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Best of Frank Scoblete
The Three C's of Freebies29 March 2007
As my body and wallet will testify, I love to dine out. I have certain restaurants that I frequent near my home where I am given the royal treatment I desire. That treatment really means three things: good food, good service, and a free glass of Frangelico after dinner to go with my coffee. Frangelico is a delicious hazelnut liqueur from Mt. Olympus itself and is my preferred dessert.
That free glass of Frangelico has cemented my loyalty to these local establishments and I go to them often. In fact, my wife the beautiful A.P. and I go out to dinner just about every other night -- so the restaurateurs are quite happy to give me that heavenly glass. Yes, that glass of Frangelico is the gift that keeps on giving. It gives me what I want; a sense of being a preferred customer, and it gives the owners of the restaurants what they want, my patronage -- meaning my money.
Casinos are no different. Their Frangelico is the comps they give to their players. These comps (for complimentaries) can be free or discounted food, free or discounted rooms, parties, special gifts, cashback, shopping sprees, golf and free or discounted tickets to great shows, boxing, or other events. Casinos give comps for two reasons: to cement a player's loyalty to the property and to get that player to play more money, more often at their games.
Comps are used to create loyal gamblers -- and more often than not, comps can take a lackluster player and make him a nice payer for the casinos. A little glass of Frangelico can go a long, long way in cementing a long-lasting relationship between casinos and their customers. It's the three C's: CasinosCompsCustomers.
How the Casinos Figure What Your Play is Worth
Obviously the more you bet and the longer you play, the bigger your comps. Red-chip ($5) players are not as valuable to the casinos as green-chip ($25), black-chip ($100) or purple-chip ($500) players. A player who plays one hour is not as valuable as a player who plays four hours -- given an equivalent level of betting. A person who frequents a casino weekly is more valuable than a person who comes once a year -- again given an equivalent level of betting.
In all table games, the casinos use similar formulas for finding out what your play is worth to them. That formula includes your average bet, the number of decisions per hour at the games you play, the amount of time you play, and the house edge. These ingredients will go to figuring out what is called your "theoretical loss." This is the amount of money that, over time, you will lose playing the way you do. Your comps are based on your theoretical loss and not necessarily on the real amounts you lose or win on any given trip to the casino.
Here's the formula that most casinos use: Average Bet X # decisions per hour X playing time X house edge = Theoretical Loss.
The casinos generally give back between 30 to 50 percent of a player's theoretical loss. For this article, we'll use 40 percent as the return as this is most commonly found in many casinos throughout the country. Thus, if a player is expected to lose $1,000 per hour, his comps will come to $400 per hour.
Different Games, Different Comps
If you are a $10 player at blackjack, will you receive the same comps as a $10 player at Three Card Poker? The answer might surprise you. (Here's a hint -- no!)
The average blackjack player at a full or almost full table will play about 60 hands per hour. The casino rates him as facing a 2 percent house edge. He will put into play $600 per hour and his theoretical loss will be $12 per hour. With a 40 percent return on his theoretical loss, our blackjack player will receive $4.80 per hour in comps -- probably the buffet if he plays for several hours.
The Three Card Poker player going full steam will put into play about $20 per hand (two bets) and will play about 80 hands per hour. He will play about $1600 per hour and his theoretical loss will be about $35.20 per hour. His comps will amount to $14.08 per hour. He plays a few hours and he can treat his two friends to the buffet.
Roulette is a very slow game, with maybe 45 decisions per hour at a crowded table. If you bet $10 on each and every spin of the wheel, you will put into action $450. The house edge is 5.26 percent and your theoretical loss will be $23.67 per hour. You will receive $9.47 per hour in comps.
A game such as craps is very difficult to model in an article because there are a host of bets -- some with extremely low house edges and some with disastrously high house edges -- that the casino raters will have to consider. The most conservative craps players, those who make only Pass Line and Come bets, or Place bets of the 6 and 8, are rated as facing a house edge of 1.5 percent, although the number of bets they put on the table will determine how much their average bet is worth.
A craps player who bets three $10 bets on Pass Line and Come wagers will usually be rated as a $30 player; four such bets will be $40 and so on. Most casinos do not rate the odds bet since the house has no edge on this bet. Craps gets complicated because most craps players not only bet Pass/Come bets but also Place bets with varying degrees of power for the house. The floorperson who is rating a craps player usually determines what he considers the average of all the bets and the percent of house edge for all those bets combined. It is an inexact science to say the least. As a rule of thumb a player who mixes and matches his bets at craps will usually be rated as facing about a 3 to 4 percent house edge.
