IF YOU TRAVEL THE CASINO world the way I do, you notice certain things. In the old days, the table games were the most heavily marketed feature of the gambling landscape. The pictures of the casinos always showed table-game players, well dressed, wealthy and happy. Now the slot machines are the game most posterized and billboarded. The super jackpots are proclaimed to the world to encourage players to try their luck.
However, in the past few years, another ingredient has taken a big hold on the casino world; it's called comps. As most readers know, comps are the freebies casinos give away to encourage you to play more money, more time, and more loyally at their properties.
In the old days, a player just asked a floorperson for a comp and the floorperson usually wrote one out for him. There was rarely a record kept of the transaction. The floorperson saw the player at the tables for a couple of hours and said to himself, "This guy certainly rates a sandwich." And that was that.
Today, the comping formulas for most casinos are mathematical formulations that the computers work out to distinguish not just which players get sandwiches, but which players get free or discounted rooms, shows, prizes, parties and presents. If you want a comp today, the floorperson has to check the computer to see if you've earned one — and many players don't earn them because the formulas expect a level of play that is rather high.
In Las Vegas Strip and in Atlantic City casinos, a five-dollar table-game player needs to play endlessly to be worth a trip to the café. In the locals' casinos of Vegas and Mississippi, you can still get the buffet for five-dollar play, but don't hold your breath waiting to be invited to the exclusive Rolling Stones performance this upcoming weekend.
Comps come in a variety today. There's cashback for slot play, match play for table-game play, selected gifts on certain days, and more comp points on some days than on other days. In fact, to keep up with all the comps the casinos are offering is now a full-time job!
If you weed through all the verbiage of the "compositions" of the casinos, you can essentially see that the comp formula is based on the house edge of the game you play, the number of decisions that game has on average per hour, your average bet, and how long you play. If you are playing blackjack, the casinos figure you will face a 2-percent house edge and play 80 decisions per hour. If you are a $10 player, you will lose approximately $16 per hour as your average theoretical loss. The casino will give back about 40 percent of that loss as a comp — or six dollars. That's your sandwich.
Although slot machines deal with "points" and "credits," in truth their comps are figured out the same way. How much money you put through the machine is the key variable and the casinos will give you back a certain percentage of your expected losses for putting that money through.
Some anti-gambling authors believe that comps are the way casinos hook gamblers. Indeed, this is an interesting, though misdirected, point. Comps are like coupons at the grocery store or discount sales at the electronics shop; or one free meal for every meal you buy at the local restaurant. They work to bring the people back for more. In casino terms that "more" is spelled l-o-s-s-e-s. However, comps are not evil ministrations of evil corporate minds — they are merely rewards for past play and encouragement for future play. It is still the players' choice to risk his money or go home and watch television.
If you are a gambler reading this article, go ahead and enjoy all the comps the casinos give you. Always hand in your players' card at the tables and always put your players' card in the slot machine if those infernal mechanisms are your delight. However, never play just to get comps. That is a waste of money and a waste of time. Play the amounts and the time you planned and take whatever comps come with those.
Do not play to impress the pit boss or floor person or dealer. None of them are impressed with gamblers because to them all gamblers are losers. They do have a point there, don't they? The casinos are not built on savvy gamblers stripping the casinos of their profits; the casinos are built on the bankrolls of losers. That should not surprise anyone. All businesses, after all, are built on the money of other people.
If you keep in mind that everything the casino does relating to you is to get you to play more money and more often, you will keep your head on straight and not make the mistake of gambling more than you can afford to lose. The comp world is fun but it is merely an attendant world for the casino player, it is not why we go to the casino. We go to gamble. Don't let the comp game confuse you about that fact. You would not go to the casinos if the casinos did not have gambling.
Comps are just the icing on the cake of casino gambling. Enjoy them but don't let them dictate to you often or how long or how much you are going to play.
Frank Scoblete is the No. 1, best-selling gaming author in America. He is executive director of the Golden Touch advantage-play seminars in craps and blackjack. His Web sites are www.goldentouchcraps.com, www.goldentouchblackjack.com, www.goldentouchpoker.com and www.scoblete.com in association with CasinoCity.com. His newest book is The Golden Touch Dice Control Revolution! For more information or a free brochure, call 1-800-944-0406 or write to Frank Scoblete Enterprises, PO Box 446, Malverne, NY 11565.