Bet Size, Theoreticals, and Casino Comps

One of the first lessons you should learn as a craps player is to play for a profit – not for a comp.  Yet casino comps can be an important part of your overall profit picture if you earn them intelligently and use them in lieu of spending your own cash.  Take room comps, for example.  A couple of years ago my bride accompanied me to Biloxi during one of the seminar weekends.  As it turned out, the weather was great and I’d done quite well in the casino that weekend, so we opted to stay on for a few days.  That few days turned into a week before we had to move to another casino hotel in the market – which was no problem since I spread my play around and had comps available at five different properties.  And, of course, most of those properties would happily welcome me back again several times a month – more if I asked.  I did.  In the end we wound up spending three and a half weeks on the coast.  During that time we did not spend a single dollar of our own on lodging, and the only money we spent on dining out was on a few meals we took outside of the casinos’ restaurants.

I’m sure most of you know by this time that comps are based on your theoretical loss.  Your theoretical loss is based on your average bet times the house edge at the game you are playing based on the pit’s evaluation of your skill as a player, times the number of decisions per hour times the number of hours played.  Just for the sake of plugging in some numbers, let’s assume you are playing craps and are rated as a “C” player who gives up a house edge of around 5% based on his betting skill.  Your average bet is $100.  The game is fast with 90 decisions per hour.  You play for 4 hours a day.  Your $100 bet is exposed to 90 decisions per hour, giving the house action on $9000 an hour.  They have a 5% edge, so they expect to win $450 an hour off that play and you play for four hours.  Your theoretical loss is $1800.  Each casino is different, but they are willing to comp you some percentage of that theoretical loss each day.  Let’s say 20%.  In this case that would earn you $360 in comps per day.  These are “made up” numbers, of course, but the example is fairly sound.

Now, thinking back on that Biloxi trip the wife and I took, it’s probably worth noting that I’m not what most would consider a big bettor.  On a typical hand played with fellow dice influencers I’ll spread $66 – $160 or more.  But on random rollers I limit my action to the Don’ts or to Placing $18 – $24 each on the six and eight.  With that said, I do go out of my way to give the illusion of being a bigger bettor than I actually am.  In most casinos the expected wager from a player desiring FRB – food, room, and beverage – is anywhere from $180 – $220 per hand spread over about four hours play per day.  But if you’re satisfied with the buffet or coffee shop instead of the steakhouse, don’t mind a  deluxe hotel suite with mountain view versus a premium hotel suite with a strip view, and can be satisfied with coffee, tea, or a soft drink with your meal instead of bottled wine – then an average bet in the $100 range for four hours a day will likely get you pretty much everything you need.

What?  You say spreading $100 is too rich for your blood?  Seriously?  Let’s visit a $10 3-4-5X odds game and look at your play.  $10 on the Pass Line.  The point is five and you take $20 odds, then Place the six and eight for $30 each.  What do you have?  It looks like $90 action on the table to me.  But let’s say you bet less than that.  Let’s say you bet $66 inside along with your Line bet and odds.  Oops.  Now you have $96 action.  Okay, we’ll go with $18 each on the six and eight.  First hit pays $21 and you drop $3 and press them to $30 each.  That plus your line bet is right back at that $90 number again.  So it’s fairly safe to say that most of you are probably spreading CLOSE to that $100 number already, but you’re not getting credit for it.

What? you ask.  It’s true.  The floorman who is rating you takes a look at your $10 Pass Line bet and figures you’re a $10 bettor.  He takes a look at your place action, does a little quick math and enters you in the system with an initial bet of $60 – $70.  Why?  Well, first off you can forget about being rated on that Free Odds bet.  The house has no advantage on that wager so they don’t rate it.  It’s those Place bets that get the floor man’s attention, and because you tossed in a couple of green chips when you made those bets you’ll likely get rated for them correctly.  But there’s a good chance you won’t bet rated on any pressed up bets.  In other words, if the shooter catches a hand and your $30 six and eight turn into a $300 six and eight there’s a good chance the casino will still have you rated for an average $60 bet.  Why?  Because floormen have an ingrained belief that they should not rate you on pressed money.  In their minds that is house money until you take it off the table and lock is up in your rack.

