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Comps: Getting What You Deserve, Getting What You Don't Deserve, and Getting the Edge!9 June 2005
By now everyone reading this site and just about everyone going to casinos will know something about comps. Table-game players dutifully hand in their cards to the floorpeople, who either swipe them in the computer or record the names on a piece of paper, and when these players are finished with their play they either ask that floorperson or pit boss for a comp or wait until their trip is over to see what the casino can do for them.
Casinos have elaborate comping formulas, and while all casinos are a little or a lot different in their formulas, everyone gets what he or she deserves based on each casino's particular analysis of the customer's playing worth. Now, getting what you deserve is just fine and dandy, and I'm all for it, to a degree, but getting what you don't deserve, in fact, getting a lot more than what you actually deserve, is a heck of a lot more fun and can, when added into one's gambling equation, actually give the savvy comp commander what I call the "monetary edge" over the casino.
GETTING WHAT YOU DESERVE
Before you are deserving of entering the world of the undeserving, you must first understand what kind of general formula the casinos use to rate your play. By way of cliché, you must first learn to walk before you can run. So let me walk you through the composite of what comping formulas most casinos will use to judge your play at this or that game.
Here's the general formula: average bet times the number of decisions per hour times number of hours you play times house edge equals your theoretical loss times whatever percent of your theoretical loss the casinos will give back which (finally, thank God!) equals how much the casino will give you in comps.
Let's plug in some numbers to see how this works and don't worry! I am not a mathlete, either.
Let's say your game is blackjack. You play $25 per hand because you've decided that the heart operation you need can be delayed. Most casinos figure you to play between 60-80 hands per hour at blackjack, so let's say 70 hands (or decisions) per hour for you. So you play $25 a hand for 70 hands; that's $1750 per hour that you wager. Now, let us say you play for four hours, the usual time casinos like for players to get a full range of comps (half a work day), so that brings your day's wagers to $7,000.
Most casinos will rate blackjack players as playing against a house edge of between one and two percent. So let's split the difference and say that the casino you're playing in figures you to lose at a rate of 1.5 percent of all your action. So your theoretical loss is established by taking the $7,000 you wagered and multiplying it by 0.015 (which is 1.5 percent) which equals a theoretical loss of $105 per four hours.
Now most casinos will give back between 30 percent (the really cheap ones) and 50 percent (known as the "Jackie Gleasons" because these are the "great ones" for comping) of your theoretical loss. So, let us speculate that your casino gives back 40 percent of $105, which is $42, in comps. What does that $42 mean? They certainly don't hand you $42 in cash, although sometimes they do send you cashback in the mail or, more likely, match play.
As a $25 average bettor at blackjack, you can reasonably expect to get a free room at locals and low-end Vegas casinos, plus some meals, especially during off-peak times, like Sunday through Thursday. Now at mid-range casinos, you can get a decent discount on the rooms (called "casino rates") and the buffet, again especially during off-peak times. At high-end places you'll get the buffet. In Tunica, Mississippi, a $25 bettor is treated the way a $100 bettor is treated in Vegas and a $100 bettor is treated like a god. Of course, in Atlantic City, a $25 bettor is treated like everyone is treated in the East:
$25 Player: Sir? Sir, may my wife and I have a comp?
(Okay, okay, I'm just having a little fun with my fellow East Coasters.)
By the way, the casino puts a price tag on all the freebies. So a room at "Hairy Harry's Outhouse Casino" might have a price tag of $15 a night, which will be subtracted from your $42; and the gourmet room at "Harry's" might come in at $25 (How much are day-old franks and beans, anyway?) and the breakfast buffet will come in at $2 and voila! you have used your $42 in comps for that day.
At Venetian, you won't get a discount for the room (except in really slow, snowball-in-hell seasons) because the Venetian will put a price tag of about $250 on the room and you won't get more than $42 as a comp for their café.
You can plug any game into the formula and come up with what the casino will give you back for those games. Some games such as roulette have fixed house edges (5.26 percent), which means it doesn't matter how you play because the edge is always the same; other games such as craps have house edges that vary from bet to bet - the casino rater will "estimate" what your average bet is based on the totality of the bets he sees you make over the time you are at the table. Usually, however, casinos will rate craps players as playing against a three percent house edge, give or take. And all games have different speeds - roulette has fewer decisions per hour than blackjack; Three-Card Poker has more decisions per hour than blackjack.
Now if you really want to be a savvy comp commander, I'm going to show you a secret way that only I know about to discover what exact formula the casinos you play in use to rate you. Here goes: Ask them! Yes, no one knows this secret but you can actually ask to see your rating. When you go to your host (by all means get a host, even if you are a low roller), just ask to see "the screen." He or she will show you exactly how they are rating you - what house edge they are using, how much your average bet is, what your theoretical loss is, and what they are willing to give you back in terms of comps.
And you'll get what you deserve.
Now, let's start moving into the fun territory of the undeserving, shall we?
(to be continued)
This article is provided by the Frank Scoblete Network. Melissa A. Kaplan is the network's managing editor. If you would like to use this article on your website, please contact Casino City Press, the exclusive web syndication outlet for the Frank Scoblete Network. To contact Frank, please e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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