Casino Answer Man

I was wondering if you could help me out in the world of comps. I’m not very good at knowing what to expect as far as freebies go. For example: My friend and I were at Harrah’s Las Vegas and played table games for about five hours one night with the goal of getting something for free. We switched tables a few times, but always made sure the pit boss knew where we were.

Afterward, we approached the pit boss and asked him if our gaming had awarded us anything. He explained to us that their policy is that comps are only available to players who bet at least $25 per hand (our bets were around $10-$20) for at least four hours. No buffet, no show tix, no nothing. We were a bit put off since a year ago, Bally’s offered us a free meal after playing for only two hours. I don’t get it. I know there’s plenty of resource material out there on this subject, and I wondering if you could point me in the right direction.

And how aggressive do you have to be with these pit bosses? I’m about as confrontational with people as Gandhi, so I’m a bit leery about approaching them and demanding free stuff if I think I’ve earned it.

Comp rates vary widely from casino to casino. As a rule of thumb, the casino will kick back anywhere from 10 percent to 40 percent of your expected losses in the form of comps. The difference lies in how badly the casino needs to attract your kind of business.

Being extra aggressive won’t help. You need to ask for comps, and ask how much longer you need to play to qualify for a comp, but if the pit boss starts to see you as a pest or a pain in the neck, it just gives him an excuse to deny the comp.

Let’s say you were averaging a $15 bet at blackjack while playing about 50 hands an hour at a full table. You risk $750 in an hour’s play, or $3,750 in the five hours you played. The casino expects you to leave behind about 2 percent of that, meaning your expected loss is about $75. That would leave comps likely to range from $7.50 to $30.

Note that a $7.50 comp isn’t even enough to cover the price of a dinner buffet, and in a casino that draws big crowds of mid-level players, you can’t expect much more. Harrah’s likes to market through direct mail, so you may find that your level of play brings you offers in the mail for discounted rooms or meals on your next trip to Las Vegas. There’s no free lunch now, but maybe one next time.

If you want more immediate rewards, with comps higher up the range, you need to target a casino that has to work for your level of play. You’re more likely to score a meal comp with $10-$20 play at casinos downtown, those that cater to Las Vegas locals or at older, smaller operations on the Strip.

If you want to read more about casino comps, the two best books on the market are Comp City by Max Rubin and The Frugal Gambler by Jean Scott.