7 Ways to Pass the Time in a Casino When You’re Short on Cash

By Randy Ray
Published on November 06, 2018
Casino Tips and Strategies

Every gambler has experienced the same nightmare scenario at one point or another.

You’re dressed to the nines and ready to have a blast playing your favorite games. Your wallet is stuffed with a wad of hundred-dollar bills, but just in case, you have the ATM card ready and waiting as a backup.

A few hours go by, and Lady Luck has yet to look your way, so it’s time to hit the machine and make a much-needed withdrawal.

Only this time, your card doesn’t dispense the cash. Maybe you’ve unwittingly hit your daily withdrawal limit, or perhaps an auto-pay bill you forgot about has been deducted.

In many instances, players even forget their ATM cards entirely, leaving themselves with just that initial cash bankroll to work with. And once it’s gone, they’re out of ammo for the night’s gambling action.

Another unfortunate mess awaiting the average casino enthusiast takes place when you’re tagging along.

Let’s say you and some buddies head out for a night on the town, but you’re the first one to go bust. Meanwhile, your pals are crushing the tables and piling up chips.

In this case, you’re simply along for the ride, and until your friends are done having fun, you’ll be forced to hang around and wait.

When these regrettable situations occur, it can be easy to feel frustrated and helpless. You’re surrounded by fellow players and patrons enjoying their night, most of whom are spending freely on games, food, drinks, and entertainment.

Meanwhile, your mental lapse or lack of foresight has left you high and dry, with nothing but moths in your pocket and nothing to do.

Well, there’s always something to do…

Finding ways to have a good time at the casino without cash at the ready may seem like a chore, but if you think outside the box, it’s definitely doable.

Obviously, you’d love to be doubling down and chasing jackpots with the rest of the players, but that’s just not in the cards on this occasion. With that in mind, check out the list below for 7 of the easiest ways to entertain yourself at the casino when you’re low on funds.

1 – Watch a Game at the Sportsbook

When you’re stuck at the casino with only pocket change to work with, just ask yourself one simple question – what would you be doing at home?

If the answer is kicking back and catching a ballgame on TV, then your best bet to beat the “broke at the casino” blues is heading to the sportsbook.

Most of the major casinos in Las Vegas boast expansive sportsbooks that comfortably seat a hundred or more patrons.

And “comfortably” is no understatement. Picture a nice leather chair with armrests and cupholders to get the idea.

Best of all, you don’t need to place any bets in order to enjoy the sportsbook scene. Sure, it’s much more fun to have a little skin in the game, but for today, anyhow, you can sit back like a regular fan and follow your favorite teams.

But this won’t be anything like cheering for your boys back at home. No, the modern casino sportsbook is essentially a shrine to technological progress.

Massive high-definition TV screens typically line the back wall from corner to corner. These screens are top-of-the-line products designed specifically to make viewing as easy on the eyes as possible, sort of like movie theater screens.

In fact, you’ll find projection screens at many sportsbooks. And if it’s your first time watching a game there, you’ll be forgiven for feeling like you’re actually on the sidelines or in the stands.

If your cash reserves have been spent, and you need to kill some time in the casino, there’s no better place to be than the sportsbook.

2 – Drown Your Sorrows at the Video Poker Bar

Assuming you’re not completely broke at the moment, hitting the video poker bar is a good way to kill an hour or two at the casino.

Most casinos have full-fledged bars onsite, complete with fancy mixed drinks and all of the accoutrements. But if you explore a little further, you’ll wind up finding a smaller bar with video poker screens built in.

These video poker bars are typically found near the sportsbook or in other locations that aren’t directly on the casino floor. Their role is twofold – to keep gamblers inebriated and loose, while also giving drinkers an opportunity to gamble.

The trick here is simple, yet quite effective when done right.

You’ll need at least a few dollars on hand to put into the video poker game. From there, your job is to tap the buttons and act as if you’re actually playing Jacks or Better, Deuces Wild, or whichever video poker variant you prefer.

The bartender is tasked with supervising the scene, mind you, so don’t make this ruse too obvious. Just sit down, slide your last few bucks into the machine, and casually “play” the game.

Of course, you don’t want to risk losing the last of your funds on a highly volatile game like video poker, which is where the pretending comes into play.

