Casino Comps: Not Only For High Rollers – Everyone Can Get in on the Game, Here’s How It’s Done

Players that often visit casinos are aware that many patrons are comped during their stay. Regulars receive free or discounted rooms, meals, show tickets, free play, etc. Many average players that wager on penny, nickel, or quarter slot machines, bet $5 or $10 per hand at table games, think that the freebies are only for the high rollers. Nothing could be further from the truth.

How Casino Comps Work

Comps (complementaries) are valued at a portion of a player’s expected loss to the casino over time. This is called the house edge. For example, the house edge on Blackjack is about 0.5% when perfect basic strategy is used by the player. This means that a player’s theoretical loss is about 50 cents for every $100 bet. Players can win too, but that’s gambling. However in the long run over time, the house always wins, and comps keep players coming back.

How to Get Casino Comps

Sign up for a Players Club card without hesitation. All casinos offer them at no charge. Each time you use it at a slot machine or table game, you build up points. Of course the more you play the more points you earn. Depending on where you play and your level of play your points can be used towards meals, hotel stays, exclusive event invitations, show tickets, cash back and more. Rewards vary between casinos and are liquid (change often). Always check with the Players Club associates for specifics.

How Comps are Determined

Points on your card are determined by the amount of credit (coin in) at any machine game after you insert your players card in the appropriate slot. The amount you play is not as important as length of time you play. For example, If you put $20 in a quarter slot machine, and you play for an hour or so with it, the amount of coin in could be $100 or more. The amount through put is what counts.

If you play table games, place your card on the table with your cash when you buy-in. The dealer will give it to the pit boss who will record it. The card will be returned to you promptly. Your average bet will be monitored and recorded from time to time during your session.Once again, how long you play takes precedence for comp rewards.

Once you’re established as a steady player you’ll receive offers in your mailbox(snail mail and/or e-mail).

If you’re a table game player that wagers $25 per hand and higher, ask the pit boss to rate you. S/he will keep track of your average bet size for as long as you play. If you play for two or three hours always ask if you’re entitled to any comps.

For table games,the comps players receive depends on the game you’re playing. For example, three hours of Blackjack at your theoretical loss of 0.5% will earn you less in rewards than three hours of Caribbean Stud Poker, where your expected loss is 5.2%.

The same applies to slot and video poker machines. For example, three hours of video poker play will earn you less in comps than the same time at a slot machine, because video poker has a skill element to it, whereas slots do not.

Where you play is also a factor. Playing as a Vegas locals casino could earn you more generous rewards than playing the same amount of time at the upscale Wynn and Bellagio resorts.

When to Talk to a Host

If you’re planning to stay for a few days call the casino and ask to speak to a casino host. S/he can offer you special room rates and will book your room for you. Tell the host what games you play and what your betting level is. You may also want to enquire about making an upfront cashier deposit. For example, if you’re staying for four days and deposit $2,000, you can draw out $500 a day to prove your betting level. If you’re playing tables get to know the pit crew(s). This can go a long way with your host relationship.

Remember, always be a responsible gambler. Always let the casino comp your play. Never play just for comps.

Good Luck!

Aspects of Playing For Complimentary Gifts (Comps) From Casinos – Enhancing Player Expected Value

Casinos compete for gambler’s time and money by compensating them with complimentary gifts (comps). These comps involve free drinks, meals, free or reduced rate rooms, show tickets and extend to RFB (all costs for room,food,and beverage), airfare reimbursement or flyback certificates, and Super Bowl tickets. Comp programs are inherently designed to build customer loyalty and to foster return visits with the patron’s wallets and/or purses in hand. Customers do not have to be high-rollers to receive these incentives; many low-midlevel gamblers can and do receive a surprising amount of freebies and discounts. This is particularly relevant presently in part due to the current state of our general economy; in Las Vegas, visitor counts and gambling bankrolls have dipped significantly and this has increased comp offers from gaming properties in their attempt to encourage gamblers to enter their doors. On a recent (late October,2008) nine day stay in Vegas, my wife and I didn’t have to pay for a single night’s stay (all comped rooms) and we are absolutely not upper crust gamblers. Our gambling efforts involve blackjack at 10 – 25 dollar minimum bet tables and penny or nickel denomination slots and video poker with bets ranging from 40 cents to $ 2.00 per spin.

