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The Ratings Game
There are ways to get more comps
by Frank Scoblete

True story time. A hard-of-hearing football coach was at the craps tables in Atlantic City, playing for the very first time, and he was having a really bad run. The floorperson came over to him and asked him, “Do you want us to rate you?” The football coach screamed, “You’re taking my money and now you want to rape me!?”

Not quite. If you walk into a casino and buy in at the tables, you’ll probably be approached by a floorperson who will ask you if you have one of their player’s cards. If you tell him you do and hand it over, the process of rating your play will begin. If you tell him you don’t, you’ll be asked if you want to get a card so that you can “get rated.”

Casinos want their patrons to come back time and again and giving comps based on the player’s rating is the way the casinos bring such patrons back. Rating a player is a very simple concept based on the following elements:

1. What game is being played? Some games have high house edges such as roulette; some games have low house edges such as blackjack; some games have both low and high house edges like craps.
2. How many decisions does the game have per hour? Some games are fast-paced, like blackjack; some games slow-paced like roulette.
3. How much is the player’s average bet?
4. How long does the player actually play the game?
5. What is the player’s theoretical loss per hour?

Once the player’s rating is ascertained, then the casino can give that player various comps as a reward for his play. Let’s take a look at how this works with some of the popular casino table games.

Blackjack: Blackjack is still the most popular table game in the casinos. A player can play 80 to 120 decisions per hour at the game, depending on how crowded the table is. If we use 100 decisions per hour as the norm, a $10 blackjack player who bets the same amount hand after hand puts into action about $1,200 per hour (the extra money is because of double downs and splits which raises his average bet). The casino usually rates the theoretical loss at 2 percent of his action (or $2 for every $100 wagered) – so his theoretical loss is $24 per hour or two average bets.

If our player actually plays one hour, he can expect to get between 30 and 50 percent of his theoretical loss back in the form of comps. So let’s split the difference and make it 40 percent as our comp return. Our player will get about $10 back per hour in comps therefore.

Of course, most blackjack players vary the size of their bets, so a $10 blackjack player who sometimes jumps to $20 or $30, will have a higher average bet size. It is the floorperson’s job to see what the range of a patron’s betting is in order to give that person the rating he deserves.

Craps: Craps is a more complicated game to rate players because of the wealth of betting choices available. These bets range from good bets (i.e., bets that have low house edges) such as Pass, Don’t Pass, Come, Don’t Come, and the Placing of the 6 and 8 where the house hovers around 1.5 percent (or $1.50 for every $100 wagered); to poor percentage bets such as the placing of the 4, 5, 9, 10, and the Field, where the house edges are between four and seven percent; to bets where the house edges are abominable such as the Hardways, the Crazy Crapper one-roll bets of the 2, 3, 7, 11, and 12 or any combination of these variously called C&E, Horn, Whirl, or World, where the house edge goes from about nine percent to about 17 percent.

A craps player who constantly makes the Any Seven bet is facing a prodigious 16.67 percent house edge; while a player who makes a Pass Line faces a mere 1.4 percent edge.

To solve the problem of the diversity of craps bets, most casinos have a three-tiered rating system at craps that goes as follows:

1. Good Player: Only makes bets with low house edges such as Pass, Don’t Pass, Come, Don’t Come, Placing of the 6 and 8, and some lay bets. House edge is 1.5 percent.
2. Typical Player: Makes place bets of 4, 5, 9, 10; plays the field; makes lay bets. House edge is five percent.
3. Action player: Makes the high house edge bets in center of table. House edge is 10 percent.

Of course, many players make a combination of good, typical and action bets at craps so the floorperson has to often “guesstimate” what the player is facing in the way of house edges to get a theoretical loss of such players.

Craps also has a strange decision matrix. The Field and the Crazy Crapper bets at the center of the layout of the 2, 3, 7, 11, and 12 are one-roll bets and are determined with each and every roll of the dice. However, all other bets are only determined a given percentage of the time. For example, the 6 has 11 ways to be decided in 36 possible combinations of the dice. It will win when it is thrown (five chances) and lose when a 7 is thrown (six chances); all other rolls will have no effect on the 6.

So the raters at craps also take into consideration if the player is betting many numbers or merely one or a few numbers. Most casinos do not give any rating to the odds bets as such bets have no house edge.

Now once the theoretical loss is established for the craps player, the formula is the same as for blackjack. The player will get back between 30 and 50 percent of his theoretical loss in the form of comps.

