Chapter 6 - Comps

"Never play for comps!" Frank Scoblete, America's #1 Gaming Writer

"Never play for comps!" Every other gaming author

Complimentary items - "Comps" - are things of value given to the casino player by the casino management as a means to encourage continued loyal play. Comps can be gifts to take home such as shirts and jackets, or reimbursement of money to be spent on services, such as covering the cost of a meal or hotel stay.

Jean Scott is known as the "Queen of Comps" and writes extensively about comps and how to receive them. One of her books, The Frugal Gambler, is all about comps and is definitely recommended reading to learn many of the details and tricks of the trade. Another great book full of comp information is Comp City by Max Rubin. I think this book should have been called Max Comps! Both of these are excellent books and you can't help but learning how to increase the comps you receive when you read them.

But the basic rule on comps is you should never play for comps. Take them if they give them to you, and you may negotiate for more and better, but never alter or increase your play strictly to increase your comps. If you budget $200 for the session and then wind up losing $475 just to get a free buffet, then you have paid a tremendous price for that meal; it had better be a great buffet. Even if you just lose a portion of the $200 trying to earn the buffet comp, it is too high a price to pay.

Never play for comps - play to win!

Two key parts of getting comps are always signing up for the casino player's card, and by asking to be rated when playing at the table games. Your play is tracked automatically when you insert your player's card into any machine. Today most play (action) is tracked by the casino, and it is usually done electronically on your player's card account.

Comps are given to the player based on the "theoretical" loss, which is what the casino projects it will win from your play using a formula based on the following four things: the number of bets you make on average per hour of the game you are playing, how much you bet on average, how long you play in hours, and the house advantage (HA) of the game you are playing. A player's level of expertise can also figure into this formula as well.

After the theoretical loss is determined, then a percentage of the casino's projected win may be returned to the player in the form of a comp. Usually, this percentage is in the range of 30-50%, but it can vary significantly, depending on your value to the casino.

Here is an example of how the theoretical is determined. Let's say you are playing blackjack at $5 per hand for 2 hours. The formula would look like this: (Mild math alert!) 60 (hands per hour on average for BJ) x $5 bet x 2 (hours play) x 0.02 (2% is a normal HA on blackjack) equals the theoretical, which is 60 x $5 x 2 x 0.02 = $12.

The casino is projecting their total win from you on your $5 blackjack play over two hours to be $12. Whether you actually win or lose does not enter into this equation.

Based on the theoretical of $12, the casino may give you back in comps between 30-50%, which is $3.60 to $6.00, again regardless of whether you won $10 or $100, or lost the same amount. So $5 blackjack play for 2 hours is not going to get you a comp of a free night's stay anywhere, unless it is at your mother's house. At least there you might also get a free meal.

And this theoretical is based on the average player, with a 2% HA applied (for blackjack play). If the casino thinks you are an expert player, it may then apply a 1% (or less) multiplier, thus cutting your comps in half.

A bigger example of $150 blackjack play for 4 hours at 2% would give a theoretical of $720, and a 50% return (which is high) would be $360 in comps, which should cover a regular room and any food or beverages (RFB) in most casinos today. With a 1% HA used and a 30% return, this figure drops to $108, which may cover a meal in the regular restaurant or a discounted room, but probably not both.

You can always ask how your average bets are being determined, or how the casino has rated your action. For example, would playing 2 spots at blackjack for $25 per hand be considered as $50 total play or still just $25 play? Or if a pass line bet at craps of $10 with 5 times odds of $50 behind is considered a $60 bet or a $10 bet? Always ask, because this amount recorded by the pit boss makes a huge difference on your rated action. You might think you are a $60 player, and the casino may have you rated at $25, so it never hurts to check.

The projected win is just that - a projection. Remember about the house advantage from Chapter 2 when I said that the casino really does not care about short term wins or losses, or whether you are winning or losing right now. The casino really cares about the long term averages, and the theoretical is just that, an average of your projected losses over time, and not an accounting of whether you are really ahead right now or behind. Again, your actual winning or losing amount does not usually come into play with figuring the comp amount you may be entitled to.

But in reality, partly depending on your value...

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