The Hand on the Hand In The Cookie Jar : The Math of Casino Comps

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Posted by Chuckmonster

Much like the math of blackjack, the comp system is a somewhat simple algebraic equation. It works something something like this:

((Average Bet x Rate Of Play) = Action Per Hour)
X Expected Return [ aka House Advantage ]
X (Hours Per Session x Sessions Per Visit) = Expected Casino Win Per Visit

Now an explantion.

(Average Bet x Rate Of Play) = Action Per Hour

Average bet is noted by the pit boss on his clipboard when he takes your card and gives you the once-over. You've probably noticed the pit boss hovering back to your table 30 minutes or so after you've given him your card. He's checking to see if you're padding your rate by switching from inital bets of $25/hand to the table minimum of $10 (as stupid travel shows and "vegas insider" sites and books suggest you do - if the pit boss dosen't come back, great... if he does... you look just like every other schmuck that saw that tv show.

Rate of play is determined by the statistical average of "how many hands of blackjack are normally dealt per hour at a 6 deck game". This is common knowledge to anyone in the casino industry - blackjack, for example, has approximately 60 hands per hour, slot players play about 400-500 'hands' (spins) per hour and so on. The casino knows what game you're playing (and its rules variations) by marking down the table number on your comp tally sheet. Table "BJ10" is a 6 deck shoe game - the table number is usually engraved in a small sign that is bolted to the felt right behind the cash drop slot. Action per hour is total amount of the bets you have made per hour.

(Action Per Hour X Expected Return) X (Hours per Session X Sessions per Day X Days per Visit) = Expected Casino Win Per Player Visit

Expected Return is the mathematically proven house advantage that is expected for each game and rule set over time. Double deck blackjack that pays 3:2 for blackjacks has a different house advantage than a similar game that pays 6:5 for blackjacks. Hours per session is calculated using the time the Pit Boss punched you "in" on the computer and the time you leave the table or are punched "out."

It is always to the players advantage to touch base with the pit boss when you're going to leave a table. Why? If the pit boss dosen't know when you split, he may just dump your action from the computer completely or ask dealers when you left - this can create some fuzzyness in your personal equation. Additionally this is a great opportunity to say to the pit boss "Hey, Peter. I've been hitting it on the table here for like 6 hours... I think I need to get some food in me. I'll be back right after dinner... can you help me out?" He'll probably ruffle a little, but if you gave them good action and he likes you, he'll sign the slip and throw a burger down your throat as any good suitor should. It goes without saying that if you're an advantage player (card counter) you don't want to do this - cash out your chips quietly and get the hell outta there - don't sign up for nor give the pit boss your comp card.

Number of sessions per visit is just that, the number of times you've been punched in and out in by the pit boss.

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Comments & Discussion

That was a great article and very informative. Here's what I just learned from a host at MGM Grand. I'm heading there in two days and decided to call ahead and ask for a host. I said that I wanted to understand what kind of play they were looking for to get decent comps. And he said to really be considered for anything worthwhile, he would want to see action at a 50 dollar blackjack table for at least four hours a day. And that falls right in line with what you've written. And here's why I wanted an explanation from the host. I'm from Massachusetts and play almost every week at the two Indian casinos in Connecticut (Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun). Both casinos have a great comp system -- I find it easier to understand than Vegas and much more lucrative. It's basically a cash back deal at both places. After you've finished a session, the pit boss rates your card right away with a dollar figure -- points that you can use immediately for anything in the casino -- food, drink, room, etc. And they seem to be more generous than Vegas. For example, if I play four hours of craps at a ten dollar table, with about 60 dollars in chip on the table for each roll, I can usually expect 40 to 50 points right away. When I'm hitting numbers and winning big, it goes up. I once had a one-thousand dollar win at Mohegan in about two hours and got 90 points right away. Of course, they didn't want me to leave, so they probably figured, "give him some points, he'll go eat a fat steak and come back and lose the money." In fact, I ate the big fat steak and went home. A week later, I got a mailer offering me a half-rate room. They clearly wanted their thousand dollars back!


I know one of the 'comp strategies' is to concentrate your play at one joint. That drives me nuts, I like to move around -- especially if I'm getting killed somewhere or they're sending in the coolers too frequently.

Regarding comps, I've never had a PB come up to me during play and say "hey, dinner is on us. here ya go". Not even after 8-hour marathon craps sessions. I just don't think it happens that much. However, I do visit the host before checking out and ask about my comps. I usually get 'FB', and a couple of nights free or at the least reduced rate.

This is one advantage I see as a result of industry consolidation. Because I use, say, my MGM players card in multiple places to accumulate points, I receive decent comps without having to park my ass in one place for a weekend.

Can't get much at The Wynn. Initially, when it first openned, I was told they were not to consider anyone's play at BJ under $75.00 a hand. At $75-$100 a hand-I usually stay 5 days, I might as well be happy and just buy my own tunafish sandwich, room, and knock down my play to $15-$25. We were there w/ my sons for 8 days, average play was $40x4hrs. daily. They knocked off $328. at the end. Ya know, go buy your own sandwich. We had 2 rooms, a Penthouse suite, and resort room. I guess that is definately figured in. So, that's the story at Wynn. I just don't like the MGM properties, although they still send me 3 day free promos from all the yrs. I stayed at The Mirage and Bellagio. I'm fussy, and just keep following Wynn around. Those beds-wow- the best.

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