If you are headed to the Fort Lauderdale / Miami area and you enjoy a good status match-go-round or you just like “free” money, and you don’t mind doing some driving, you can pick up hundreds of dollars in free play and maybe come out with a big win. At the very least, you should easily snag an evening’s worth of entertainment on the house’s dime. I’ve done the run myself and made about $400 in total doing it. Better yet, this was a good reminder for me that the same thing is probably possible in many destinations with smaller local casinos, so it may be worth looking around for similar opportunities in your own back yard (though you’ll want to use some strategy if you plan to return).
First of all, hats off to a member of the Miles Talk Facebook group for doing the legwork in reporting on this and laying it out step-by-step. I didn’t discover these opportunities but rather just followed the directions that someone was kind enough to lay out in that group. That said, I did pick up a useful tip or two along the way to add to their work, especially for those who are new to free play credits.
Get your physical Caesars Diamond card
For starters, you’ll need a Caesars Diamond card. If you have Wyndham Diamond status, you can match Wyndham Diamond to Caesars Diamond here (see this post for more). If you have the Wyndham Earner Business card, you get automatic Wyndham Diamond status. Note that it does take some time to match Wyndham to Caesars, so get that part started sooner rather than later. In the past, it took about a week. The website now says 6-8 weeks. In practice, I’m not sure exactly how long it will take. YMMV.
Once you have your physical Caesars Diamond card in hand, you should be able to execute on some in-casino matches / promotions.
Casino matches usually require having a physical loyalty card in hand (from the program in which you have status). In my case, I had an old Caesars Diamond card that expired in early 2020. I don’t know for sure that you need to have a physical card with the current expiration date (perhaps you could show your online card with the correct date?), but I figured that I’d be better off having the physical card. If you already have your Caesars Diamond card, that’ll save you the first stop on the status-match-go-round.
If you don’t have your current Caesars Diamond card, thankfully, there is a casino just north of Fort Lauderdale that uses the Caesars Rewards program. Isle Casino Pompano Park is a pretty small casino about 24 minutes North of Fort Lauderdale airport. One nice thing here is that they have dedicated machines near the Players Club for reprinting your card. I didn’t even need to speak to a person – I just walked in and popped my driver’s license into the machine and it reprinted my current Caesar’s Diamond card automagically.
I printed my card, then turned around and walked right back out to the car for the next stop.
Get $200 in “Free Play” by showing Caesars Diamond
Hialeah Park Casino is located about 45 minutes from Isle Casino towards Miami (or if you already had a current Caesars card, it is about 24 minutes south of Fort Lauderdale airport or a very short hop from Miami airport).
The reason you’ll want to go to Hialeah is because they are currently offering a $200 Free Play to Caesars Diamond members (listed as “Isle of Capri” Diamond status on the website). This “Free Play” is basically $200 in Monopoly Money that you can play in the slot machines. Once you’ve bet through the $200, you can cash out anything that’s left (which may be more or less than the $200 with which you started depending on your luck). More on strategizing in a minute.
The process for getting the $200 free play was incredibly simple: I stopped at the Player’s Club desk as soon as I walked in (which was easy since it was directly on the right side upon entering the casino). I handed over my Caesars Diamond card and driver’s license and said that I’d heard they have some sort of match offer.
The agent wasn’t sure at first whether Caesars Diamond qualified (it might help to say that you have Isle Casino Diamond Status when handing over your card since they may not immediately recognize Caesars), but after verifying that Caesars Diamond does indeed work for their offer and verifying that it was my first time at Hialeah Park, the agent behind the desk printed me a Player’s Club card and explained that Hialeah Park doesn’t actually match status but they provide $200 in “Free Play”. They do this by adding $200 in Free Play (essentially the casino equivalent of Monopoly Money) to your new Player’s Club card. She handed me a pamphlet with promotions and instructions for using the free play.
It is worth noting that those playing in 2-player mode can double up here. The person who originally posted this in the Miles Talk Facebook Group had done this with his wife. They each had status and each got their own $200 Free Play vouchers. My wife wasn’t with me on this trip or else I’d have stood to have earned double the money, which would have been well worth the time and effort.
How free play works
The gist of free play is this: the casino loads imaginary money onto your card. You then gamble with that imaginary money and once you have bet all of the imaginary money, you get to keep whatever real money you’ve made from those bets.
Free play money can not be cashed out before first betting it. At Hialeah Park, the casino loads $200 in Free Play Money on your card. Again, once you have bet a total of $200 (made $200 worth of slot machine spins), you can cash out whatever is left (with some coming caveats). To put it simply, if you bet all $200 on a single spin and that spin wins $300, you can cash out $300 (very unlikely, just an example). If you load that $200 of free play to a machine and bet $2 per spin, you’ll need to make 100 spins (a total of $200 wagered) before you can cash out. If you have money left after $200 of “coin-in” (it is very likely that you’ll have some money still since you will win on at least some of your spins), you’ll be able to cash out whatever is left.
