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Frontier Hotel 1942-2007

Frontier Hotel 1942-2007

"This is the end result of all the bright lights... and the comp trips, of all the champagne... and free hotel suites,
and all the broads and all the booze. It's all been arranged just for us to get your money.
That's the truth about Las Vegas. We're the only winners. The players don't stand a chance. "

-- Sam "Ace" Rothstein, Casino, 1995

Friday, July 16, 2010

Table Games Comps

I have gotten a few emails from readers about comps and how casinos calculate table games comps.  Since I have never worked in the casino industry, I can only provide you what I have experienced and researched through the years as a blackjack player.   Please do not take this as some sort of "expert" advice from a "casino insider."  Also, this information does not really apply to "high rollers" and if you have a casino host.  Players with casino hosts are in a different league then what I am talking about in terms of comps.

Comps at table games at most casinos are handled much differently than machine comps.  Machine comps are very easy for the casino to calculate and are very transparent for the player to see what they have earned -- Put your player's club in any machine and it will tell you how many points you have earned for your play. Those points can then be used for comps.  Very simple.

Table games comps are much more complicated and are almost impossible for the player to figure out how much they have earned.  In fact, if you ask how much "you have earned" the pit bosses will not tell you.  Their usual question is "what are you looking for" or "what do you want?"  Then they go check the computer to see if you have qualified for the comp amount you have requested.  Why the comp amount at table games is such a mystery to the patron who has gambled in the joint is beyond me.

Here's a general example of how a comp rating works at table games for my recent blackjack play at Green Valley Ranch.  I buy in for $1000 with a players club card, which is then recorded on the casino tracking software.  My opening bet of $30 is then recorded.  Every 15 minutes or so the pit boss will come around and note my bet.  Since I am counting cards and varying my bets, my bets are going to be all over the place.  Sometimes the PB will note $50 a hand, sometimes he will note $75, sometimes he will note $100.  This information is all entered into the tracking software.  The tracking software takes an average of my bets and multiplies that by the number of hands dealt per hour.  On a double deck pitch game the dealer is dealing about 60 hands in an hour -- about one hand per minute.  So, lets say my average bet comes out to $60 a hand. So in the course an hour I have bet a total of $3200 (approx.).

Now, this is where things get complicated.  Every casino has a different formula for calculating what the comp value should be on my average total bet of $3200.  Trying to figure out the formula is very difficult -- as the casino not only looks at your total bets in an hour, but what their expected "hold" is during that time period.  "Hold" = how much the casino is expected to win.  But as a general rule from what I have seen and been able to research, tables games are comped at about 1/2 percent to 1 percent of your total average bet per hour.  Please do not hold me to this number as I am making an educated guess.  In the case of my $3200 total bets, I roughly calculated that my comp should be somewhere around $20-$30.

But factor in the human element into tracking of bets.  Sometimes pit bosses forget to note your bet, or even forget to log your play into the computer.  So you play blackjack for a few hours, leave to go watch a football game, come back later to get a comp and they tell you "we don't have you in the system from this morning."  Then you have to do what I call "comp begging" and try and convince the PB that you did play blackjack for a few hours earlier and what your bet spread was.  This is highly annoying and you really are at the mercy of the pit bosses to get a comp.  I have found that if you are really detailed with your play information and act shocked (not pissed off) they will give you a comp.  I call this a "nuisance comp" -- they just write you a comp to make you happy so they can get back to work.

Now throw this issue into the mix of getting a table games comp:  The comp amount seems to be higher when you ask for the comp right at the end of your tables games play as opposed to coming back the next day or even a week later.  For whatever reason, pit bosses seem to be much more liberal when you ask for a comp when you are done with your session. I guess there is a familiarity aspect that goes along with this as the PB knows you and is comfortable with you.  Also, I don't think they want to look like jerks by shooting you down in front of the dealer and other players.  All I know, is when I go back to a casino a few days later after I have played blackjack, it always seems to be complicated with PB and the comp amount is usually less then I calculated for my play.  Frankly, I think PB's get annoyed with what I call a "walk in comp" -- for whatever reason they prefer giving comps right at the table.  Personally, what does it matter?  $3200 total bet in a hour should have a fixed comp amount at the end of the play, the next day, or a week later.

