here, which is actually what you want. If you brick the first 8 hands (or spins), you're down $200 and need to quit, because the promotion is automatically over. Be very careful to NOT ever be down more than $200.

If you start doing well (i.e. are up $200 or more), quit immediately. You've just achieved the desired result. You've made money without having to cycle free slot play or return to the crappy Trop. The reason you're playing high limits is because it's easiest to get up the desired amount quickly, plus the odds are usually a little bit better in that section.

If you don't win, at least you got to Step 2 quickly, without having to endure the long, torturous grind of playing $200 through video poker or slots until eventually losing it.

If you do lose the $200, go to the promotions card reading machine (right next to the promotions desk) and claim your credit. Ask for help if you don't know how to do this. You will immediately get $100 in free slot play. Now it's time to grind. Go to the $1 machines (which are not in the high limit area), load up your free play (do NOT put any more money in the machine), and carefully count out $100 worth of bets. For example, this would be exactly 20 bets (win or lose) if you max-bet video poker. At this point, you need to cash out immediately. Don't try to win the money back if you don't finish with $100 or more. Just cash out what is remaining.

You will need to repeat the above (the freeplay claiming and the grind) in another visit, in order to access the other $100 in free slot play. Again, make sure you play at the $1 or lower machines for this part, and cycle through exactly $100 in bets.

Once you blow through the first $200 and need to resort to the free play, your expectation is to LOSE at that point. You are not likely to lose the entire $200 (or anywhere close to it), but you can easily lose half of it. I lost my first $200, so I was stuck with the free play. I got back $76 from my first $100, and $110 from my second $100, leaving me a $14 loser for the promotion. However, since you will also win hundreds of dollars right off the bat a fair amount of the time, this promotion is definitely positive expectation for the player.

Overall Grade: C. The fact that you have to come back a second time, and wait at least a month to do so, is very frustrating. The Trop is counting on you either forgetting about it, or not being able to return to Vegas for quite some time (perhaps after the promotion ends). If you are from out of town, you should find out how long these credits stay in your account for that elusive second visit. It's also annoying that this isn't a freeroll, as their highly misleading ads would have you believe. As you see, I lost $14 in my attempt to take advantage of this. However, despite these flaws, it's still worth doing, and the odds are definitely on your side.

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