The Comp Game

Believe it or not, craps is not the only game in the casino. Savvy players are winning at blackjack, poker, video poker, and more. Have a question on slots, video poker, carnival games or table games other than craps? This is the place to post. Let's hear about the games you play when you're not playing craps.

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The Comp Game

Post by heavy » Sat Nov 04, 2017 1:25 pm

Playing the Comp Game to Win

A funny thing happened about ten years ago when the bean counters took over running the casinos. Comps began to dry up unless you were a slot player. That’s been the unfortunate case until recently. Now that the economy is rebounding and one of the industry’s major players is out of bankruptcy it appears the comp game is once again in full swing. Still, bean counters will be bean counters, and that means you still have to “earn” those comps. Mostly.

Just last month while playing at the Horseshoe in Bossier I noticed a guy buying in at my table for $5000, playing about ten minutes, then cashing out and going to the cage. Ten minutes after that I saw him buying in at a table on the opposite side of the pit – again for $5000. Sure enough, after about ten minutes I saw him color that up and head to the cage again. What was this guy doing? He was attempting the age old approach to juking the comps system. Every time this guy bought in for $5000 he’d secrete a few chips in his pocket. When he cashed out it was for less than he bought in for. Then he switched tables and did it again, and again, and again. At the end of the evening the pit looks at the system and sees that this guy has bought in for $25000. He’s given them some play. An assumption is made that he lost the rest of the chips he cashed out at some other game. And because he’s now a “big player” in the casino’s eye he can get just about anything he wants in terms of comps.

But let’s say you are not a guy who will EVER buy in for $5000. Over the course of the weekend you might buy in six times at $300 a shot. You’re all in at $1800 for the trip. Are comps out of the question for someone playing at your level? Absolutely not. But first you need to learn which casinos value players like you. If you’re a low roller then odds are you’ll never get full room, food and beverage from a place like Caesar’s Palace, but your play at a place like Orleans might get you the run of the house. Meanwhile, a “locals” property like the Cannery, however, might turn its nose up at your play because you’re not a Vegas local - their bread-and-butter customer.

Once you’ve narrowed your list of comp-friendly casinos down to a manageable size, pick one or two properties to visit and spend some time with a casino host. Find out just how the casino’s comp program works and what level of play the casinos expect from you in order to comp you at the level you’re looking for. An older downtown property may be looking for as little as a $50 average bet for four to six hours, while one of its sister properties on the strip might be looking for a $500 average bet. You won’t know for sure unless you ask.

If you’re in the right property the comp offers will come once you start giving them some play. Stick with these folks as long as they treat you right. Spread your action around among too many casinos and you can find your offers dwindling.

The next most important element of the comps game is making sure your play gets rated. It all begins with the player’s card. Yeah, I know. You think those cards are geared primarily toward slot players. But the fact is if you want to be rated for your table game action then you must go a step beyond getting a card and actually hand it in when you buy-in at the tables. In fact, you should never place any money at risk in the casino unless your action is being tracked.

Once the pit has your player’s card he enters your buy-in information in the casinos tracking system. He’ll enter the amount of your buy-in and initial bet, which table you’re playing on, the game speed in decisions per hour, and an assessment of your skill as a player. From there the computer takes over. The system assumes you are betting the same amount on every hand until the pit revises your average bet. Some pit supervisors do this every twenty minutes or so. Some never make another entry in the system until you color up. I always recommend that players ask the pit supervisor what level average bet he has them rated for. It lets the casino employee know you are paying attention to your comps and gives you an opportunity to get any errors corrected on the spot.

Based on the number of hours you play, your average bet, the number of decisions per hour and the assumed hold on your action based on the pit’s rating of your skill, the system will calculate your theoretical loss for the session. The casino is then willing to offer you a percentage of the dollar value of that theoretical loss in the form of a complimentary. “Real” comps are earned by casino play. But be careful. Playing for comps alone is always a bad idea.