Comp awards are generally determined by average bet x hours played x bets per hour x expected house edge x % casino comp return to players (generally ranges 25 – 40% of expected win by the casino). For example, let’s assume you play a decent blackjack game (player favorable rule set and you play accurate basic strategy) and your average bet is 10 dollars per hand. If you play an “average ” 6-deck shoe game you can expect to see 60 – 80 hands per hour if the table involves 3 or 4 other players. Many casinos use 60 hands per hour and a house edge of 2% when figuring their expected dollar returns from players and resultant comp calculations. Most casinos will return approximately 40% of their expected win back to a player in the form of comps. For the above game, let’s assume you play 5 hours (hopefully at more than one table); a reasonable comp calculation would be $10 (average bet) X 5 (hours played) X 60 (hands/hr.) X .02 (house edge) X .40 (proportionate casino return to players). This means cumulatively you wagered approximately $ 3000.00 (surprised?) X .02 = $60.00 X .40 = $24.00 in earned comps.

A key tip to remember about comps while in Las Vegas or elsewhere…ASK for them..in a courteous manner. At some Vegas properties, you might be required to wager $15 or $25 per hand to even get rated for table game comps. Some off-strip Las Vegas casinos are more liberal with their meal comps than many of the Strip locales; on several different trips I’ve played for 2-3 hours at the Orleans with a 10 -20 dollar average bet and have never had a problem obtaining buffet comps for two when asked for appropriately. There is a huge variation in comp programs between casinos and corporate gaming entities. Players should determine where they like to play and avail themselves of comp program specifics at a given locale. Don’t be surprised if a player’s club representative / host is vague about precisely how they calculate earned comps; awarded comps can vary with season and any factor that increases patronage (weekends vs weekday, holidays, major events / conventions). Low to midlevel players will find it more difficult to get comped during these high traffic situations at times. It’s suggested that gamblers familiarize themselves with a slots / table games host that they are comfortable with; generally speaking, it’s a good idea to solicit a host of the opposite gender. Communicating with a host can lead to real dollar value for future visits (minimize losses / enhance winnings); part of a host’s job is to enhance the player’s experience while gambling. At many properties, pit bosses can award meal comps. Key elements for playing an enhanced-value comp game are to gamble within your prescribed bankroll, playing games with lower house advantage, know the property comp program, and ASK. On the other hand, “chasing” comps (ie playing too long just to obtain a meal) can lead to increased overall gambling losses, particularly if you’re losing hand after hand, dice roll after dice roll, or slot pull after slot pull. Common sense applies.

Blackjack is an excellent game to acquire comps due to generally lower house odds when compared to all other casino games provided players select games with player-favorable rules and learn accurate basic strategy for the specific game played. If a player avails themselves of these conditions and employs tactics that decrease the speed of the game (fewer hands played per hour), they have employed some basic tactics to enhance their comp accrual. Factors that can slow down a game include playing at crowded tables, talking with other players regularly while the game is in progress, extending decision times on hand plays, and taking frequent bathroom breaks or cell phone call breaks. Another tactic to enhance comp accrual at blackjack involves increased bet levels when pit bosses and / or table hosts are observing specific play; these should enhance your table play ratings and accrued comp levels. Bet levels can be reduced if desired when one is not being scrutinized by casino staff members.

Slot / video poker (VP) play tracking for comps requires that players have their player’s club cards inserted and inserted properly to accumulate points; always determine that this is the case and periodically check during sessions at a given machine. Video poker generally offers higher payback return percentages vs slot machines but comps for VP play are generally less for the same wagers / time played as compared to slots. It’s a standard casino tradeoff mechanism. If you find a casino that you like to play in, you enjoy the slots, and you have ample time, I believe it’s possible to identify some particular machines that exhibit a higher payback percentage than others (we know this is fact; the key is in identifying them). Generally speaking, the 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 among penny slots; observation, common sense, and a willingness to play these games can lead to identifying some of the better paying machines. The key is to not get soaked for a huge loss expecting that next pull..and the next one..to result in a big payout. Regarding slot machines, we suggest a stop-loss approach. We always stop playing a given machine if we’ve reached 40 – 50% of the original buy-in amount (ie $20 -25 dollars credit remaining following a $50.00 original buy-in). Admittedly, the average slot machine will drain your bankroll but if players can identify the higher payback machines (by observation and actual play) these are reasonable alternatives for accumulating comps. Video poker with solid paytables (minimally 9/6 Jacks Or Better or Double Bonus; this paytable means the machine offers a 9 for 1 payout on a full house and 6 for 1 on a flush) is an excellent means to accrue comps (albeit slower relative to most slot machines at the same wager levels). It’s important to realize that the key factor is identifying the machines with greater payback percentages (ie “full-pay” machines or those with close to 100% payback over time, though individual sessions can and do still result in losses, of course).

While seeking out individual casinos to play any game, always seek out player’s club promotions (eg point multiplier days, blackjack enhancements) and use gambling coupons (blackjack match play and first -card ace coupons); use of these will enhance player expectation through increased returns / minimized losses while playing the comp game. The current economic climate in Las Vegas specifically, though generally down, is conducive to comp offer acquisition.

Good cards…

Chuck60 @ Frugally Vegas