Roulette: Roulette is an easy game to rate as all but one bet at the American double-zero wheel (i.e., the wheel that has a 0 and a 00 as two of its 38 pockets) has an edge of 5.26 percent. The single multiple bet of the 0, 00, 1, 2, 3 is the exception and has an edge of over seven percent for the house. While roulette has a high house edge on all of its bets, the number of decisions per hour is usually in the vicinity of about 50, sometimes much less at crowded tables. A roulette player will be rated based on his total bet for each spin. Thus, if he or she bets $10 on seven different numbers, and $10 on three of the outside proposition bets, his average bet is considered $100 for rating purposes.

A $100 roulette player will put $5,000 into action every hour with an expected loss of $263 and a comp return of $105 per hour.

If you play the European wheel that has only one zero then the house edge is reduced to 2.7 percent. In addition, if you play in games where the outside propositions only lose half when a 0 or 00 is the decision, the house edge is reduced by half at both the American and the European wheels.

All Other Table Games: The basic rating system for all other table games follows the same pattern as for blackjack. Three-Card Poker and Mini-Baccarat are very fast games, often coming in with over 100 decisions per hour. Caribbean Stud is a slower game, more like roulette, while Pai Gow Poker is the slowest of all the table games. Many casinos only rate you as betting one-half your bet at Pai Gow Poker for comping purposes.

Some Rating Tricks for Some Treats
Casinos want players who play, win or lose, and come back and play again. The more they play, the better the chance the players will be behind. Now, if player “A” comes into a casino and places one $1,000 bet, loses and leaves, and player “B” comes in, hands in a player’s card, bets $10 a hand, loses $1,000 over a period of several hours, which player do you think has the better chance of returning for more action?

Most casinos would guess that player “B” is the one who will come back and play some more because he has already played for several hours and he has handed in a player’s card, even if this is the first time he has played in that casino. Player “A”, while helping the casino with his one big losing bet, is a true unknown. Was his bet a once in a lifetime moment? Or is it a harbinger of things to come? Who knows? He left too fast to make a judgment.

Casinos, like restaurants, theatres, movies and your local barbershop and airlines want repeat customers. That’s what keeps them afloat.

Always hand in a player’s card before you play. Do not place a bet until the floorperson has taken your card and recorded your name. You want every bet to be rated by the casino.

Always tip on top of your bets and not in front or alongside your bets. If you tip on top of your bets, the tip counts as a part of your bet. If you are betting $10 and put a $1 chip on top, your rating just went up 10 percent for that hand. When you tip on top let the dealers know that the money on top is theirs. You get the benefit of being a “George,” which means a tipper, and you get the added ratings benefit as well. If you put the tip in front or alongside your bet that is not a part of your bet but a tip for the dealers and it is usually not counted in the ratings.

In the ratings game, just about everyone gets the rating they truly deserve from the casino. However, it’s more fun getting a rating you don’t deserve – a better rating than you deserve in fact. You can do this in several ways. Every time the floorperson comes over to rate your bet, double the size of it. Yes, it will cost you more in losses, but the comps for being rated twice as high will more than offset any losses that you have on the few hands that you have doubled.

In blackjack, when the dealer is shuffling, put up a big “show” bet that the floorperson sees and records. When the dealer starts to deal, take the bet down and put up your regular bet. If the big bet is recorded, you have gotten some ratings value from it without any risk whatsoever. Another way to save money at blackjack is to sit out a hand every now and then when the floorperson is occupied somewhere else. If you can sit out 10 percent of the hands, you have decreased your losses without decreasing your rating.

In craps, if you are a Place bettor, then place your bets while the shooter is on the come-out roll when those bets are off. You will get credit for the bets but they will not be at risk. Here too you can make a bigger Place bet than normal. Once the shooter has established his or her point, you can take the bet down to its normal size.

Some players think that the rating systems of the casinos are traps to lure you into playing for more money and/or for longer times. For some players this could be true. If you find yourself caught in the ratings trap, you might be better off forgetting about the comping systems and just playing without a player’s card. However, for those who play what they are going to play and such ratings have no influence over them, then getting a little extra for those hours playing the games is icing on the cake.

Frank Scoblete is the #1 best-selling gaming author in America. He is executive director of the Golden Touch advantage-play seminars in craps and blackjack. Looking for great gambling products and gifts? Go to www.gamblersoutpost.com. His websites are www.goldentouchcraps.com, www.goldentouchblackjack.com, and www.scoblete.com in association with CasinoCity.com. His newest book is The Golden Touch Dice Control Revolution! For more information or a brochure, call 1-800-944-0406 or write to Frank Scoblete Enterprises, PO Box 446, Malverne, NY 11565.

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