Can I save my seat while I go the bathroom?

When we are gambling, specifically sitting at the slots, what are the rules about keeping the machine you have been playing for a while and need to go to the bathroom or take a cigarette break? If you leave the machine, even for a minute, is it fair game for anyone else? If you have a spouse playing the machine next to you, can they "save" the machine for you?


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Gambling in Las Vegas is great. Sit at a table or machine as long as you want and they'll keep bringing you drinks, which leads to the inevitability of breaking the seal and having to leave the table to visit the bathroom. That doesn't mean you have to give up your spot, though. You can take a quick break and still keep your seat by doing the following:

At table games

Wait until there's a break in the action -- when the dealer has to shuffle cards, for example, or before a brand-new roll at the dice table -- then tell the dealer you're going to run to the restroom and will be back in couple of minutes. Unless you're paranoid you don't have to take your chips with you. The dealer will sometimes place a small marker at your spot to note that it is saved. If you're at the craps table they may hand you a small towel (you can ask for one if they don't). Take this towel and cover your chips with it. This serves the dual purpose of marking your spot as saved and making it more difficult for anyone to snag some of your chips without being noticed.

You don't have to rush back from the bathroom, but it's good manners not to dawdle, either. If you're very, very slow the pit boss may decide to take your chips for safe keeping and open up your spot at the table. You could count on one hand, with fingers left over, the number of times I've seen that happen, though, so unless you take a long site seeing tour on your way back from the restroom it's not anything to worry about.

At slot or video poker machines

This is where it gets tricky. Hardcore slot players are a territorial bunch, and there's a definite etiquette to sitting at a slot machine when there are other players in the area.

To address your question first of all, if you're playing slots or video poker and need to take a quick break, there's no guarantee at all your seat will be saved. There are no "reserved" signs to place on the machine. The best you can do is hand over the machine to a friend or spouse for a few minutes. So if your wife is playing the machine next to you and you need to step away for a minute, she'll be able to save it for you. If the area is very crowded she might need to play a few spins while you're away, but it's almost unheard of that you'd lose your spot. There's usually plenty of room for slot players to spread out and part of that territorial attitude is that most players are pretty respectful of other people's space and won't sit next to someone without asking first (see the section on "unwritten rules" below).

When progressive machines -- the ones with the really huge jackpots -- are thought to be in the imminent payout stage, I've heard stories of EXTREMELY serious players suiting up in adult diapers so they can play a given machine for hours and hours without leaving the spot.

So if the player next to you seems to never take a break, just try and put that little nugget of information out of your head. But maybe you don't want to sit in the chair after they get up.

More slot machine unwritten rules

Sometimes slotheads like to play more than one machine, often using not only the machine in front of them, but also the ones to their left and right. One of the funniest things I've ever seen in a Vegas casino was a seemingly sweet little old lady suddenly turn into a foul-mouthed sailor when an unsuspecting visitor made the mistake of trying to start playing at the slot machine next to her. Watching a conventioneer get called a "pushy son of a bitch" by someone who looks like she should be baking cookies for her grandchildren... now that was entertaining.

So if people are already in the area where you wish to play, the best move is to first ask "Are you using this machine?" before sitting down. Either that or run the risk of grandma cursing at you.

Easiest and best in all cases: Rely on a friend or spouse

So, after reading all that advice, it's pretty clear that no matter the game you're playing, the best way to save your spot is to get help from a friend. Alternate your bathroom breaks and you can keep a close eye on each other's chips. And DO pay careful attention, because sly thieves are not at all above swiping a few chips if they think they can get away with it. If you're the one watching, keep both sets of chips in front of you or, even better, keep a hand placed over them. This is most important at a craps table, where chips are lined up in rails and crowds are often packed shoulder-to-shoulder.

What if need to step outside for a smoke break?

Pfft. Nobody goes outside to smoke. Non-smokers like myself may hate it, but Las Vegas is still a stronghold of the cigarette crowd. If you're gambling and have the urge to scratch your nicotine itch, just ask for an ashtray. And if I'm at the table with you, please be cool and not hold your cancer stick directly under my own personal space.

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2 responses to “Can I save my seat while I go the bathroom?”

  1. Elonzo Bean said:

    @David Does it include selling me hair-care products for balding men?

  2. David Martin said:

    I have a solution to taking a break from a machine and not losing your machine. It may have been thought of already (not sure), but it would work for any casino. If you are interested contact me at the above e-mail.

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