You can click “HOLD” on a few cards, then click the same cards again to un-hold them, followed by a slight smile or grimace to complete the illusion.

When the bartender glances your way, all they’ll see is another player grinding away on the machines – but you won’t be paying a penny to “play.”

Now that the hard work is out of the way, here comes the best part… video poker bars at most casinos serve players complimentary drinks.

After a few minutes have passed, you can catch the bartender’s eye and ask for a cold beer.

They’ll scan the screen to make sure you’re playing, and as long as there’s a balance showing and cards onboard, most video poker bartenders will be content to deliver your beverage without a second thought.

If you make sure to keep a couple bucks left over for tipping purposes – nothing outs a fake player faster than not tipping a measly dollar for a free drink – this system can keep you in comped drinks for the foreseeable future.

One word of warning, however, should be kept in mind. If you’re playing at one of the glitzy casino resorts on the Strip, the corporate overlords in charge have caught onto this game.

Last year, Caesars Entertainment – the parent company of several popular venues on the Strip – installed a new monitoring system designed specifically to combat the exploitation of video poker comps.

It’s called the , and it’s a game-changer for gamblers looking to get one over on the house

Essentially, the Ardent system monitors your video poker play by setting a minimum of about $4 per play every minute.

If you don’t wager to that level, the machine will signal a red light to bartenders, cutting you off from comped drinks. Bet enough, however, and a green light flashes to let them know that you should be served.

MGM Resorts, the other major corporate owner along the Strip, quickly matched Caesars by installing its own version of Ardent. Thus, the hotspots along Sin City’s main drag are no-go zones for down-on-their-luck gamblers looking for a free drink.

To help you steer clear of the Ardent system’s “eye in the sky,” it’s best to avoid the casinos below altogether if you’re short on funds.

Caesars Entertainment Properties to Avoid

  • Bally’s Las Vegas
  • Caesars Palace
  • The Cromwell Las Vegas
  • Flamingo Las Vegas
  • Harrah’s Las Vegas
  • The Linq
  • Paris Las Vegas
  • Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino

MGM Resorts Properties to Avoid

  • Bellagio
  • Circus Circus Las Vegas
  • Aria Resort & Casino
  • Mandarin Oriental
  • Excalibur
  • Luxor
  • Mandalay Bay
  • MGM Grand Las Vegas
  • The Mirage
  • New York-New York

3 – Rail a Poker Tournament

If sports aren’t your thing, but you love a good game of poker, check out the casino’s poker room to see what’s going on.

There will always be cash games by the dozen in the bigger venues, but if you’re in the right place at the right time, you might just catch a major poker tournament.

The World Series of Poker (WSOP) plays out dozens of tournaments across a six-week summer schedule at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino.

And over at the Aria, the PokerCentral production team has even built a dedicated tournament studio area where its PokerGo broadcasts are filmed.

The Venetian has its DeepStacks Series every other month, while Bellagio is home to the famous “Bobby’s Room” high-stakes cash game area – where poker legends like Doyle Brunson, Phil Ivey, and Daniel Negreanu regularly duke it out over six-figure pots.

All things considered, a poker fan with limited funds could find plenty of worse places to be than a casino.

You might not be able to get in the game yourself on this day, but if you’re content to sweat the flops and folds from the sidelines, “railing” a poker tournament or big cash game can be extremely entertaining.

The term “railing” is derived from the rails erected around the tournament floor to separate tables from the walkways and common areas. Folks who frequent the rail to watch their favorite players are affectionately known as “railbirds,” and these are true poker fans in every respect.

They might ask for an autograph from “Kid Poker” or maybe a selfie with the “Poker Brat” himself, 15-time WSOP gold bracelet winner Phil Hellmuth. Railbirds have many reasons for watching the action from afar, and if you’re out of money for the time being, that’s as good of a reason as any to join them.

And when you do, be sure to take the following advice from veteran railbird turned poker reporter James Guill.

“There’s a right way and a wrong way to be a railbird in the modern era of poker.

If you’re a fan that is mostly just hanging out at the cash game rail and the final table rail to watch your favorite players, you will be fine as long as you show the proper respect to the players and to the game.

Poker is now both a participatory and spectator sport enjoyed by millions around the world. There’s no shame anymore in being a railbird as long as you behave yourself and let the players entertain you.”