If you’re still not really clear on this concept, see this resource at Travel Zork (particularly the sections titled “The Concept of Coin-in” and “The Amount of Money You Play Through”).
Most slot machines return something like 80% or better (significantly better in some cases), so with “average” luck you should be able to come out with something around $160 or more if given enough spins. Obviously YMMV — you could easily lose all of the money (or just as easily end up with far more than $200).
Of key importance is this: whatever “Free play” money you load to the machine when you sit down is how much you need to bet in order to cash out whatever is left from that session. More on that in a minute.
In my case, I made a mistake on this Hialeah Park Free Play promotion that is worth mentioning in order to not repeat it. I sat down at a machine and entered my new casino loyalty card and PIN. I then had to click the dollar sign symbol on the small touch screen to load my free play money to the machine.
The system asked me how much to load and gave me options like “$10, $20, $50, Other, Max”. I hit “max” figuring that I wanted to load the full $200 in free play.
Unfortunately, the machine only loaded $100. Double unfortunate is that while I realized that it had only loaded $100, I assumed that meant that I couldn’t load more than $100 of my free play to the machine in one sitting. In reality, I think the machine must be programmed such that $100 at a time is the maximum load since that is the largest dollar denomination that you could enter at once — but just like you can load multiple hundred dollar bills, I could have (and should have) loaded the additional free play money by hitting the load button a second time.
This was a mistake that cost me some money.
Because I had loaded $100 worth of “Free Play” money to that first machine, I had to bet a total of $100 before being able to cash out whatever was left from the $100 “Monopoly Money” investment. I was playing $2.50 per spin. Since I had only loaded $100 in free play money, I was free to cash out whatever was left after making 40 spins. Unfortunately, even though I only loaded $100 to the first machine, I had the two hundred dollar figure in my mind. I had a couple of good spins (one where I hit for $120 at once) and I continued to play well beyond $100 of “coin-in” money. In fact, I am sure that I had played more than $200 worth of spins when I hit the cash out button. I erroneously thought that when I cashed out, it would cash out both what I had left from that session plus the other $100 in free play (that I hadn’t added to the machine at the start) since I had spun more than $200 of “coin-in”. I was wrong.
Had I loaded the entire $200 in free play money to the machine at the start, I could have cashed it all out after $200 worth of spins. Since I had only loaded $100, I was able to cash out what I had left from that initial $100 investment…..but then I had to go to another machine and load up the other $100 and continue to play until I’d bet that entire $100 before I could cash out the proceeds from that chunk of funny money.
Basically, I cost myself some extra time and likely some money since I would have been able to cash out sooner had I loaded the entire $200 on the first machine from the very beginning. Don’t cry too hard for me: I cashed out about $120 and took it upstairs to the poker room and added another $100+ in profit to walk out $250 and a free night’s worth of entertainment ahead. I used to be a bit of a poker player back in the day, so it was fun to get back to the tables.
I’ll add for those curious that the poker tables at Hialeah Park have a neat innovation in the form of a plexiglass screen all the way around the table so you are not within the breath line of any other player, nor are you breathing directly on the cards (and face masks were required in each of the Florida casinos I visited and compliance was very high).
When I got done at the poker table, I called it a night and went back to my hotel since I had an early flight scheduled the next morning.
Matching at Gulfstream for status, then Casino Miami for Free Play
A few nights later, I returned to Fort Lauderdale for one night and decided to pick up where I’d left off. Like Hialeah Park, the next stops on the list would be easier from Miami than from Fort Lauderdale unless you need to go up to Isle Casino to get your Caesars card. And in fact, if you were to start early in the day, this map might be the route to take to hit all of the casinos I’m mentioning.
Anyway, I arrived at Fort Lauderdale and picked up a BMW X-1 from the Hertz President’s Circle selection. That made for a comfortable ride. I then headed to Gulfstream Park Casino.
Gulfstream Park looked like quite a complex, though I found the casino surprisingly small for the size of the building (maybe I just missed the main gaming floor somehow?). In fairness, I wasn’t there for very long: I only went to Gulfstream Park to match status from Caesars in order to bring that status to another casino.
Gulfstream Park has several levels of elite status. They are currently matching Caesars Diamond status to their own top-tier Triple Crown status. If you actually want to play at Gulfstream Park, you get some benefits like free valet parking and more points for playing the slots.
I walked in to the casino and headed directly to the players club with my Caesars Diamond card and driver’s license in hand. I explained that I was new at the casino and that I understood they offered a status match with Caesars Rewards. Once again the agent had to refer to a chart to check if Caesars qualified, but a few minutes later he was printing me a Gulfstream Park Triple Crown card. I actually put a little money into a machine at Gulfstream Park with my Triple Crown card just to put in a little play. I’ve previously read about how some people say that throwing down with one big day of play can be a way to get good future offers to entice you to come back. I didn’t really follow through on that strategy though. I put a couple hundred bucks in a machine and played $4 a spin for a little while, walking out down $25. I doubt that my $25 loss will prompt Gulfstream to mail me a love letter begging for my return, but I’ll let you know if they do.
