The high-limit life: Some play for show, others play in peace

By Nick Sortal


The carpet is a little plusher, the slot machines are more secluded – and the price of gambling is much higher. Every casino has a special area for those who want to go big with bets. A security person usually stands near the entryway, but anybody can walk in.


“There are really two types of big players,” says Mike DeLuca Jr., slots director of Mardi Gras Casino in Hallandale Beach. “There are the players who want a ton of attention, the peacocks. But more times than not, the high rollers don’t want people to know who they are. They drive normal cars and they want to be left alone.”


DeLuca notes that racetrack casinos such as Mardi Gras can’t offer high rollers the amenities that the Seminole casinos can. The tribe pays the state for exclusive rights to blackjack and other table games. But high-limit players in Hallandale Beach often drop thousands of dollars, and a few even hundreds of thousands, in a sitting. “For many, this is their release from what made them wealthy,” DeLuca says.


Seminole Coconut Creek Casino VP of Marketing Jonathan Marcus says those who frequent his high-limit area are often regulars who casino hosts know. “That’s where a casino host really comes into play; he’ll say, ‘Joe Smith is coming in and he wants to reserve blackjack,’” Marcus says. “Now, we know he likes Caymus wine and chocolate-covered strawberries, so we have that waiting for him.”


Marcus compares treatment of high-limit players to flying first class. “They want a higher level of service, but they pay for it by wagering more.”


Casinos help out the bigger players in that respect, though, especially with slots. A slot costing $1 or even $5 per spin often is programmed to pay back about 97 percent of the money put in. Machines that cost a penny or a nickel often return only about 90 percent. The blackjack tables often have friendlier rules.


Calder Casino in Miami Gardens has changed its more luxurious area to “VIP slots” instead of “high-limit slots,” partially because sometimes the bigger players prefer to play “penny slots,” which are misnamed because a maximum bet on such machines often approaches $1. Like Mardi Gras and a few others, Calder has a VIP room for bigger players, with snacks, TVs, lounge chairs and beverages. Getting access to that room – VIP status – requires zealous slot play.


“The guests’ experience is our top priority,” says Matt Harper, director of marketing at Calder Casino. “Our goal is to treat every customer who walks through the door with VIP-level service, and having incentives like our VIP lounge and a dedicated host team gives guests more reasons to attain a higher card status.”


Nick Sortal’s gambling news appears daily at southfloridagambling.com.

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Drew Limsky

Drew Limsky



Drew Limsky joined Lifestyle Media Group in August 2020 as Editor-in-Chief of South Florida Business & Wealth. His first issue of SFBW, October 2020, heralded a reimagined structure, with new content categories and a slew of fresh visual themes. “As sort of a cross between Forbes and Robb Report, with a dash of GQ and Vogue,” Limsky says, “SFBW reflects South Florida’s increasingly sophisticated and dynamic business and cultural landscape.”

Limsky, an avid traveler, swimmer and film buff who holds a law degree and Ph.D. from New York University, likes to say, “I’m a doctor, but I can’t operate—except on your brand.” He wrote his dissertation on the nonfiction work of Joan Didion. Prior to that, Limsky received his B.A. in English, summa cum laude, from Emory University and earned his M.A. in literature at American University in connection with a Masters Scholar Award fellowship.

Limsky came to SFBW at the apex of a storied career in journalism and publishing that includes six previous lead editorial roles, including for some of the world’s best-known brands. He served as global editor-in-chief of Lexus magazine, founding editor-in-chief of custom lifestyle magazines for Cadillac and Holland America Line, and was the founding editor-in-chief of Modern Luxury Interiors South Florida. He also was the executive editor for B2B magazines for Acura and Honda Financial Services, and he served as travel editor for Conde Nast. Magazines under Limsky’s editorship have garnered more than 75 industry awards.

He has also written for many of the country’s top newspapers and magazines, including The New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Miami Herald, Boston Globe, USA Today, Worth, Robb Report, Afar, Time Out New York, National Geographic Traveler, Men’s Journal, Ritz-Carlton, Elite Traveler, Florida Design, Metropolis and Architectural Digest Mexico. His other clients have included Four Seasons, Acqualina Resort & Residences, Yahoo!, American Airlines, Wynn, Douglas Elliman and Corcoran. As an adjunct assistant professor, Limsky has taught journalism, film and creative writing at the City University of New York, Pace University, American University and other colleges.