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Casinos compete for gambler’s time and money by compensating them with complimentary gifts (comps). These comps involve free drinks, meals, free or reduced rate rooms, show tickets and extend to RFB (all costs for room,food,and beverage), airfare reimbursement or flyback certificates, and Super Bowl tickets. Comp programs are inherently designed to build customer loyalty and to foster return visits with the patron’s wallets and/or purses in hand. Customers do not have to be high-rollers to receive these incentives; many low-midlevel gamblers can and do receive a surprising amount of freebies and discounts. This is particularly relevant presently in part due to the current state of our general economy; in Las Vegas, visitor counts and gambling bankrolls have dipped significantly and this has increased comp offers from gaming properties in their attempt to encourage gamblers to enter their doors. On a recent (late October,2008) nine day stay in Vegas, my wife and I didn’t have to pay for a single night’s stay (all comped rooms) and we are absolutely not upper crust gamblers. Our gambling efforts involve blackjack at 10 – 25 dollar minimum bet tables and penny or nickel denomination slots and video poker with bets ranging from 40 cents to $ 2.00 per spin.
Comp awards are generally determined by average bet x hours played x bets per hour x expected house edge x % casino comp return to players (generally ranges 25 – 40% of expected win by the casino). For example, let’s assume you play a decent blackjack game (player favorable rule set and you play accurate basic strategy) and your average bet is 10 dollars per hand. If you play an “average ” 6-deck shoe game you can expect to see 60 – 80 hands per hour if the table involves 3 or 4 other players. Many casinos use 60 hands per hour and a house edge of 2% when figuring their expected dollar returns from players and resultant comp calculations. Most casinos will return approximately 40% of their expected win back to a player in the form of comps. For the above game, let’s assume you play 5 hours (hopefully at more than one table); a reasonable comp calculation would be $10 (average bet) X 5 (hours played) X 60 (hands/hr.) X .02 (house edge) X .40 (proportionate casino return to players). This means cumulatively you wagered approximately $ 3000.00 (surprised?) X .02 = $60.00 X .40 = $24.00 in earned comps.
A key tip to remember about comps while in Las Vegas or elsewhere…ASK for them..in a courteous manner. At some Vegas properties, you might be required to wager $15 or $25 per hand to even get rated for table game comps. Some off-strip Las Vegas casinos are more liberal with their meal comps than many of the Strip locales; on several different trips I’ve played for 2-3 hours at the Orleans with a 10 -20 dollar average bet and have never had a problem obtaining buffet comps for two when asked for appropriately. There is a huge variation in comp programs between casinos and corporate gaming entities. Players should determine where they like to play and avail themselves of comp program specifics at a given locale. Don’t be surprised if a player’s club representative / host is vague about precisely how they calculate earned comps; awarded comps can vary with season and any factor that increases patronage (weekends vs weekday, holidays, major events / conventions). Low to midlevel players will find it more difficult to get comped during these high traffic situations at times. It’s suggested that gamblers familiarize themselves with a slots / table games host that they are comfortable with; generally speaking, it’s a good idea to solicit a host of the opposite gender. Communicating with a host can lead to real dollar value for future visits (minimize losses / enhance winnings); part of a host’s job is to enhance the player’s experience while gambling. At many properties, pit bosses can award meal comps. Key elements for playing an enhanced-value comp game are to gamble within your prescribed bankroll, playing games with lower house advantage, know the property comp program, and ASK. On the other hand, “chasing” comps (ie playing too long just to obtain a meal) can lead to increased overall gambling losses, particularly if you’re losing hand after hand, dice roll after dice roll, or slot pull after slot pull. Common sense applies.
Blackjack is an excellent game to acquire comps due to generally lower house odds when compared to all other casino games provided players select games with player-favorable rules and learn accurate basic strategy for the specific game played. If a player avails themselves of these conditions and employs tactics that decrease the speed of the game (fewer hands played per hour), they have employed some basic tactics to enhance their comp accrual. Factors that can slow down a game include playing at crowded tables, talking with other players regularly while the game is in progress, extending decision times on hand plays, and taking frequent bathroom breaks or cell phone call breaks. Another tactic to enhance comp accrual at blackjack involves increased bet levels when pit bosses and / or table hosts are observing specific play; these should enhance your table play ratings and accrued comp levels. Bet levels can be reduced if desired when one is not being scrutinized by casino staff members.
Slot / video poker (VP) play tracking for comps requires that players have their player’s club cards inserted and inserted properly to accumulate points; always determine that this is the case and periodically check during sessions at a given machine. Video poker generally offers higher payback return percentages vs slot machines but comps for VP play are generally less for the same wagers / time played as compared to slots. It’s a standard casino tradeoff mechanism. If you find a casino that you like to play in, you enjoy the slots, and you have ample time, I believe it’s possible to identify some particular machines that exhibit a higher payback percentage than others (we know this is fact; the key is in identifying them). Generally speaking, the higher denomination machines have higher payback percentages (ie $1 slots vs penny machines); your ability to play these will depend on your bankroll and a money management scheme that involves common sense. There are wide variations in payback percentages even among penny slots; observation, common sense, and a willingness to play these games can lead to identifying some of the better paying machines. The key is to not get soaked for a huge loss expecting that next pull..and the next one..to result in a big payout. Regarding slot machines, we suggest a stop-loss approach. We always stop playing a given machine if we’ve reached 40 – 50% of the original buy-in amount (ie $20 -25 dollars credit remaining following a $50.00 original buy-in). Admittedly, the average slot machine will drain your bankroll but if players can identify the higher payback machines (by observation and actual play) these are reasonable alternatives for accumulating comps. Video poker with solid paytables (minimally 9/6 Jacks Or Better or Double Bonus; this paytable means the machine offers a 9 for 1 payout on a full house and 6 for 1 on a flush) is an excellent means to accrue comps (albeit slower relative to most slot machines at the same wager levels). It’s important to realize that the key factor is identifying the machines with greater payback percentages (ie “full-pay” machines or those with close to 100% payback over time, though individual sessions can and do still result in losses, of course).
While seeking out individual casinos to play any game, always seek out player’s club promotions (eg point multiplier days, blackjack enhancements) and use gambling coupons (blackjack match play and first -card ace coupons); use of these will enhance player expectation through increased returns / minimized losses while playing the comp game. The current economic climate in Las Vegas specifically, though generally down, is conducive to comp offer acquisition.
Chuck60 @ Frugally Vegas
write by Briston Blair