In the meantime, I hopped back in the car and headed down to Casino Miami for the last stop on this train. Casino Miami is currently offering up to $200 in free play for members of select competing casino loyalty programs. Unfortunately, they aren’t offering anything for Caesars Rewards elite members. However, Gulfstream Park’s Triple Crown players qualify for the $200 free play. Boom! It took all of about 6 minutes for Casino Miami to print me a card with $200 in free play.
This time, I loaded all $200 to a single machine (I loaded the “max” $100 and then hit the dollar symbol again to load a second $100 before making any spins). I played $4 per spin and counted out all 50 spins (I literally counted each spin out loud to hear myself say which number I was on so I wouldn’t lose track…..I was tired after a few days of very limited sleep but wanted to get this match done for science). Probably 30 spins in, I was down to about $120 left and I hit a $92 win that allowed me to choose to either take the $92 or parlay it to try to win more. I was very tempted to parlay it in the hopes of a big win and in hindsight I’m kind of mad at myself for not doing that since I was playing with the house’s money anyway and was likely to cash at least $100 in profit either way. However, I took the $92 figuring that it would help me close out the free play closer to $200. I hit my 50th spin with about $165 left. I spun a few more times mentally committing not to drop below $150. Sure enough, I cashed out almost exactly $150. Oh well — I won’t quit my day job to become a professional slot player any time soon.
Some good things to know about casino offers
I was discussing this casino matching / free play opportunity yesterday with casino loyalty expert Michael Trager of Travel Zork. Michael has long written about ways to “win” at the casino loyalty game and he hosts a conference dedicated to casino loyalty called ZorkFest, so he seemed like a good person to ask for clarity on a few key points. I wanted to confirm my mistake on the first free play and ask about other tips he had. I’m linking to several of his posts in this section because he is an authority on this topic who has written far more about casinos than I ever will and he was able to help me identify some of his posts that might be useful for readers.
He brought up a few nuggets of wisdom that are worth keeping in mind if you decide to go after a match like this:
- You may want to consider putting some real money of your own on top of the free play money if you want to come back to that casino in the future. It is no secret that casinos base future offers (like free rooms, extra comps, etc) on how much you can theoretically be expected to lose. There is therefore a school of thought that when you join a new casino loyalty program, one big day of play could lead to significantly better casino offers from that program in the future. Obviously you need to be careful not to lose more than you stand to gain (or more realistically that you don’t lose more than you’re willing to pay for whatever benefits you receive).
- A big jackpot will trigger an automatic tax form. Apparently a slot machine win of more than $1199 will trigger an automatic gambling winnings tax form. Unless you track and write off losses against your winnings, you will owe tax on that money — even if you continue to play it in the machine and you lose it all (as always, consult your own tax professional for advice on that). If you win a big one, you may want to quit while you’re ahead.
- Video Poker is your best bet. I’ve long understood Video Poker to be a game with minimum house edge (and those looking to drink cheaply can play it slowly). That said, I understand that some casinos don’t allow Free Play to be used in Video Poker machines. I didn’t find any video poker at all at Hialeah Park. I did see video poker machines at the bar at Casino Miami as I was leaving (I hadn’t seen any machines around the casino floor and had already used my free play, so not sure if it could be used). Travel Zork also has a resource on video poker.
- If you lose track of how many spins you have made (or your “coin-in” total), you can just periodically hit the “cash out” button. The machine won’t let you cash out until you have played the proper amount of “coin-in”, so if it spits out a cash voucher, you’re good to go.
I’m sure there were probably a few other tidbits I neglected to write down and hopefully readers with experience in this realm will chime in with their own tips in the comments.
The moral of the story here is that this was very easy money and it was fun. I ended up getting a couple nights of free entertainment and came out about $400 ahead. I’ve long enjoyed blackjack and poker, but never really played slot machines much as they seemed boring to me. Playing with the house’s money made them much more fun. If you take out the cost of my rental car (I probably wouldn’t have rented if not for a desire to try to do this), I guess I came out a bit over $300 ahead. Considering that I had fun doing it, I was plenty happy with that.
Keep in mind that casino opportunities like this can come and go, so there is no guarantee that this exact play will hang around forever. If you’re in the South Florida area or will be soon, it’s worth giving this a shot. However, even if you’re not, it could be well worth trying this type of play in other areas as I expect that small casinos in many places may be doing what they can to poach high rollers from other programs. That’s good news; wherever there is a status match-go-round spinning, I’m happy to climb on board the money train and give it a whirl.