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The Mysteries of Ratings Explained (With a Focus on Craps)-Part 1

by Ariande

Ariande has over 15 years of experience dealing and supervising casino games in multiple states for diverse companies.

Note: I hold the firm belief that transparent policies and reasonable expectations prevent arguments and frustration. The following is/was true for all of the companies where I have been employed.

"They don't give table players the same comps that they give slot players." How many times have you heard this? The formula is simple: No matter what you are playing, comps are based on a formula that calculates average bet times a number of decisions per hour times a fraction related to the house advantage (inversely mind you... the higher the house advantage, the higher the comps you will receive). So when we think about slots, it's reasonable to see why. Your average bet may not be particularly high, but the house edge is constant, and you are likely playing far more spins per hour than a person playing, say, roulette. Furthermore, it costs the casino next to nothing for an attendant who covers entire banks of slot machines.

Don't expect the casino to be a charity, or think that spending money gambling equates to a direct reward.

Take a "Jacks or Better" machine with a good pay table ... the house edge is under 0.5% at max coin wagered. At least one casino in the northeast does not distribute comps on low minimum bet play, and to be fair to that casino, this is posted on the machine, albeit in a small font. Video poker has approximately the same house advantage as a blackjack game with decent house rules and player using basic strategy. Casinos used to comp more in both games, but as gamblers got wiser and started losing less by percentage, they lowered comp rates accordingly and started adding side bets. Long ago in some generous casinos, blackjack players used to get 50% of their average bet per hour; now the number is typically between 10-15% (this can be adjusted higher or lower). Is this fair?

Let's just say the house edge is 0.5% to make this easy and use round numbers. You've played 10 dollars/hand for two hours at blackjack, roughly at one hand per minute. The theoretical advantage on this bet is $10 x 120 (hands) x 0.005 (house edge) = $6. If they gave you 15% of their $6 theoretical advantage, you'll receive about three dollars' worth of comps. Your reward would be half of the casino's advantage. You might have been served complimentary beverages and you might be getting a discount on the room that is not being taken from your comps; $3 in comps might be a phenomenal value.

"But I doubled down and split and I lost a lot more than that." The comp formula remains constant regardless of whether you win or lose. "My dealer went faster than one hand per minute." Maybe the formula assumes a larger number of hands per hour, but this is hardly the point. The supervisor's duty is to notate these things and tweak the rating accordingly. The slow dealer won't always get you more comps because the game speed can also be notated (thus lowering the comp rate). This is true for every game. The slot machine functions essentially on the same premise; it knows how quickly you are playing and rates you accordingly.

We'll take an example where comps are transparent. Resorts World in Queens, NYC shows you exactly how many points you earn on the screen, as there is no dealer and they know exactly how much you are betting. You get different rates of reward depending on your status. A reliable source tells me that for every $25-$30 wagered in electronic baccarat, the Red Card holder earns 1 point whereas the Black Card holder earns 5 points. The difference in reward might bother you or be an incentive for you to go more frequently. Five points per $30 sounds great until you realize that a point there is not a dollar but a penny. But be fair to the casino. The "Bank" bet in baccarat is only a 1.06% house bet. So out of their roughly $0.26 advantage, they are offering your $.01 to $.05 in comps. At Resorts World, roulette and slots have much higher comp rates, as the house maintains a higher multiple, but it is what it is. You'll be rewarded for exactly how much and how frequently you bet. (If anything, this should help you realize how generous other casinos are with blackjack.) To be fair to Resorts World, there are numerous other incentives that they offer such as earn/redeem and free-play offers; however, because the property has limited dining options, it isn't my first choice for the majority of my gaming budget.

Let's be honest about comps. Even where a point translates a dollar, a point isn't really worth a dollar. A place such as Foxwoods lets you cash comps out at 2/1, meaning you can take $10 in comps and cash out $5 in currency, but the real value of one dollar in comps should be in relation to a dollar you would have spent in the casino otherwise; for example, is the steak worth sixty dollars cash? It might certainly be worth the points. I'm not picking on Foxwoods by any means. Most casinos do not let you take cash for your points. Foxwoods provides aggressive swipe incentives to entice you and they offer a balanced destination package.

Specifically Craps

Unlike blackjack, there are considerable differences in the way different casinos rate craps...

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