Aspects of Playing for Casino Comps: Improving Player Expected Value

Casinos compete for players’ time and money by compensating them with freebies (comps). These gifts include free drinks, meals, free or reduced room rates, show tickets and extend to RFB (all room, food and beverage costs), refund of airfare or return flight certificates, and tickets to the Super Bowl. Compensation programs are inherently designed to build customer loyalty and encourage subsequent visits with the customer’s wallets and/or purses in hand. Customers do not have to be high rollers to receive these incentives; many low-mid level players can and do receive a surprising number of freebies and discounts. This is particularly relevant today in part due to the current state of our overall economy; In Las Vegas, visitor numbers and gambling bankrolls have dropped significantly and this has increased compensation offers from gambling properties as they try to encourage players to come through their doors. On a recent (late October 2008) nine-day stay in Las Vegas, my wife and I didn’t have to pay for a single night’s stay (all rooms are free) and we’re by no means high-end gamers. Our gaming efforts include blackjack at tables with minimum bets of $10 to $25 and penny or nickel denomination slot machines and video poker with stakes ranging from 40 cents to $2.00 per spin.

Compensation prizes are generally determined by the average wager x hours played x wagers per hour x expected house edge x % of casino compensation return to players (generally ranges from 25-40% of expected profit per the casino). For example, let’s say you play a decent game of blackjack (setting player-friendly rules and playing accurate basic strategy) and your average bet is $10 per hand. If you play an “average” 6 deck game of shoes, you can expect to see 60 – 80 hands per hour if the table involves 3-4 other players. Many casinos use 60 hands per hour and a 2% house edge when calculating expected player dollar returns and resulting compensation calculations. Most casinos will return approximately 40% of their expected win to a player in the form of freebies. For the game above, let’s say you play 5 hours (hopefully at more than one table); a reasonable compensation calculation would be $10 (average bet) X 5 (hours played) X 60 (hands/hour) X 0.02 (house edge) X 0.40 (proportional casino return to players). This means that you cumulatively wagered approximately $3000.00 (shocked?) X .02 = $60.00 X .40 = $24.00 in earned comps.

One key tip to remember about gifts while in Las Vegas or anywhere else… ASK for them… politely. At some Las Vegas properties, you may need to wager $15 or $25 per hand to qualify for table game comps. Some casinos off the Las Vegas Strip are more liberal with their food giveaways than many Strip venues; on several different trips I have played for 2-3 hours at the Orleans with an average bet of 10 -20 dollars and have never had a problem getting buffet treats for two when properly asked for. There is a wide variation in compensation programs between casinos and corporate gaming entities. Players should determine where they like to play and take advantage of the specifics of the compensation program at a given location. Don’t be surprised if a player’s club representative/host is vague about how they calculate earned compensation; Giveaways may vary depending on the season and any factors that increase patronage (weekends vs. weekdays, holidays, major events/conventions). Low to mid level players will find it harder to get compensation during these high traffic situations at times. It is suggested that players become familiar with a host of slots/table games that they are comfortable with; Generally speaking, it’s a good idea to request a host of the opposite gender. Communicating with a host can generate real dollar value for future visits (minimize losses/improve profits); part of a host’s job is to improve the player’s experience while playing the game. At many properties, room managers may award gifts of food. The key elements to playing a value-enhanced compensation game are betting within your prescribed bankroll, playing lower house advantage games, knowing the property compensation program, and ASKs. On the other hand, the trade-offs of “chasing” (i.e. playing too long just to get a meal) can result in higher overall game losses, especially if you’re losing hand after hand, roll of the dice, or roll of the dice. slots after spin of slots. . Common sense applies.

Blackjack is a great game to acquire freebies due to the generally lower house odds compared to all other casino games, as long as players select games with player-friendly rules and learn accurate basic strategy for the game. specific played. If a player takes advantage of these conditions and uses tactics that slow down the game (fewer hands played per hour), he will have used some basic tactics to improve his accumulated compensation. Factors that can slow down a game include playing at crowded tables, talking to other players regularly while the game is in progress, extending decision times on manual plays, and taking frequent bathroom or cell phone breaks. Another tactic to improve compensation accumulation in blackjack is to increase the bet levels when pit bosses and/or table hosts observe a specific game; these should improve your board game ratings and increase compensation levels. Bet levels can be lowered if desired when one is not being examined by members of the casino staff.

Slot/Video Poker (VP) game tracking for comps requires players to have their player club cards inserted and inserted correctly to accumulate points; always determine that this is the case and check periodically during sessions on a given machine. Video poker generally offers higher payback percentages than slots, but the rewards for VP play are generally lower for the same bets/time played compared to slots. It is a standard casino compensation mechanism. If you find a casino that you like to play at, enjoy slots, and have a lot of time, I think it’s possible to identify some particular machines that show a higher payback percentage than others (we know this is a fact; the key is to identify them). Generally speaking, 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 between penny slots; Observation, common sense, and a willingness to play these games can lead to identifying some of the highest paying machines. The key is not to get soaked in a big loss hoping that the next pull…and the next…will result in a big payout. Regarding slots, we suggest a stop-loss approach. We always stop playing on a given machine if we have reached 40 – 50% of the original buy-in amount (ie $20-25 credit remaining after a $50.00 original buy-in). It’s true that the average slot machine will drain your bankroll, but if players can identify the highest ROI machines (through observation and actual play), these are reasonable alternatives for racking up freebies. Video poker with solid pay tables (minimum 9/6 Jacks or Better or Double Bonus; this pay table means the machine offers a payout of 9 for 1 on a full house and 6 for 1 on a flush) is a medium great for increasing payouts (although slower relative to most slots at the same bet levels). It is important to realize that the key factor is to identify the machines with the highest recovery percentages (i.e. “full paid” machines or those with close to 100% recovery over time, although individual sessions may result in losses, of course).

While looking for individual casinos to play any game, always look for player’s club promotions (e.g. points multiplier days, blackjack upgrades) and use game coupons (blackjack match play and first card ace coupons). ; Using these will enhance player expectations through higher wins/minimized losses while playing the compensation game. The current economic climate in Las Vegas specifically, while generally low, is conducive to the acquisition of compensation offers.

Good cards…

Chuck60 @ frugally Las Vegas

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