Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Value of "comps" in Vegas

Our initial Vegas Trip Tip outlined and encouraged player's club signup in every casino you enter. Gaming properties compete for gamblers time and money by compensating them with complimentary gifts (comps). These comps involve free drinks, meals, free or reduced rate rooms,show tickets, and extend to airfare reimbursement/ flyback certificates and even Super Bowl tickets (the latter two comps are usually restricted to the high rollers, of course). Sometimes the awarded comps are offered after you leave town (mailers. e-mail offers) in order to entice a return trip and future wagering of your cash. Comp programs are inherently designed to build customer loyalty and to foster return visits with your purses and wallets in hand. You do not have to be a high-roller to receive low to midlevel comps; low level gamblers can and do receive a surprising amount of freebies/discounts in Las Vegas. The current economic downturn in Vegas and everywhere else has casino marketing departments scrambling for patrons; my wife and I didn't have to pay for a single room night during our recent 9 -day stay in Vegas ... and we're absolutely not upper crust gamblers. Thus, the present conditions are conducive to generally better ROOM comps/ reduced rates than those even 6 months ago in our experience. The casinos need customers and providing reduced -rate or free rooms at least gets us in their doors.
Comp levels are generally determined by average bet X hours played X bets per hour X expected house edge X % casino
comp return to players. Let's assume you play a decent blackjack game (you know basic strategy and game rules are favorable) and your average bet is $10/ hand.If you're playing at an "average" 6- deck shoe game you can expect to see 60 - 80 hands/hr. if the table involves 3-4 players. Most casinos use 60 hands per hour and a house edge of 2% when figuring comps. Most casinos will return approximately 40% of their expected win back to a player in the form of comps. Let's assume you play 5 hours under these conditions ( hopefully at more than one table). The comp calculation would be $10 (average bet) X 5 (hours played) X 60 (hands/hr.) X .02 (house edge) X .40 (casino return). This means cumulatively you wagered approximately $3000.00 (surprised?) X .02 = $60.00 X .40 =$24.00 in earned comps. A key thing to remember about comps while on site in Vegas..ASK for them.. in a courteous manner. At some properties, you'll have to wager $15 or $25 / hand to even get rated for table game comps (ie MGM properties). Some off-strip casinos are more liberal with their meal comps than many of the strip properties; on several different trips I've played BJ for 2-3 hours at the Orleans with a 10-20 dollar average bet and have never had a problem obtaining buffet comps for two..I always asked and asked nicely. There is a huge variation in comp programs and many locals claim that the off-strip casinos are generally more liberal with their programs vs the strip properties. You have to determine where you like to play and then avail yourself of specifically what is required to earn comps at a given locale.
It's doubtful that a player's club rep/ host will tell you precisely how they calculate earned comps ...awarded comps can vary
with season and any factor that increases patronage (weekday vs weekend, major event /convention). Low to mid-level players
will find it's tougher to get comped during these high traffic situations sometimes. It's worth it to develop a relationship with a slots/table host if you gamble and expect to play the comp game. It can pay off in future visits and asking for/receiving comps is a means to minimize losses/ add to winnings while gambling . On the other hand, "chasing" comps (ie playing too long just to obtain a meal) can lead to disaster , particularly if you're losing hand after hand or slot pull after slot pull. Utilizing/ acquiring comps can lead to very significant dollar value over time so we'll reiterate the need to sign up for player's cards..everywhere. BJ is an excellent table game to acquire comps because of it's generally lower house odds vs. most other games; anything you can do to slow down the speed of the game is critical for playing the comp game. If you can reduce (play crowded tables, talk to the entire group at the table, take a long time to make decisions on hand plays, take frequent breaks, etc.) the number of hands per hour actually played below 60, you're ahead of the game from a comps standpoint. Slot play tracking for comps requires that you have your player card inserted and inserted properly to accumulate points. Video poker routinely offers generally higher payback/ returns vs slot machines but comps for VP play are generally less for the same wagers/ time played vs the slots. It's a standard casino tradeoff mechanism. If you find a casino that you like to patronize , you enjoy the slots, and you have ample time, we believe it's possible to identify some particular machines that exhibit a higher payback percentage than others. The key here is to not get soaked for a huge loss; you have to know when to quit at a given machine. If one is able to ID some of these higher payback machines, these and the video poker machines with the better pay tables (9/6) would provide the best opportunity to acquire comps when playing machines vs table games. The average slot machine will generally drain your funds but if you can locate them there ARE some with inherently higher paybacks that you can afford to play if you apply sound money management and common sense. Accumulating comps at these and the VP machines with solid paytables (minimally 9/6 Jacks or better or Double Bonus; meaning it pays 9 for 1 on a full house and 6 for 1 on a flush) are reasonable gambling alternatives. While accumulating comp credits, always seek out individual player's club promotions ( eg point multipliers) as these can ultimately reduce losses/increase winnings if applied wisely. Good luck.


