Kerry Packer, an Australian media tycoon who was known to frequent casinos around the world, was playing in a poker tournament at the Stratosphere Casino in Las Vegas one night when he was approached by a Texas oil man about playing a little side game of poker. The Texan attempted to impress Packer with his credentials for such a game. “I am worth $60,000,000,” blurted out the oil man.
Upon hearing that bit of news Packer reached into his pocket and extracted a coin. “Let’s toss for it,” replied Packer nonchalantly. That, friends, is what is called a high roller.
Special treatment is reserved for the gamblers with out-sized bankrolls. Any perk that a casino has – and any more that a big player can dream up – is at the disposal of the high roller. High rollers play at special tables with high limits and exclusive rooms the general public will never see. At the Crown Towers in Melbourne, Australia there are six private salons where the maximum bet is $330,000. I’m sorry, if you want to play blackjack for half a million dollars a hand, you will have to look elsewhere.
In fact, high rollers negotiate contracts with casinos before coming to play for a weekend which will typically involve millions of dollars changing hands. And high rollers are not pigeons – they do not always lose. Some casinos will turn down high rollers because they do not want to assume the risk of dealing to one player who can unbalance their books for a month.
Kerry Packer is a special kind of high roller known in the trade as a “whale.” Only a few hundred players on the planet – all dutifully detailed by the largest houses – are categorized as whales. Packer, who inherited a $100 million media empire from his father and turned it into a net worth of $4.5 billion, was known before his death in 2005 to routinely play for millions of dollars in a session. Packer once lost $28 million during a short stay in England that was reported as the biggest gambling loss in British history. Another time he was said to beat the MGM Grand Casino in Las Vegas out of $33 million. Both times it was the casinos keeping score; Packer no doubt was oblivious to the numbers on his private jet flight home.
Run-of-the-mill high rollers forced to mingle with the riffraff on the casino floors buy into games at $10,000 and higher. Premium players work from bankrolls of up to $250,000 which normally permits a long run of play with wagers in the $10,000 vicinity. Online, due to the constraints of money transfers and Internet gambling laws the per hand limits tend to be no higher than $5,000.
There are online casinos vying for those $5,000 wagers. You can normally spot them by looking for attractive promotions, bonuses, and loyalty programs on offer. Yes, high rollers are as interested in value as the $10 punter so a bonus can sway decisions. While you will see many casinos screaming online about 100% matching welcome bonuses to attract players you will also encounter casinos quietly promoting such walk-in-the-door matching bonuses of 500% on deposits of $10,000 or more. Those are the high roller online casinos. Since the bonuses will not be paid until many times the deposit amount is wagered players at these casinos must be ready to bet $100,000 or more.
Naturally when a high roller opens the virtual door to an online casino’s gaming floor the operators will want to keep he or she around as long as possible. Some will hook the player up with a personal account manager who will inform the high roller of upcoming promotions and be available to explain rules and offers before a dispute arises. If you put down a deposit of $1,000 or more with an online high roller casino you can expect to be declared a VIP member or equivalent and enrolled in a loyalty program. This brings such perks as special bonuses and entry into exclusive tournaments. High rollers earn more loyalty points per dollar played than average players and are privy to premium redemption plans.
High rollers will want to seek out online casino games with high limits. These are not cordoned off with a velvet rope in a corner of the virtual floor but can be ferreted out by looking at the individual games. While table games like baccarat and craps are the destinations of choice for premium players in land-based casinos, the slot machines online are just as receptive to big bets as the roulette wheels and blackjack tables. At some casinos you can find slots games where you can risk $5,000 on a single spin.
To date the largest payouts in online history have come from slot machines. But not from the $5,000 level bets. Several multi-million dollar jackpots have been paid out by progressive online machines that are actually linked to many casinos through the game software. Imagine jackpots available based on the play in every casino on the Las Vegas Strip and you can begin to grasp how large these pools of money can grow.
The largest payout ever – about $24 million give or take a currency exchange dollar or two – was won by a Finnish man who bet 25 cents. So if the whales of the gambling world have a special affection for the the spinning of random number-generated reels, their best bet is actually playing the slots in high roller online casinos.