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You Mean It's Free?
(Playing the Comps Game to Win)

I've mentioned before that I count comps as part of my overall win at the casino. After all, anything you don't have to pay for is money ahead, right? But to work the comp system you first have to understand how it works.

The comp forumla varies from casino-to-casino, but the concept is the same everywhere. You should also be aware of the fact that pit critters who like you can help you get better comps - and that casino hosts hold the keys to the kingdom. So, you want to cultivate relationships with those kinds of folks. More on that later.

But first let's talk about your Theoretical. Each rated player has what the casino refers to as a "theoretical." That is your theoretical loss based on the game you play, your average wager, the pit's evaluation of your strength as a player, the house edge, and the number of hours play.

Let's figure a theoretical for a low to mid-level craps player. Say you buy in for $1000. The casino makes note of that because they believe that is the amount you are willing to lose. Okay, say your standard bet is $66 inside. You play 2 hours a session. There are 120 decisions per hour. Now do the math. 240 decisions time $66 equals (brace yourself) $15,840 in action you gave the casino over that two hour period. Pretty impressive, right? Now let's say that based on your style of play - placing the inside numbers - the pit thinks they'll win 4% of your action - or $633. That is your theoretical number. The casino is willing to comp you back some pre-determined percentage - say 20% - of your theoretical. In this case a player might get a comped mid-week room or a discount on a weekend room plus a couple of meals. A comp value of around $130. Now the numbers I used in this example are my own - and each casino guards their formula like it's some trade secret - but ask the pit and he'll tell you what the magic number is. In my part of the world an average bet of $160 for four hours gets you full RFB (room, food and beverage). Meanwhile, some of the upscale casinos in Vegas will not rate players who spread less than $200. The number is a moving target, depending on the casino property.

The objective, then is mask yourself as a bigger player than you are. Yeah, they'll eventually catch on to you - but it's fun to play the game and work them for every penny you can. Here are some simple rules that will help you improve your casino rating.

1. Buy in for more than you intend to play. Casino assumes you are going to lose that much. Looks good on rating card. But use a little common sense here. Don't fall into the trap of betting it just because it's in the rail.
2. Make a large initial bet - even if you NEVER work it. I've stepped up to a table, bought in for $1000 and told the dealer to set me up $110 or $220 inside - but to leave it off until I tell him otherwise. I get my change. The bets are set up. The pit records the buy in and initial bet. But I leave my bets off until a decision on the current number. Then, when the dealer is taking the rest of the bets down and the pit is over watching another table - I tell him to go ahead and make my bets look like $66 inside
3. Take a regression after your first hit. If I have $66 inside, get one hit for $21, then regress to $22 inside - I have $1 net risk on the next toss - and my AVERAGE bet has reduced to $44. Meanwhile - the pit has me down for $110 or $66 on the rating card
4. Place a bet for the boys every time you see the pit picking up the rating cards. They'll hit you every twenty minutes or so. Why do this? A couple of reasons. First of all, most of the pit guys came up thru the tables and they appreciate a George - and will reciprocate by bumping up your rating. Secondly, the dealers will reciprocate as well. You'll be amazed at how many mistakes they can make in paying bets - and how often they will go the player's way.
5. Press your bets when the pit is writing. Be careful with this one - but I will increase my bets for one or two rolls when the pit is updating the rating cards - then regress them once again.
6. Salt away every other green chip. Whenever you get into a hot streak and the table gets busy, it's time to start taking some chips out of the rack and slipping them in your pocket. Don't be obvious about it - and don't think you can get away with it with black chips - the eye in the sky is tracking those. But you can squirrel away a greenie every fifteen minutes or so and end up with an extra $200 in your pocket when you head to the cage.
7. Color up SMALL. This relates to number 6. The purpose is to be sure the number written down on your rating card at the end of the session makes it appear that you had a substantial loss. Casinos like losers. They're not as fond of winners (though scoring a big win is a SURE way to get a quick invitation to come back - fully comped).
8. Depending on the casino - I may break my bankroll down and color up at two separate cages. I have had tellers call the pit when I colored up a large amount and advise the PB that a player was cashing in black or purple. Likewise, If I'm there overnight I may take all or part of my chips to the room, lock them in the safe and cash them in the next morning - or get my wife to cash part of them in.
9. End each session with:
(a) a final tip for the boys
(b) a request for a comp (even if you don't use it - they'll credit it back to your comp account) and
(c) a casual conversation with the pit/floor walker. Again, get to know these folks. By the way - I do NOT ask for a comp every time I see a host or pit person. It will serve you well just to sit down at an empty BJ chair and chat with these people - get to know them as individuals. There are some great men and women working in these places.
10. On occasion I've received some exceptionally nice comps. I took two comped cruises to Cozumel on the Isle of Capri's boat they used to run out of New Orleans. Yeah, the McDonalds of cruise lines, but hey - it was free. There were couples on the boat that had paid $1500 per person. I spent a three-night weekend at Harrah's Tahoe once - including airfare, hotel, all food and beverages for two, a comp worth probably $2000 at the time. Right after the Mandalay Bay opened a host friend from Harrah's moved over there and invited me out for 3 nights with full RFB - yeah, I had to get myself there and back, but we're talking about the Mandalay Bay here - a comp worth probably $1500 total. In each of these cases I took the time to send a personal note to the host in question, along with a small personal gift (hosts can accept small gifts - usually under $50 or so in value). I'm big on sending polo shirts with my corporate logo. Also, I'll occasionally send a "communal" gift to the host's office - a box of candy, for example, for all the hosts to share. Suddenly everybody knows your name.

I also send Christmas cards c/o the casino to my favorite hosts, pit critters and dealers. You'd be AMAZED how much mileage you can get out of a buck and a half card. And once a year I send a letter to the casino manager - congratulating him on his operation and praising any particular employees that have yielded exceptional service. Why? A dealer at Harrah's told me they read one of my letters to all the managers at the weekly managers meeting. And someone put a note in the computer system about it - because several of the pit folks - after recording my buy in on the system - stepped over and thanked me for it. Hey, shameless sucking up works.

Then there are the coupon offers - which also add up. Last year I spent 66 nights in comped casino hotel rooms. We ate over 200 casino meals - and very few buffets in the mix - and cashed around $1000 in free coin coupons (and there's a secret about building a bankroll in that last sentence). It all adds up.

So there you have it. All it really takes is understanding the casino's rating system and masking your play to make it appear you are a higher roller than you are. But don't forget to be a George - and a friend - to some of the key people in the casino. Be the kind of player the dealers like to see step up to the table and the comps will come. All you have to do is ask.

Back To Heavy On...



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