“Bounce back” is a term that means something of value that a casino will give to its valued players, such as money or free play or free meals or other rewards. Players must return or “bounce back” to the casino to use them.
The value of the bounce-back benefit is spelled out in a mailer that a casino sends loyal players. Bounce back is important to video poker players because depending on its amount, it could boost a player’s overall return to close to, or slightly over, 100%.
Therefore, it’s important that video poker players understand what they can control, and how to do it, to increase their bounce-back benefit.
Table of Contents
1 – The Key to Bounce Back Is a Player’s Card
To obtain the benefits of bounce back, you must belong to a casino's player club and insert your player's card into the video poker machine every time you play. The cards are free and you can sign up to get them at the player’s club either inside a casino or on its website.
2 – Most Common Bounce-Back Benefit
Nowadays, the most common form of bounce back given to video poker players (especially local players) is free play. For example, in one casino that I play, I received a total of $1,200 in free play that I can use the following month in buckets of $300 per week (meaning, each $300 worth of free play has specific days that it can be used).
You must download the free play as credits to your video poker machine, and then play them through at least once before you can cash out the balance of your credits. Here’s an example of how this works.
3 – How to Use Your Bounce-Back Free Play
In my case, I download the free play to the video poker machine and then start playing. In some casinos, you must also insert at least the minimum amount of cash to play one hand before being able to use the free play.
I play at a dollar denomination with a maximum of five coins ($5) played per hand. Most casinos have a counter on the keypad of the machine that will track the number of free-play credits that you wager on each hand.
For example, if my counter starts with $300 worth of free play and I play one hand ($5 wagered), after the hand is over, the counter will read 295 credits remaining. When a hand wins, the number of credits won will be credited to the credit meter.
After I play exactly 60 hands (or a total of $300 in free-play), I can cash out the remaining credits that I won. I hit the cash-out button and the machine will give me a ticket that I can take to the cashier to exchange for cash. In some casinos, you can insert the ticket into a kiosk that will dispense your cash.
Unfortunately, some casinos don’t track your free-play credits. What I do in this case is use a handheld counter that I click once after I play each hand. If I've received $300 in free-play credits and I'm wagering $5 per hand, I would play my free-play credits through once after 60 hands (or 60 appears on my counter). I can then print my ticket and get the cash.
4 – Theoretical Return of Bounce-Back Free Play
If you have, say, $500 in free play that you play once through a video poker machine, you won't necessarily end up with exactly $500 in cash. Theoretically, your expected return would be $500 times whatever the theoretical return of the video poker game you happen to be playing.
For example, if you are playing 8/5 Bonus Poker, which has a theoretical return of 99.17% with expert play, your expected return is $500 x 99.17% or $496. However, most of the time, you will end up with either less, or more, than $496 after playing the free credits through exactly 100 hands.
Luck plays a big part in playing 100 hands, which results in a swing (up or down) from the expected $496. Nevertheless, in the long run, you will come close to averaging a return of $496 per $500 of free play played once through.
(Note: If you are playing a video poker machine that has a poor pay schedule with an expected return of, say, less than 99%, you’ll get less than an average of $496 in cash for your $500 in free play credits.)
5 – What Determines the Amount of Your Bounce-Back Free Play?
In the “good ol’ days,” the amount of bounce-back free play would be directly related to your coin-in (i.e., the amount of money you wagered). I remember when the South Point Casino (Las Vegas) gave “x” amount of free play based on “y” amount of coin-in from previous months.
The greater the amount of coin-in, the greater would be your bounce-back free play for the following month. It was simple and easy because the only factor that determined the amount of your bounce-back free play was your coin-in.
But alas, nowadays the bounce-back programs are run by the casino’s marketing department, and their computer program that determines how much bounce back you will receive includes several factors besides coin-in. Some examples are what game you play, whether you won or lost, if you are a local player, how long you play, whether you hit a royal, and possibly more factors.
What’s most frustrating for video poker players is the marketing departments nowadays keep this information on how much bounce back you could receive a deep secret. To give you an example of what I mean, I’ve asked the staff at Players Clubs in numerous casinos the simple question, “What demines my bounce back?” I’ve received answers along these lines:
- “It’s based on how much you play.”
- “It’s a very complicated equation.”
- “We don’t know.”
- “Ask someone in marketing.”
- “They won’t tell us.”
Even when I contact someone in the marketing department, I never get a direct answer to the above question. The bottom line is this: casinos don’t disclose how they determine a player’s bounce-back free play.
Nevertheless, all is not lost. Bounce back is still alive; however, it takes a little more effort to figure out how to maximize this benefit.
6 – Average Daily Theoretical
There is one factor that is proportional to the amount of a player’s bounce back, and it is known as a player’s Average Daily Theoretical or ADT. You can calculate your ADT to some extent so I consider it an important factor to boost your monthly bounce back.