Armed with this knowledge, there are things you can do other than buying in, cashing out, and making endless treks to the cage to “juke” the comp system. Let’s start with something simple. Getting your average bet size up. On any given casino trip you may see me walk up to a table, buy in for $1200 and tell the dealer to go ahead and set up $320 across but put an off button on it. Then I’ll make a $25 Don’t Pass bet. The Don’t Pass bet travels. I give the shooter a couple of shots at it, then I tell the dealer to “bring down that $320 for now and place the point for $24 - $25. Something interesting happened in there that I didn’t mention. When the dealer set up that $320 across the box or the floor man entered my initial bet as $320 and noted that I was betting green chips on the line. Of course, you have to keep an eye on that floor man, as he’ll swing back by the table every twenty minutes or so to check on your bet size. If there’s a hand in process then odds are I’ll have mine pressed up enough that I’m fine. If not – I’ll drop $110 on the table and tell the dealer to “press all of my inside action.” I’ll give the shooter a shot at it while my bets are being rated – or not. I might press them then turn them off. But I’ll have the larger action on the table.

The last thing to do in this regard is to always ask the pit when you color up what they had you rated at. If it sounds low – tell them so. If you’re a gentleman about it then odds are they’ll bump it up a few bucks to help you out.

Another thing you can do is give the casino the illusion that you are putting in more time at the table than you actually are. Howard is a master at this. One of the common questions when we’re playing live sessions together is “Where’d Howard go?” The answer is, “He went to the restroom.” Where he actually is – I don’t know. I just know the casino is not getting any action on his bankroll while he’s away from the table – but he’s still on the casino clock. You can do the same thing. Take frequent bathroom breaks – you should be washing your hands before shooting every time the dice come around anyway. Don’t have action on every shooter. By pass the shooter entirely from time to time. Employ some goofy betting scheme like the Five Count – this is actually the ONLY reason I’d use it – to spend less time with my bets exposed while still staying on the comp clock. These are all good strategies for building comps.

This next tip was provided to me by an eighty-something players club representative in Downtown Vegas many years ago. She said, “Honey, if you want to keep those comp offers coming then every time you come to Vegas walk in the casino, put ten dollars in a five cent machine and play it through one time. Then cash out and leave. As long as they see you are playing slots – they’ll ask you back. Over the last few years I’ve played a LOT of slots – primarily because my strategy for picking a machine has paid off so much that they’ll never get ahead of me on them. But it wasn’t until THIS year that I moved to a third tier players card – then to the top level of that third tier. I did it, not by playing slots more often – but by playing the slots on bonus point days. On my last trip to Shreveport, for example, it was 10X points day at one casino and another had a surprise multiplier that turned out to be 5X points. Multipliers rack up the points quickly, and if you rack enough of them up you start getting phone calls from hosts inviting you to VIP events. THAT is a comp you can stand.

There are, of course, comps available to you that you don’t even have to play to get. You may have a free meal coupon that you earned off play on a previous trip. Perhaps the casino sent you a free-play coupon. Coupon runs can be fun and profitable. I rarely visit my local casino town – or Vegas - without making one.

Another comp most people never think about is free parking. Yeah, some casinos charge lower level players to park these days – a situation that arose out of the shortage of Strip hotel parking during events at the arena. Earn a higher level card and you’ll not only get free garage parking – there’s a good chance they’ll comp your valet parking as well.

Thinking about those coupon runs, there are some casinos where I self-park simply because I can get in and out of the property quicker by self-parking. But there are some places where I’ll always valet park, and there are some casinos where I’ll valet park at a competitor’s casino and walk over. A prime example is MGM. Neither their valet nor their self park is particularly convenient to the casino. But I can park across the street at the Tropicana, walk inside, take the elevator upstairs and cross the sky bridge to the MGM and be on the casino floor in minutes. The only cost to me - a few bucks to toke the valet.

And how about those free drinks? Okay, with the economic downturn it seems like it’s getting harder and harder to find a beverage server in the casinos. Nevertheless, the player at the nickel slots gets offered the same drink service as the player at the five dollar machines. Okay, admittedly some properties are not comping premium brands to nickel slot players or low limit table gamers. Nevertheless, every time I visit the casino I see some guy buy in for $20 and stand at the table for hours doing nothing but knocking back free drinks. It might not be your cup of tea, but it works for some folks.

A final thought. Discretionary comps, Those hand-written comps handed out by the pit are almost a thing of the past. Still, there are some casinos that still give the pit supervisors the power of the pen. If you can get a hand-written comp instead of following the pit’s suggestion that you charge all of your meals to your room then talk to a host bout getting them comped when you check-out you will be dollars ahead at the comps game. And let’s face it - anything that you get for free that you would otherwise have spent your hard-earned cash is a WIN.
"Get in, get up, and get gone."
- Heavy

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Re: The Comp Game

Post by London Shooter » Sat Nov 04, 2017 1:59 pm

This was my fav article from this month's newsletter.

