Casino comps are a great, but are they really free? Chances are you’re losing a lot of money at the tables in exchange for those so-called “free” comps. Unless you’re card counting, and you’re effective at it, the casinos know you’re going to lose more and more money over time. You may get lucky in the short run, but in the long run they know they have you. Let’s take a look at what’s really going on in the casino comp system and how you might be able to take advantage of it.
When it comes to giving out player comps, casinos usually value your worth using a pre-set formula. Every casino company is a little different, but the parameters generally go something like this…
(hands per hour) X (house edge) X (average bet size) X (number of hours)
= Theoretical Player Loss
Casinos assume you will not be playing optimal basic strategy when gambling. Therefore they expect your loss-rate to be somewhere between 1% and 2%. For most blackjack players this assumption holds true.
Let’s explore this calculation further by plugging in some numbers. Let’s say you’re playing around $100 per hand over a 4 hour stretch one evening. Let’s also assume this particular casino uses a 1% theoretical edge and 75 hands per hour to calculate player ratings. Here’s how you’re looking in the eyes of the casino’s comp system…
Hands per Hour X House Edge X Avg Bet X Hours Played = (75) X (.01) X (100) X (4) = $300
The casino values your 4 hours of play at $300. For comp purposes they’re willing to kick back a certain percentage of that amount (usually 25%-30%) in free rooms, food, chips, entertainment or cash. That’s about $75-$90 worth of comps for your 4 hours of action.
Make no mistake about it, the casinos are not your friends. Your value to them is strictly a dollar sign. The longer you play and the higher your average bet, the more they will cater to you. Understanding how the comp system works is the first step in taking advantage of the system. Now you can begin to capitalize on this knowledge and get far more than your fair share of casino comps.
Here are some great tips (for non-card counters) that you can use to exploit the comp system by appearing to be worth more to the house than you actually are…
Tip #1 – Play games with good odds
The house edge can be very different depending on where you’re playing. For example, the 6-deck games (S17, DAS, RSA, LS) at MGM Grand in Las Vegas have a house edge of only a quarter of a percent while the single deck games (H17, DAS, 6:5 on blackjacks) have nearly a 1.5% house edge. That means the house edge is 6 times as bad for you on the single deck game as on the 6-deck game!
Hint: For the very best odds, find a table where the dealer Stands on Soft 17 (S17), you can double after splitting (DAS), re-split Aces (RSA) and surrender (LS). Most importantly, avoid any game where the blackjack payout is 6:5 rather than 3:2.
Tip #2 – Play correct basic strategy
Playing optimal basic strategy will put your losing rate much lower than what the house will assume for comp purposes. You might get comped as if you’re losing at a rate of 1% (.01) when in reality you’re playing basic strategy on a good game where the house edge is only around .2% (.002). Games like the Mirage double deck in Las Vegas have this small of a house edge if correct basic strategy is being played.
Tip #3 – Play at a crowded table
Playing at a crowded table will really slow the game down. This means that you will be playing far less than the 75 hands per hour that the casino is banking on. Maybe you’re only playing 50 hands per hour because of how slow the game is moving, but you’ll be earning comps at the 75 hands per hour level!
Tip #4 – Take frequent breaks
Maybe you want to take a break for 15 minutes or so. Well don’t pick up your chips and get clocked out of the game, leave your chips at the table. This tactic keeps you clocked in as if you’re still playing. They’ll be comping you for time spent having a drink at the bar!
Tip #5 – Adjust your bet size at the right time
You may have noticed that the Pit Boss will come by from time to time and write down what he perceives to be your average bet size. That’s a perfect time to throw a little extra out there. Of course you only want to bet within what you can afford and you don’t want to get carried away with this strategy, but adding a second chip to your bet won’t cost you much. An appearance of having twice your real bet size will get you twice the comp value. As soon as the Pit Boss notes your bet size and walks away, drop your bet right back down.
Tip #6 – Exaggerate your losses
When you leave a table you may want to pocket some chips and appear you lost more than you really did. This won’t change the formula they use to evaluate your comp level, but it could certainly sway a decision on whether or not you’re getting your room covered for the weekend.
There are many strategies to increasing your comp value while risking less and these 6 tips should get you off to a great start. The overall concept is very simple. Look let you’re betting more, losing more and playing longer than you actually are. Use these tips and you can actually earn more in comps than the casino will ever get back from you at the tables.