by Mark Gruetze
Mark Gruetze writes the weekly "Player's Advantage" gambling column for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review in Pennsylvania. He has been a skilled recreational casino player for more than 30 years, focusing on blackjack, video poker, and poker. E-mail questions or comments to:firstname.lastname@example.org.
The business philosophy that led to people paying different prices for side-by-side airplane seats and hotel rooms is getting a toehold on casino floors.
Some casinos are turning to "yield management" software to help determine when to open or close table games, when to raise or lower table minimums and when to schedule dealers and other floor workers.
Basically, yield management allows a business to get the most from its products by knowing its customers and varying the price for items in limited supply. Vacationers can save money by booking airline tickets well in advance, while travelers who book close to the departure date, when fewer seats are available, can find themselves paying substantially more for the same flight.
In casinos, a yield-management approach examines a variety of factors about players, including their average bet, time at the table, and number of hands played per hour.
Tangam Systems, a Canadian company that sells yield management software designed for casinos, studied how long players stay at a table with various occupancy levels. It found that most higher-limit players like to play with only one or two others at the table, while lower-limit players tend to like more people in the game.
Casinos naturally want to deal as many hands per hour as possible, so the built-in house advantage has more chance to take effect.
Lance Young, table games director at The Meadows Racetrack and Casino south of Pittsburgh, Pa., says the optimum occupancy, for player and casino, is...
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