4 – Ask for a Buffet Voucher, Free Play, or Rebate

If you’re out of money at the casino, odds are you lost the dough gambling.

And if that’s the case, why not inquire about the rebates and rewards offered by the venue?

Most casinos have no problem tossing their regular players small rewards for losing.

These rewards are typically tied to a player’s club card or similar promotion, so it’s a great idea to sign up for them wherever you typically play (see the next entry for more on using your rewards card).

But even if you don’t have a card at the moment, swallowing your pride for a second and inquiring about comps and vouchers can’t hurt.

Just head over to the player’s club desk where new players sign up for their cards. From there, ask the attendant about signing up, while making sure to mention that it’s your first time here and that you already lost a pretty penny playing games. Then comes the hard part…

If you make the right puppy dog face to the right employee, simply asking for a buffet voucher or coupon can work wonders.

After all, you are signing up for a player’s club card, and you must have lost money already if you’re inquiring about comps – so why wouldn’t they toss you a bone?

It’s not always that easy, of course, and many casino workers will only scoff and direct you to the venue’s rules and regulations.

Getting turned down can be an unpleasant experience to say the least, so be prepared for an awkward encounter or two before achieving success.

But if you keep at it and don’t mind a dirty look along the way, merely asking for a rebate can often produce surprising results. You might score a buffet voucher or maybe even a free-play ticket that works like cash in the machines.

Whatever you get, though, the gift surely beats sitting around with nothing else to do.

5 – Check Your Player’s Card Account for Unused Funds

When you sign up for Total Rewards (Caesars properties), M Life (MGM properties), or the Boarding Pass (Stations Casinos properties), you’re essentially entering into a rebate program.

So long as you inserted the player’s club card into your slot or video poker machine or presented it to the table game or poker dealer, your wagering and play activity will be monitored in real time.

The whole point of a player’s club is to reward regular players, so this wager tracking is designed to systemize those rewards. As you play, your wagering produces “points” that are then added to your player’s club account.

In most major casinos, player’s club points are as good as gold.

You can use player’s club points to purchase a meal, order a drink, or buy tickets to a show. And with enough points on your ledger, you can even score complimentary nights in the hotel or “cash” in the form of free-play.

Many players tend to forget about their player’s club points when they’re flush, so your account very well may be stacked with resources waiting to be utilized. When in doubt, head to the player’s club desk and ask them for your points balance and its equivalent cash value.

And when you happen to find a few bucks worth of points laying around, it’s just like winning a wager.

6 – Hit the Pool and Get Some Sun

This one requires a little luck – which you’re short on at the moment if you need this page’s advice – but when you happen to be wearing shorts or swimwear, the pool can be the perfect casino escape.

And if you’re staying onsite, you should have the requisite attire up in your room.

In any event, ditching the casino floor to catch some rays suntanning by the pool just makes sense.

You’re probably in Vegas, so the water’s warm, making the pool a pleasant place to forget about a bad day.

7- Wallow in Your Misery

Let’s be honest here. Gamblers are gluttons for punishment – why else would we push our bankroll up the endless hill known as negative expectation?

With this in mind, if you’re stuck and out of luck at the casino, you might as well “enjoy” the experience.

It won’t be enjoyable, exactly, but losing it all and wandering the casino floor in a daze is part and parcel of a gambler’s lifestyle.

And hey, it is a casino, so you never know who you’ll meet or what adventures you might find.


Every gambler hits a bad run in the casino from time to time. If this hasn’t happened to you yet, you can be pretty sure it will at some point.

The logical thing to do when you run out of cash in a casino is to simply leave. But that’s not always an option. You might be stuck there waiting for your ride or for your friends to finish playing.

That doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy yourself, though. Use this list of seven ways to pass the time, and you can still have a great time in the casino without any money.

Here’s one more way to spend your time, too. Pull out your phone and read through our casino guide. If you follow all the advice we have to offer there, you might find you reduce the likelihood of running out of cash in the first place.

7 Ways to Pass the Time in a Casino When You're Short on Cash
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7 Ways to Pass the Time in a Casino When You're Short on Cash
Everyone runs low on money at the casino sometimes. That’s just how it works. Luckily, you can find other stuff to do to pass the time. Here are 7 options.
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