The Illusive Free Drink at the Casino


The number one question I get from people that are first timers to the casino (I live in Vegas) is how do they score free drinks. As a “Vegas/casino veteran” you would think that I would start rolling my eyes every time I hear this question since I’ve heard it so many time but surprisingly I don’t. I remember my first few trips to the casino when I was 21. There were three missions…win money, get free drinks and meet girls.

Because of this, I fully understand this question and am always happy to help. It’s kind of like paying it forward I guess in some sort of twisted way.

All of that being said, what I’d like to do today is talk to you about the best ways to get free drinks, how things have changed over the years, and a few other things that I think are important for you to know before you make your first or next trip to the casino. Remember, every casino is different and will probably have different rules and procedures. I will be talking mainly about Vegas casinos as they are typically the standard which other casinos work from.

Free Drinks Aren’t Really Free

Leave it to me to be a buzz kill right off the bat. Everyone knows that in most casinos if you’re playing table games there are waitresses that are rotating around to give patrons free drinks. Do you have to pay for these drinks directly? No. The drinks are given to you at zero charge outside of a standard tip of $1 per drink that is not mandatory, but you won’t be getting any more drinks quickly if you don’t tip.

Where the cost comes in is that you may end up losing money while you’re waiting for your drink. The waitress usually takes a few minutes to come around and then takes a few more minutes after you’ve given your order to get back with your drinks. This whole time you are expected to be playing at the table which is why they are giving you the free drink in the first place.

If you were planning on gambling anyways, this is no big deal at all. If your only goal is to avoid paying $9 for a drink, this may cause you an unnecessary headache. You may end up losing a lot more than $9 and might not even be around when your free drink comes back. So yes, the drink itself is free, but it may end up costing you more money than you were trying to save.

Tips to Beat the System

With all of that said, you’re probably wondering how you can still game the system. While casinos have started to crack down a little on the free drinks, there are still plenty of ways to game the system and get more booze for your buck.

  1. Pre-gaming never hurt anyone. If you’re looking to get some cheaper drinks, your best bet might be to have them before you go to the casino. For those staying at the casino, your room is going to be the cheapest bar on the planet. No, I do not mean the mini bar. I mean picking things up from a grocery or drug store before you show up. Remember, bring cups if you have more than two people usually and get ice from the ice machine.
  1. Play at full tables. If you’re sitting at a blackjack table by yourself, you’re going to be playing extremely fast because you are the only player at the table. Sitting at a full table, though, you will have a bunch of players that you have to “wait” on. This would be annoying if you were looking to blast through some hands but will be a welcome sign if you are trying to get your buzz on for cheap. Also, if you have friends with you, you can make the table full yourselves and all take your time.
  1. Tipping the waitress or waiter can go a long way. In Vegas, they are only allowed to bring you one drink at a time. But, if you throw them a few extra bucks, they can bring you out a drink and a shot at the same time. They give you the shot, and you take it, and then they give you your drink. Technically, they are only giving you one drink at a time.

The waitress or waiter will also seem to make it around to your table a lot quicker if you are tipping well. Remember, most people are tipping $1 per drink, but even $2 per drink will go a long way.

  1. Don’t forget the slot machines. One of the easiest machines to get free drinks on without going bust are slot machines. You can play extremely slowly and just wait for the waitresses to come around. Now, casinos are getting smarter, and some of them out here now have a certain betting minimum that you have to hit before you are given a free drink.

They actually have lights on the sides of some slot machines that won’t go on until you hit that threshold. Hitting that threshold turns the light on and signals the waitress to come over. Thankfully for you booze hounds, this is only in a few select spots so you can just pick a casino that doesn’t have them if this is the strategy that you want to employ.

Fun story…I used to go to a certain casino on the strip that I won’t name and post up at a slot machine right by the entrance to the bar area the waitresses used. I would tip the same lady, like 5 or 10 bucks, and then $2 every time she came around with a drink and a shot. Let’s just say that I was able to get pretty toasty for like $10-$20 which was usually the price of 1-2 drinks. I’d be “betting” on the slot machine, but only a penny a pull and I was pretty lazy with my pulls.

  1. If you’re tipping per drink, you can usually get an extra for someone who is watching. This tip is last because it works sometimes and sometimes it doesn’t. Usually, I’ll be gambling, and my girlfriend will be standing behind me watching. When the waitress comes over, I will order and then say, “Babe, did you want anything,” and point at the waitress. Majority of the time the waitress will take her drink order and bring drinks for both of us. I WILL 100% tip her for both drinks and usually an extra dollar or two. Otherwise, she probably won’t be allowing that on the next time around.
  2. Order on a rotation. If your goal is to get nice and toasty, you can always order on the rotation. This means that when the waitress brings your first drink, let her know to bring another one next time she comes around. You can do this every time to ensure you are getting drinks the quickest. Remember, tipping a little extra at least on the first round or two will help a lot to keep the flow coming.

Don’t Get Too Concerned With This

Remember, the reason you are going to the casino is to have fun, and you usually spend money when you’re having fun. There is nothing wrong with being a little strategic to get the best bang for your buck but don’t drive yourself crazy trying to save a couple dollars. If money is that tight, you probably shouldn’t be going to the casino.

I would link you to the blog posts about not drinking too much when you gamble, but if you’re reading this far into this blog…well, have fun and be safe 🙂

Petko Stoyanov
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About Petko Stoyanov
My name is Petko Stoyanov, and I've been a gambling writer for more than ten years. I guess that was the natural path for me since I've loved soccer and card games for as long as I can remember! I have a long and fairly successful history with English Premier League betting and online poker, but I follow many other sports. I watch all big European soccer leagues, basketball, football, and tennis regularly, and I keep an eye on snooker, volleyball, and major UFC events.