Here's an example of what happened to me at Green Valley Ranch about a week ago when I asked for a comp based on my blackjack play as noted above.  This was a "walk in comp" -- I was asking for a comp based on my play from 3-4 days prior.  I walked up to the pit boss to ask for a comp.  Immediately I got what I call "Pit Boss Stink Eye."  The typical "what are you bothering me for" look from the PB.  I knew before I even asked for a comp that there would be a hassle.  Here's how things went down:

JH: "Hi, could you check my card to see what my balance is?  I would like to go get some lunch at Tides." (Tides is a restaurant inside GVR).
PB:  "We don't check balances.  How much do you want?"
JH:  "Well, I don't know.  How about $30?" (that was rough estimate of my comps)
PB: (checking on computer) "$30 won't work, would you like to try for $20?"
JH: OK, see if that works. (Now I am just a bit annoyed)
PB:  "Sorry, $20 won't work.  Would you like to me to try for $10?"
JH:  "No, that's a waste of time.  I will just take my card back, thank you."

Now at this point the PB thinks I am just another ploppy and I will be on my way.  But no, The PB is dealing with Jimmy Hoofa, and Jimmy Hoofa does not take this type of treatment from a PB.  So then I hit the PB with this:

JH:  "May I ask you a question?"
PB:  "Yeah sure, what's your question?" (PB is visibly annoyed)
JH:  4 days ago from approx. 3pm to 4:30pm I played blackjack in this pit.  I was at a $15 to $2000 table.  My approx. bet spread was $25-$125.  I played for approx. 60-90 minutes.  My average bet was somewhere in the $50-$60 range.  Now you are telling me that I have not even earned $20 in comps?  There must be some sort of mistake on the computer."

Now the PB is really irritated.  But the PB now knows they are dealing with someone who knows exactly what is going on and not some "bird" who is just going to fly away.  They know that I am not leaving until I get my comp and they know I most likely have come close to or have earned that comp amount.  Either the PB is being lazy or just being a jerk and not wanting to give me a comp.  This type of nonsense has happened too many times to be a coincidence.  Personally, I think the PB is irritated by the fact that this is a "walk in" comp.

The PB then takes my card and goes back to the computer to "check" if there's been a mistake.  At this point the PB knows they have been busted and that they are dealing with someone with a basic knowledge of how the comp game works.  What occurs next is just so typical of the BS that casinos play with customers.  The PB tells me the following:  "My computer seems to be having problems."  I am going to take your request for a comp over to my supervisor and he will check on his computer."  The PB walks my card over to the floor supervisor who is in another pit.  They have a brief conversation.  The floor supervisor then checks my card on the computer.  In under 30 seconds my comp is being printed out by the floor supervisor.  The comp is for $30.  I sign the comp, the floor apologizes for the wait, and I am off to have lunch at Tides.

Now WTF just went on here?  I get shot down by a PB for a comp, then magically the comp is given after the floor supervisor "approves" it?  I can't prove this, but I think the PB I approached was busy and also irritated that I asked for a comp but I was not actually playing at a table.  Because I interrupted the PB in the middle of something, then the PB just denies me the comp in the hopes I will just go away.  Like I said, this type of treatment has happened enough times around town that I am convinced this is just accepted practice on a "walk up" comp.

Here's the moral to the story:  If you have earned legitimate comps for table games play and you get shot down, then do not take no for answer.  Stand your ground and don't let the casino get away with this nonsense.  Don't get rude and don't throw a fit.  Explain the details and facts of your play and make it clear to the PB you are not leaving until you get your deserved comp.  If you still can't get a comp go up the food chain to the pit supervisor and explain the situation.  9 times of 10 you will get your comp.

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