Same Game, Different Comps
The maxim -- extend time, not risk -- can be applied to just about every casino table game with excellent results. And another maxim works too: Understand the nature of the games that you are playing and how they are actually rated. For example, two players are playing baccarat; Buddy is expected to lose $58 per hour of play, while Bernice is expected to lose $47 per hour of play. Buddy only gets "casino-level" comps, while Bernice is getting the full RFB treatment even though her expected loss is less than Buddy's. Why? Because Buddy is playing mini-baccarat at $25 per hand and Bernice is playing the traditional form of baccarat at $100 a hand -- and they are being rated differently even though the game is exactly the same in terms of the rules.
Mini-baccarat is an extremely fast game where it is not unheard of for 150 to 200 decisions to be made in an hour. Traditional baccarat is an extremely slow game, which can be made even slower by players who take their time dealing and exposing their cards, where 40 decisions per hour is the norm. If Buddy puts into action $25 on 180 hands per hour (excluding ties), that's $4,500 in total action. He bets a combination of Player and Bank (eschewing the 14 percent house edge on the Tie bet), which gives the casino about a 1.28 percent edge over him. That's a small edge but it's a small edge on a lot of hands. The result is Buddy will lose $58 per hour.
But Bernice is playing traditional baccarat. Let us say she makes a point of playing 40 hands per hour (excluding ties) and she bets $100 -- on Bank only. She puts into action $4,000 with a casino edge of 1.17 percent. Her real-world expected loss is about $47 per hour. But she is a high roller, betting $100 per hand, whereas Buddy is just a "rated" player.
Why such an anomaly?
For mini-baccarat the casino's rating computers generally use an 80 to 100 hand per hour formula against an approximately 1.28 to 3 percent range for its house edge (a combination of Bank, Player and Tie bets) and that's why Buddy gets the worst of it by far in the comp arena. If he is rated as playing 90 hands per hour with a 2 percent house edge, his loss is calculated as $45 per hour, not the $58 it actually is. He is comped on that $45 per hour, getting $18 in comps.
Bernice, on the other hand, is rewarded. Her expected loss the computer calculates as $120 per hour ($100 per hand x 60 hands x 0.02 percent house edge = $120) and not the $47 it actually is. Her comps are worth $48 per hour or $192 per day.
There is only one drawback to betting as Bernice does and that concerns volatility. Because she is betting larger sums on fewer hands, she will have much wilder short-term swings in good or bad luck. Still getting RFB or RLFB will more than make up for the roller-coaster effects of the game she is playing. In fact, in real terms, Bernice could be considered as having a monetary edge as the dollar value of the real comps she is winning is slightly greater than the dollar amounts she is losing in her play.
The speed of games is an important ingredient for players to consider. Knowing how the computer rates various play is also a good piece of information. Slower is better is the best rule of thumb overall.
Before you start playing, go to a casino host and find out what your intended play is worth to them. Ask about the various levels of comps. What level is RFB (King and Queen of the Casino), RLFB (Prince and Princess of the Casino), and so forth. Here are other questions you should ask:
Ask and Receive
Make sure that when you sit down, you do not start playing until the floorperson actually takes your player's card and records your name. You want every minute of your play credited to you. Then ask the rater the same questions concerning bet spreads, number of hands, etc., that you asked the host. You might think that casinos are well-coordinated in their rating policies but this is not always the case.
Getting a Little More for Your Play
Always take your bathroom breaks, your "I have to stretch my legs" break, during play and not during shuffles. If you come back in the middle of a shoe (or deck) sit out the remainder by saying: "I don't ever jump into a game mid-shoe or mid-deck."
Always stay for the introduction of new decks, even if you had planned to leave the game. It usually takes about five minutes to do the wash and shuffle and that five minutes will be added to your comp time. In fact, you can sit through the new-deck shuffle and then sit out the shoe or deck: "I'm never lucky on the first deals after new decks have been introduced. I'll sit out!"
Avoid automatic shuffling machines. These are good for the casino but bad for the players.
If you can afford to bet $25 or more, play traditional baccarat -- do not play mini-baccarat. In fact, as I prove in my book Baccarat Battle Book, a $25 traditional baccarat player has a better expectation than a $10 mini-baccarat player! So go for green if baccarat is your game.
Try to play with friendly and talkative dealers. The game tends to slow down a bit in such cases. It slows down even more when you play with friendly and talkative players as well.
No Abuse Please
The best advice I can give you is to never make a pig of yourself, even if you are getting everything for "free." Swinish behavior, while tolerated by casinos, merely labels you as someone who might be worth the price of the comp but not the time of day.
What You Can Expect with a 40 Percent Comp Return
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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