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Frank Scoblete - Fast Comps for Slow Paces ? Part Two

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  • Frank ScobleteThe casino gambling maxim - extend time, not risk - can be applied to just about every casino table game with excellent results. Last issue I showed how two blackjack players whose expectation was to lose $30 per hour got radically different comps because of the way they played.

    But another maxim works as well. Understand the nature of the games that you are playing. For example, two players are playing baccarat, Alan is expected to lose $57.60 per hour of play, while Bernice is expected to lose $58.50 per hour of play. The former is the baccaratian equivalent of Mr. Ed as Alan only gets ?casino-level? comps; while Bernice is getting the full RFB treatment even though her expected loss is only 90 cents more than Alan's. Why? Because Alan is playing mini-baccarat at $25 per hand and Bernice is playing the traditional form of baccarat at $100 a hand.

    Mini-baccarat is an extremely fast game where it is not unheard of for 150 to 200 decisions to be made in an hour. Traditional baccarat is a slow game, which can be made even slower by players who take their time dealing and exposing their cards, where 40 to 60 decisions per hour is the norm. If Alan puts into action $25 on 180 hands per hour (excluding ties), that?s $4,500 in total action. He bets a combination of Player and Bank (eschewing the 14 percent house edge on the Tie bet) which gives the casino about a 1.28 percent edge over him. That?s a small edge but it?s a small edge on a lot of hands. The result is Alan will lose $57.60 per hour.

    But Bernice is playing traditional baccarat. Let us say she makes a point of playing 50 hands per hour (excluding ties) and she bets $100 -- on Bank only. She puts into action $5,000 with a casino edge of 1.17 percent. Her real-world expected loss is $58.50 per hour. But she is a high roller, betting $100 per hand, whereas Alan is just a ?rated? player.


    Because for mini-baccarat the casino?s rating computers generally use an 80 to 100 hand per hour formula against an approximately 1.28 to 3 percent range for its house edge (a combination of Bank, Player and Tie bets) and that?s why Alan gets the worst of it by far in the comp arena. If he is rated as playing 90 hands per hour (an average of the high and low estimates) with a 2 percent house edge, his loss is calculated as $45 per hour, not the $57.60 it actually is. Bernice, on the other hand, is rewarded. Her expected loss the computer calculates as $120 per hour ($100 per hand x 60 hands x 0.02 percent house edge = $120) and not the $58.80 it actually is.

    There is only one drawback to betting as Ms. Jones and Bernice do and that concerns volatility. Because they are betting larger sums on fewer hands, they will have much wilder short-term swings in good or bad luck. Still getting RFB (or close to it) will more than make up for the roller-coaster effects of the games they are playing. In fact, in real terms, Ms. Jones and Bernice could be considered as having a monetary edge as the dollar value of the real comps they are winning actually could surpass the dollar amounts they are losing in their play.


    Before you start playing, go to a casino host and find out what your intended play is worth to them. Ask about the various levels of comps. What level is RFB, RLF, and so forth. Here are other questions you should ask:

    As a craps player, am I being judged on my spread or just on an individual bet? For example, if I place the six and eight for $30 each, am I considered a $60 player or a $30 player? What if I make a Pass Line bet of $10 with full odds to go along with my $30 six and eight -- am I a $70 player or are the odds also added into my rating? As a blackjack player, if I play two hands of $75 each, am I considered a $150 player or some fraction of the total?

    For any game I choose, how long do I have to play and at what level to get: a.) casino rate and discounts, or, b.) free room, non-gourmet comps, or, c.) full RFB. For example, Pai Gow poker players usually have to bet twice as much or play twice as long to get the same comps as blackjack players because Pai Gow is such a slow game and has many non-decisions.


    Make sure that when you sit down, you do not start playing until the floorperson actually takes your card and records your name. You want every minute of your play credited to you. Then ask the rater the same questions concerning bet spreads, number of hands, etc., that you asked the host. You might think that casinos are well-coordinated in their rating policies but this is not always the case.

    I had an interesting thing happen at a casino in Las Vegas recently as I researched this article. I was playing two hands of $30 each off the top and assuming I was being rated at $60 for that effort (I had checked with the host beforehand). In fact, after the first day of play, when I asked the host to pull up my chart, I discovered that often the rater had me rated as betting $30! I explained to the host, then to the casino manager, that I was never betting less than $30 per hand on two hands and I was often betting much, much more - although none of my big bets had been recorded.

    After another day of play, I again asked to see my chart (most hosts will let you see the computer screen as they check your statistics -- if they don?t, then play elsewhere) and I found bets of $50, $27.50, and the like. Since I never played fewer than two hands and never less than $30 per hand I couldn?t at first figure out how the raters were getting their figures. Then it hit me. There were times when one hand busted and the other stayed in play. If the rater came by during play, and noticed my cards tucked under one bet but saw no bet in the other circle and recorded that, it would account for why $30 (or $50) would appear as my betting unit. On my third day of play, I rectified that. If I busted out on one hand, I?d immediately place another bet in the circle even though the dealer hadn?t finished the round. Then if the rater wandered over, he/she would see the two bets and give me credit.

    How to account for a rater placing $27.50 next to my name? Simple. When I placed a $5 bet for the dealer I would put it on top of my $30 -- sometimes I received a blackjack on those hands. The blackjack paid $52.50 -- two green chips and $2.50 in silver. If I took one of the green chips back to get some red to pay the dealer his $7.50 tip, the rater would see a green chip ($25) and the $2.50 in silver and write down $27.50! If you are playing the comp game, such moments can kill a rating. At that particular casino I started to alert the floorperson to all my big bets -- ?Jane, check this out. I?m going for $150 on two hands! Three hundred bucks riding on the flip of the cards! I?m going for broke! Pray for me!? From that point on the rating in the computer reflected what bets I was actually making.

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