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high rolla
how to get something for nothing
by joe procopio (@jproco)

"All right Mr. Procopio, I've reserved a suite for you with our compliments. Is there anything else I can do?"

"No thanks - well - hold on a second. I think it was... two years ago, my brothers and I stayed in the King Suite for the NCAA tournament, we decided to put everyone in one room rather than two or three like we usually do. Anyhow, this is my first trip with my wife and I'm trying to make it special. Is there any way you can upgrade me to that suite?"

"Well let me check, sir. Normally we reserve that suite for our highest rated players."

"Oh, I know. I only get out there once a year and there's only so much damage you can do in three days, you know?"

"(Laughs) Tell you what. I'll put you in there, and unless someone pays for it before you get here, it'll be yours."


"Yes. Just check in as soon as you arrive in Las Vegas."

"Marla, you are my hero."


That, boys and girls, is a comp, and not just any comp, a high roller suite comp, inarguably the awesomest of all the comps. When I arrived in Vegas two days later and was indeed handed two fancy keycards and thus slid Marla a hefty tip, I came to the realization that no matter what happened for the duration of my stay, whether I lost my ass or got some bad shrimp at the buffet (check and check!), the whole thing would be worth it.

Now, this might be the most valuable column I write this year, because the above exchange contains every measure and detail you need to know in order to get comped. And not just in the LV. If you read it metaphorically and squint a little, you'll find the secret to getting something for nothing in just about every aspect of your life.

First of all, let me make this very clear -- you can't get something for nothing. WHAT? Yeah. I don't want you reading this column expecting me to reveal some kind of secret handshake or Masonic back door. But what I will do is trump this small but sticky detail. See, conventional wisdom will tell you that in order to get comped, you need to be fabulously wealthy or famous.

You don't.

Why do famous people get everything they want when they walk into a nightclub? It's because their cachet means more business for the club, end of story. Shaq isn't granted passage behind the velvet rope because he finally conquered that free throw issue, it's because dozens of clubgoers will tweet his presence drawing hundreds more to the rope and those folks won't get past without paying.

Sheep are lucrative.

Why do rich people get everything they want when they walk into a casino? It's because they either recently have or soon will dump five or six figures into the coffers in a single evening.

Whales are lucrative too.

Comps are rewards, first and foremost, for business brought. So now that we know this, let's go over the low roller rules.

Rule 1: Don't Bullshit

"All right Mr. Procopio..."

Not Mr. Trump. Not Mr. Diesel. Not Mr. Google. This should go without saying, but you'd be surprised at what people try to perpetrate. Don't pretend to be someone you're not. Don't lie. Don't exaggerate. Believe me, if you were the kind of high roller who's name they should already know, they would already know it.

Rule 2: Know What You Want

"...Is there any way you can upgrade me to that suite?"

At the highest level of roller, the casinos will do everything for you in an effort to anticipate your needs. Nothing says love like a large bottle of Jack Daniels and several eight-ounce cans of Schwepps chilling in an ice bucket at the end of a long night.

Don't expect this.

But if you've just blown a few hundred bucks at the blackjack table and you're defeated and starving, ask the pit boss for a buffet. Never ask them what they can do for you (wink wink), because they'll tell you "nothing," and they'll mean it.

Rule 3: You Have To Have Stake

"...we decided to put everyone in one room rather than two or three like we usually do... "

I know. This is the douchiest part of the exchange. But the fact of the matter is I have stayed at that hotel several times. And because we go for the NCAA tournament and we can't move from the television for hours at a time, we also spend a whole bunch of money on their room service (meals), at their bars (obviously), and at their stores (ointments). When the games are over, we drop more money on their tables and slot machines.

I had to communicate this.

Rule 4: Be Halfway There

"I've reserved a suite for you with our compliments."

There are players club cards that every casino uses to track how much money you spend at their establishment. It's just like when your grocery store sometimes gives you luggage.

You need the card. If your name can't be connected to The Hottie and the Nottie, it can be connected to a database. The card had already gotten me comped a smaller suite. So it wasn't like I was asking for the world, just a bigger room.

Real life isn't like this. In real life, the card is imaginary but it's tied to a list of every nice thing or favor you've ever done for other people. You know that Pay It Forward deal? That's a load of crap. Just remember to do things for others without regard for what it means for you. Those things go on the card.

Rule 5: Take What You Get

"...unless someone pays for it before you get here, it'll be yours."

I'm not saying you have to take this to the extreme -- for example, if they offered me that suite under the pretense that I needed to give it a decent spring cleaning while I was there and maybe ignore the dead hooker, then I could gracefully reject the offer and not hurt my status as a low roller. But if my expectation was to land the comp without any hoops to jump through, then any whining on my part would cement that as my last offer.

Again, comps are rewards, don't bite the hand.

Rule 6: Live Up To Your End

"I only get out there once a year and there's only so much damage you can do in three days, you know?"

Sure, I got a suite I probably didn't deserve, but in return, I wore out my card. I spent the vast majority of my time and money at their casino, everyone got tipped a little more than usual, and I guarantee you the next X times I go to Las Vegas I will stay there, whether they give me a King Suite or free donut at the coffee shop.

Especially if I get the free donut. But they don't know that.

Rule 7: Respect Everyone

"Marla, you are my hero."

Rich and famous people can get away with acting like an ass. We low rollers can not. Treat everyone like gold. Tip room service and housecleaning. Have fun. Jump on the bed, but don't break anything. Ask for extra pillows, but don't demand an ice sculpture shaped like Vanity (no matter HOW FUNNY IT SEEMS when you're drunk). And don't kill any hookers.

I'm kidding about the hookers. Come on. It's Vegas!

But I will leave you with this. In the real world, things work a little different. If you are ever lucky enough to get something for nothing, always ask if there's anything you can do in return. And then keep asking.

You've got to build up points on that card for next time.


Joe Procopio trades in pop culture and tech culture, allowing him to poke fun at so many things. He's written for a number of online and offline publications from the late, lamented Smug to the fancy-pants Chicago Tribune and also for television. He's a novelist, a shredder, a joker, and a family man. Scoff at joeprocopio.com or follow on Twitter @jproco.

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