Most casinos will assign a “theo” for every machine (some have the capability of doing it for it every game). “Theo” is an abbreviation for theoretical and it represents the percentage of coin-in the casino expects to win from players playing the machine. When you multiply your coin-in by the theo, you will obtain your ADT.
(Note: How a casino assigns a theo for each machine is a complicated topic and worthy of an entire article. For now, just remember that your ADT is proportional to your bounce back, meaning the higher the ADT, the more you’ll get in bounce back.)
Once the casino assigns an ADT for every one of your play sessions, they will average your ADT’s over a specific number of months or days to arrive at an overall ADT. It’s the latter number that ultimately determines the amount of your bounce back. Here’s an example of how this works.
Suppose you make six trips to your local casino every month. The casino happens to use a rolling three-month average of your ADT’s to determine the amount of your bounce back for the following month’s mailer (along with the possibility of some of the other factors mentioned above).
On every trip, the casino will compute an ADT (based on coin-in times the theo). Their computer system will sum the ADT’s for the 18 trips you made to the casino over three months and then divide the total by 18 to arrive at your three-month ADT. The latter is factored into the amount of bounce back that you will receive (although you don’t know how large a role in the final number it plays).
What follows are some tips that will help you boost your ADT and the amount of your bounce back. (I’m assuming a three-month ADT, although some casinos use a six-month ADT.)
- You mustn't mistakenly trip yourself into a lower ADT. For example, suppose you go to your local casino, eat dinner in one of their restaurants, and then pay for dinner using points in your player’s club account. You then leave the casino without playing any video poker. The casino’s computer will assign you a session with zero coin-in, which results in a 0 ADT. The latter will lower your overall three-month ADT, resulting in a lower bounce back.
Tip: If you use your points to pay for anything in a casino, make sure you also play some video poker to avoid tripping yourself into a 0 ADT and lower bounce back.
- If you visit your local casino and download your bounce back and play it once through a machine then cash out and leave, you’ve also tripped yourself into a 0 ADT (and lower bounce back).
Tip: Always play some video poker whenever you download your bounce back.
- A video poker machine that also has slot and keno games on it usually has a higher theo assigned to it than a video poker machine that has only video poker games. That’s because the casino expects to win more from slot and keno games; therefore, they assign a higher theo to the machine.
Tip: For a specific game (say 9/6 Jacks or Better), you’ll likely get more bounce back for a given coin-in when you play the game on a machine that also has slots and keno games vs. one that has only video poker games.
- Suppose you and your spouse are planning to stay at your favorite casino over a weekend. You both are planning to play four hours of video poker each day. Instead of both of you playing on your Players Cards each day, you should play on only one Players Card the first day, and the other card the second day
Tip: By doing this, you will boost both of your ADTs.
- If you visit a local casino several times a week, playing, say, two hours each day, you'll boost your ADT if instead you visit the casino once per week and play a total of six hours.
TIP: Your goal is to boost your ADT, which will boost your bounce back, and you can do that by playing your coin-in in one day versus spreading out the same coin-in over several days.
- Keep a log of your session coin-in. You can always find out your coin-in from the number of points you earned playing since it requires a specific amount of coin-in to earn a point. If this is confusing, just ask at the Players Club, when you are done playing, what your coin-in was for the day. Compare the log of your average coin in over several months with the amount of bounce back you are receiving. This will give you some idea of how much action you need to give the casino for a specific amount of bounce back.
If you play video poker regularly at your favorite casino, you should request a casino host. Depending on the amount of your action, a host can give you discretionary comps (points won’t be deducted from your account), get you an upgraded room, get you a room when reservations say the hotel is full, get you invited to special casino events (e.g., a casino-sponsored golf outing if you are a golfer), and lots more. In addition, you might get some helpful information from your host (if you ask him or her nicely) about your ADT and machine theo.
Besides using bounce back to increase your overall return when you play video poker, you can do the same with cashback. That, dear readers, will be the subject of a future article.
7 – What Casinos Dislike
Casinos give players free play rather than cash because with the latter, it’s easy for a player to collect the cash and put it in their pocket and never play it.
With free play, players have to wager the credits through a machine and the casino hopes they keep playing and eventually lose most or all of the free play. Surprise the casino bosses, and instead, play your free play only once through a machine and then cash out.
8 – Summary
- Bounce back can be something of value (usually free play) that casinos give to their loyal players.
- Players receive the bounce back in casino mailers and they must “bounce back,” or return, to the casino to claim the reward.
- The amount of the bounce back could boost a video poker player’s overall return to close to, or even greater than, 100%.
- There are several “secret” factors that casinos employ to determine how much bounce back a player will receive.
- One of these factors is a player’s ADT (or Average Daily Theo).
- Players can maximize their ADTs by following the above strategies.
- The greater a player’s ADT, the more likely the player’s bounce-back reward will increase.