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Mostly Useless (and approximate) Las Vegas Facts

1. Number of Las Vegas citizens   500,000
2. Number of Clark County residents   1,500,000
3. Year first casino licensed   1931
4. Number of slot machines in Vegas   200,000
5. Number of annual Vegas visitors   40,000,000 (and dropping)
6. Number of licensed gambling entities   1700
7. Hours per day average visitor gambles   4
8. Annual state gaming revenue   9 billion (and dropping)
9. Average gambling budget per trip   560  (and dropping)
10. Mean price per acre in valley   161,000.00
11. Price per acre on the Strip   11,000,000.00
12. Number of  hotel rooms   137,000 +
13. Number of pillowcases washed at MGM daily   15,000
14. Number of doors at MGM  18,000 
15. Annual no. toilet paper rolls used at Bally's   1 million
16. Lucky The Clown marquee sign at Circus Circus has
      1232 fluorescent bulbs, 14,498 incandescent bulbs, and
      3/4 mile of neon tubing light  (no wonder they're replacing
17. In good times, Excalibur goes through over 44,000 
      Cornish game hens, 15 thousand pounds of hamburger
      meat, and 4200 pounds of prime rib monthly
18. Caesar's Palace has used 2 million plus maraschino 
      cherries, 11 thousand ounces of caviar, 2 million ounces
      of tomato juice, and close to 600 thousand ounces of
      vodka yearly (bloody mary winner?)
19. Mandalay Bay has 5,300 palm trees and their wave pool
      has a capacity of 1,640,270 gallons of water
20. Average nightly room rate  119.00 (and dropping)
21. Average number of Vegas weddings per day   300+
22. Number of golf courses  37
23. Miles of neon tubing on the Strip and Downtown  15,000
24. State's nationwide rank in gold production  1st
25. Cost of Nevada marriage license   35.00
26. Average cost of filing for divorce  450.00
27. Average length of stay for visitors    3.7 days
28. Number of hosted conventions annually  3750
29. The electric bill to operate the Luxor pyramid beam is
      approximately 55.00 per hour.
30. Las Vegas has 17 of the world's 20 largest hotels   


Just a cautionary tip when in Vegas.. there are active
pickpockets all over town. I experienced this first-hand
and came within 10 seconds of losing my cash stash last July
while visiting one of those upper end joints on the strip.

I was gambling significantly at a video poker machine, unabashedly slipping C-notes in them. Somebody had been
observing my wagering behavior. I was happily winning at the time and my cautionary tendencies regarding my bankroll
money went south and out the window.

A lady approached me from behind as I played and was all aglow with my run of good luck. She initiated a conversation about nothing and anything . I was concentrating on proper VP strategy and responding to her comments with a lot of "yeah-yeahs". I was fortunate enough to get ahead on the machine again and I cashed out. I had a satchel (I normally never gamble under those conditions) with me that had assorted trip stuff in it. The satchel presence and the relatively high denomination coin-in amount collectively screamed " please rob me!" I placed my wallet in the satchel along with the machine cash-out tickets and proceeded to reconnect with my family and head to our room.

I had developed a sense of cautionary unease as I mulled over the contact with the effusively talkative woman at the VP machine. My senses told me that something about that encounter was skewed, although at the time I didn't know what it was and I wasn't bleeding profusely..yet. My group then proceeded to meander through a very crowded slot machine aisle and some other 6th, 7th, or 8th sense that vaguely detected an impersonal yet succinct encroachment into my personal space kicked in. Instinctively, I immediately dug into the satchel to locate my wallet and it was gone. I then immediately turned around and backtracked about ten feet (a matter of maybe 3 seconds, tops) as my endogenous adrenaline kicked in. I'm not sure that my hair wasn't on fire briefly.

I then spotted my wallet (and life) in a woman's hand who was playing a slot machine. I walked straight at her and demanded it post-haste in a tone that screamed seriousness. I immediately grabbed the wallet and called for security. The woman claimed she picked it up off the floor and so did the man (her accomplice) behind her, both vowing that they were planning to remit it to the security desk. My svelte ass they were.

This team of thieves including the woman who was all goony-googoo at the VP machine were pros. I have to claim part of the blame for the openly careless manner I had displayed with my money. They were held by security and the eye-in-the-sky tapes were to be reviewed.

The good thing is I didn't lose a cent because my peripheral senses kicked in immediately and they didn't have time to bury the evidence ( perhaps they weren't the best of pros?). Take heed folks..these people are everywhere in Vegas. Know where your cash is at all times; take precautions to protect it, don't flaunt it around carelessly as I did, and if you sense something is awry while gambling trust your instincts.

Distractions from one member of a team of thieves is a common MO. Store your gambling session monies in a front pants pocket or in one of those god-awful front-loaded fanny packs (pride be damned). The lesson I learned here after several years of Vegas gambling experiences turned out to be one of the most valuable for me personally.