Send Me No Flowers
The sane way to look at comps
By Frank Scoblete
Casino players love comps. No secret there. Look at all the players who routinely hand in their player’s cards in order to be “rated.” Being rated is simply the casino keeping track of how much you bet, how long you play, the house edge on the game you are playing, and how many decisions per hour you get at that game. Based on these the casino will return 30 to 50 percent of a player’s theoretical losses in the form of comps.
A theoretical loss is not an actual loss in any given session but in the long run based on specific criteria. Basically, the casino figures how much this player going to lose over time and how valuable they are to the casino.
All of these aspects of the player rating system determine what kind of comps you will get. The formula is pretty simple to execute. Let’s take a look at blackjack as an example. If you bet $10 per hand and play 100 decisions per hour, the formula looks something like this:
Betting level: $10
Length of play: 4 hours
Number of decisions: 400
Total amount wagered: $4,000
House edge: 2 percent
Theoretical loss: $80
Comps (30 percent): $24 C
omps (40 percent): $32
Comps (50 percent): $40
Players even brag about the comps they get—free rooms, free shows, free meals, and free parties. Some of those really big players can brag about free limo rides, airfare reimbursement, special celebrity parties, sporting events, and golfing dates, among a host of other free-bees.
Of course, using the word “free” to describe such “freebees” is a misnomer. Nothing is free in the casinos. As you can see from the formula a player actually pays for all that free stuff. It just doesn’t seem so. It feels as if you are getting something for nothing.
Some heavy hitting players strut their stuff when it comes to comps.
“Do you know I got the best suite overlooking the Strip? Man was that great!”
“I could see the Atlantic Ocean. I had the suite on the top floor in the corner. I saw the ocean and I could see the city too.”
“My host left me a basket with fruit and a load of candy.”
“Yes, I will be at the party tonight with Matt Damon and George Clooney.”
“Third row seats to the heavyweight championship fight.”
“I caught Evander Holyfield’s ear that Tyson bit off and spit into the crowd.”
Low rollers often complain that they can’t get full comps for the café and they also have to pay full price for a room on the weekends. For them, weekday stays are best. Getting a comped room is usually di rigueur, especially on those weekdays and during these slow economic times. Buffet and café meals are usually comped too. Weekdays are best.
And what about seasons of the year? Winter is often the true casino wonderland—except during Superbowl week—because people prefer to huddle in their homes during the colder months so those of you who have sturdier constitutions can get some great deals. In colder climates, the casinos are rarely half-filled during the weekdays. For some reason most people take their vacations in the summer so you won’t find great numbers of midweek vacationers in your favorite casinos.
I am guessing that a $25 player during weekdays and in winter can get some pretty good comps.
Now what you do not want to do is what many people “do do”— and that is to think of comps as somehow relating to your self-worth. Such thinking is really do-do. Comps are merely based on money spent. A smelly gorilla with a big enough bankroll will be treated like a gloriously pure Unicorn by his host if he wagers enough.
Comps are great, yes, because they are a re-turn on your theoretical losses. But they are only a return on part of what you have spent. The people getting the really, really large comps have spent really, really large amounts of money for such comps.
A player should never bet more than he can afford just to get comps that make him look like a big shot. In fact, no one other than you cares about what level of comps you get. Other players are merely interested in their own comps.
So finally how do you get comps? Ask for them. If you have a host, just keep asking him or her to comp this or that. Don’t be afraid if the host keeps refusing you. A “no” should not hurt your feelings.
Finally, play the games with the best strategies. If you play blackjack make sure you use basic strategy. You can usually buy a basic strategy card in the casino gift shop. Craps? Only make the best bets, Pass Line or Don’t Pass, Come or Don’t Come taking or laying as much as you can afford in odds. In baccarat, avoid the “tie” bet. In roulette, play in casinos where they will return half your bet if the green 0 or 00 appears.
Bottom line: Stay away from comp craziness. That’s the sane way to play.
Frank Scoblete’s newest book is I Am a Dice Controller: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Craps; available from Amazon.com, Kindle, Barnes and Noble, and at your local bookstore. To celebrate his 25 years as a casino player, Frank will be happy to send you a free copy of his book The Virgin Kiss. Just email him (firstname.lastname@example.org) your address.