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Re: The Comp Game

Post by 22Inside » Sat Nov 04, 2017 7:29 pm

Ditto. Enjoyed this one a lot. Now I can rest easier knowing Howard doesn't have a bladder issue. :)

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Re: The Comp Game

Post by moose » Tue Sep 17, 2019 1:49 pm

Bumping this up to see what new strategies might be out there

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Re: The Comp Game

Post by thnick » Tue Sep 17, 2019 5:39 pm

Tunica pit gave me a handwritten comp to Binion's steak house. I've posted how that turned out.

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Re: The Comp Game

Post by Blackcloud » Tue Sep 17, 2019 6:52 pm

UNHH!! Last time out BC was at a BJ table thru one dealers time, before the suit put BC on the clock. BC only complained 4 times. UNHH!!

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Re: The Comp Game

Post by Rickhem » Thu Feb 27, 2020 9:25 am

Digging this one out of the archives because it is becoming something I'm starting to pay attention to lately.

So for anyone reading my trip reports, you know I'm not a big bettor, and I once asked one of the supervisors in the craps pit what they have be down for, and he said $20. I guess that is average bet. I tend to play $10 tables, and mostly just play $24 split between the 6 and the 8, but occasionally do the pass line and almost always press any hits up a couple times before collecting. I'll admit to not knowing if they calculate average bet on each roll of the dice, or on each shooter's hand, or something else, I have no idea. Even with a PSO, I always have more than $20 in bets, but I will take my bets down and have no action when it feels like a seven is due, so maybe that gets factored in.

I do have the app for my local casino on my phone, so I can see at the end of that day, exactly how much my point balance has increased. My local casino has three tiers. The base level (gold card) goes up to 5,000 points, the "Preferred" tier (blue card) goes from 5,000 to 15,000, and anything over 15,000 is considered Signature (black card). I'm currently at 13,294 points, so I'm Preferred. What I'm noticing is that the points that they add with each trip seem to be going down, and my progress when I had less than 5,000 points was much faster than my progress now. Maybe they get a little stingier as the points total gets closer to the next tier level. If anything, my betting has increased now that I'm pressing more, and I bring a bigger bankroll each time as well.

I've also noticed that when visiting other casinos, and playing and betting along the same strategies that I use pretty much everywhere, I get much more in offers from these other casinos than from my more local location. Probably done to draw me out and away from the local place, which doesn't seem to work as hard for my patronage.

So all that said, the only real benefit from the local casino that I get is a match play voucher weekly for $10. I get a free coffee or soda on Mondays because I'm over 55 years old, but they're free while I'm playing anyway, and not related to my tier status. I'm supposedly eligible for a free cruise now that I'm "preferred", but haven't seen or heard anything about that. Am I missing something here? Should I ask for something, and is asking for stuff what needs to happen to get something? Does a player that goes once or twice a week and uses a $400 to $500 bankroll get a casino host, and what would a host be able to do for me anyway?

From reading all the things I've read, it seems like I'm either missing something in this process, or that I'm just too small of a fish to get anything for my play.

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Re: The Comp Game

Post by thnick » Thu Feb 27, 2020 10:13 am

Heavy has a complete post about comps and how to get them. But, in short, the casino wants to see more money on the table from you as an initial bet. You can go $120 inside and then regress to the bottom on one hit or change your bets quickly as the pit turns away. But..The sky eye will see it, Caesar's properties with their gold card, platinum, etc. will give you Sunday night..weekday stays for the resort fee which varies. In Biloxi it's about $15 a night. That's not bad. They did that when I had their lowest gold tier card. Now that I have platinum, I get a few more perks, but you really don't get free stuff until you are up in diamond. Also always ask the pit for free food. They'll look at your play and tell you what they can give you. If you are with others who have cards you will all probably end up with free food.

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Re: The Comp Game

Post by Cap-n_Lou » Thu Feb 27, 2020 11:28 pm

Heading to Vegas in a few days, and I have never been aggressive enough at the Comp game. These are helpful reminders. Thanks, guys.

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Re: The Comp Game

Post by Tgold » Fri Feb 28, 2020 1:18 am

Good thoughts/ posts everyone.

All the best,
All the best,

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