If, on the next shooter’s hand, you increase your initial bet to $90 each on the six and eight then odds are you’ll be rated correctly on that bet.  That’s new money coming out of your rack.  But press that bet up to $180 each and as far as most floormen are concerned it’s still a $90 bet.  I tell you this just so you won’t be surprised at the end of your session if your average bet is less than you actually wagered a good part of the time.  If that’s the case you can always ask the floor person to take a second look at it and see if he can bump it up based on your action.  Sometimes this will result in an increase – but not always.  Still, it never hurts to ask.  It lets them know you’re keeping track of your rating, and perhaps next time you’ll be rated more accurately.

One of the ways I like to insure that I’m rated as at least a $100 bettor is to make my first bet with a black chip.  If you read the boxman and floor man’s job descriptions one of the things they are tasked with is keeping track of all $100 and above chips.  Every black chip has to be accounted for whenever a new box person comes on duty or the floor person comes around to balance the table’s bank.  So when you toss a black chip on the table it gets noticed.  My preference is to buy in for $1000.  Typically I’ll get $500 in red and green plus five black chips.  Occasionally a dealer will hand me a full stack of green, a stack of red, and four black.  As long as it totals $1000 it doesn’t matter.  What is important is that once I receive my chips and I see that the floor person has my players card and is recording my buy in and is about to note my first bet – that I toss one of those black chips in to make that wager.  I keep it simple.  “Give me $96 across – up and off – plus $1 each on the hardways for the dealers.”  Ninety-nine percent of the time the floorman records the bet, hands me my players card and wishes me good luck.  Occasionally he’ll tell me that if he can be of any assistance to let him know.  And that’s it.  I’m in the system as a $100 bettor – and all I have given the house any action on is a $4 hardway bet for the dealers.  My $96 across was “up and off,” which means the bets do not work until I tell the dealer to work them.

Where I go from there depends on where the hand goes.  If it looks promising I may turn them on for a hit, then come down to $66 inside for another hit, then come down to just the six and eight and work my way back up and out from there.  I might take one or two hits and down.  Or I might just leave them turned off until the next shooter – then re-adjust from there.  But I remain in control of my bets at all time.  If a hand gets hot and my bets get pressed back up to around $100 or so and I see the floorman walking back over to check out the table – great.  My bets are still in line.  If I’ve previously regressed my bets I might take the opportunity to toss out a little extra action.  Drop a $35 and ask for $34 pressure inside – give the dealers a hard eight with the change – whatever you need to get back in that $100 average bet range.   And remember, you can turn that bet off at any time.

The other aspect of improving comps that I haven’t mentioned is what I call “coloring up like a loser.”  I mentioned earlier that I buy in for $1000 and start out with four or five black chips in the rack.  I also mentioned that the box person and floor person are taxed with keeping track of those.  That means I take it as a personal challenge to slip one or more black chips into my pocket at some point in my session, along with as many green chips as I can squirrel away without the dealers starting to wonder where those chips they’re paying me are disappearing to.

On our Craps Cruise back in February I started out every session with five black chips in the rack.  I’d place my first bet with one.  After a half-hour or so of play I would ask the dealer if they had a cover for my chips, explaining that I had to make a bathroom run.  They did not, but said they would keep an eye on them for me.  I would nod, then pick up all of my black chips and most of my green and put them in my pocket before walking away.  If I put four black chips in my pocket, when I returned from the restroom I’d make a point of pulling three out of my pocket and putting them in the rack, along with at least half of the green chips I’d taken when leaving.  Then I’d just continue to play.  If I continued to win I’d slip another green chip in my pocket from time to time.  If I saw the floor man was approaching the table I would toss out one of those remaining black chips and Press my Four and Ten up $25 each, asking for two green chips in change.   Then, on the next bathroom break another black chip would disappear into the pocket along with a few more green.   The end result?  I colored up every session showing the casino a “loss” – but in truth I more than doubled my trip bankroll over the course of the cruise. Better still, when the cruise was over my rating had increased substantially and I was offered a complimentary bounce-back cruise from the casino.  That’s not a bad comp.

If you want to count comps as a win – and I count anything I get for free that I would have paid for as a win – then you have to learn the rules of that game – just like you learned the rules of craps.  Don’t extend your play during a losing session trying to earn a comp – it’s just not worth it.  But when things are going well – why not make them go better.  Why not play the comp game to win too?