Comps and Understanding
Concept of Expected Win
A "comp" or "complementary" is something that is given to valued casino players, free of charge. There are numerous things that might be comped: meals, cigarettes, hotel rooms, show tickets, gift shop vouchers and even airline tickets are just some of the more common. The most valued patrons are given "RFB" status, which means their room, food and beverages are all comped, regardless of amount.
Players and bosses alike often bemoan that it should be like the old days, before the days of player’s cards and points, when the suits had sole discretion on whether to comp someone or not. Sometimes, people would just show up at the pit and get a comp, even though they hadn’t played there that day or any other day. The casino’s philosophy was that they didn’t care if their restaurants lost money, as long as they got people in the door that might gamble.
In my opinion, there are two factors that created the need for the player’s club. The first is, the corporations that run today’s casinos expect every department to make a profit. Gone are the days when the low cost of food and wages minimized the price a casino spent to feed a potential player. The second reason, I’m sorry to say, is that the average person just doesn’t have the class and restraint he used to possess. If it became known that a particular resort would give a free meal to anyone that asked, there would be a line going half way around the block of people wanting to take advantage of it.
So how does today’s casinos decide who they will comp and how much are they willing to comp them? Contrary to popular belief, it isn’t the amount a player buys-in, wins or loses. If you think about this, it starts to make sense. Suppose a player does lose a thousand dollars, it doesn’t mean that the casino can count on keeping it. He might very well come back the next day and win a thousand. That is the nature of gambling. Or look at it this way; one player buys in for $100 and another buys in for $1000; both play $10 a hand (BJ for example) Both players play for an hour. Does the player who buys in for $1000 deserve a better rating over the player who only bought in for $100? No. Both players played for an hour at $10 average bet but the question is the skill level of each player. Rating slips and CMS computer rating have options of skill level. Keep reading...
The one factor that the casino can count on is the house percentage (HP) that is built into every bet a player makes and is the reason the casinos can expect to beat all but the luckiest players in the long run. The HP is the fundamental ingredient that is used in computing what the house predicts what it will win from a player in the long run, which is called "expected win."
Understanding expected win.
Some of the numbers I will use in explaining the concept of expected win are ones I estimated myself, since I am not privy to the numbers casinos use to compute expected win, which is probably different at every resort anyway. The particulars aren’t important, what is important is that you understand the theory behind the numbers.
Simply stated, expected win is the house percentage on the bets a player makes multiplied by the number of decisions per hour, multiplied by the number of hours a patron plays. The simplest of games to compute the expected win is roulette because all bets have the same HP of 5.3% (except for the top section which is 7.9% and will be disregarded for the following example). Suppose Mr. A puts a total of $100 in action on every spin. Since the HP on his bets is 5.3%, that means the casino expects to win $5.30 on his action every spin. Now here is the part I am speculating: I am guessing the house expects to get sixty spins per hour. Assuming I am correct, the expected win on Mr. A’s play would be sixty times $5.30 or $318 per hour. If Mr. A played for three hours, his expected win would be $954 for that play.
Where the "skill" entry on a rating slip can become relevant is on games such as craps, which offers bets with a great diversity of house percentages. If a craps player bets only proposition bets the least HP he is suffering is 9%. The floor supervisor would then give that player a skill rating of "1" or "S" and the player’s average bet would be multiplied by a higher number than a player that only bet the pass line and took full odds. The pass line bettors skill rating would be a "3" or "H" and his average bet would be multiplied by a much smaller number in order to compute his expected win.
In blackjack, a player’s skill rating is based on how closely his playing decisions resemble that of perfect basic strategy. The floorperson will monitor a player’s playing strategy and determine the skill rating for that player. A player that splits fives or doubles down on hard sixteen will receive a skill rating of "1" or "S." A player that plays perfect basic strategy will get a skill rating of "3" or "H." It is worthwhile to note that it is possible that a patron familiar with the comp system may intentionally make bad playing decisions on a couple of small bets (especially of he knows you are watching) in order to get a lower skill rating. Make sure you base a player’s skill rating on the decisions he makes on hands that are for amounts close to what he typically bets.
How expected win influences comps.
Now that we know how expected win is computed, how much of it is likely to be returned to the player in the form of comps? Again, this is where I can only guess but much of the decision is based on whether the comp is for an item perceived as a "soft cost" or a "hard cost."
A "soft cost" would be a meal in one of the resort’s restaurants or one of their hotel rooms. A casino might be willing to comp a player up to 20% of his expected win for a "soft cost" comp because the they know the $20 steak dinner they are giving this player doesn’t cost them $20. A "hard cost" would be something like an airline ticket on an airline that the casino obviously doesn’t own and has to pay full value for. In the case of a hard cost comp, the casino might be only willing to comp up to 10% of a player’s expected win.
The importance of the player’s club.
The typical casino player often fails to understand the importance of getting and using the player’s club card offered by the casino. They think that because you have seen them lose a lot of money you should be willing to give them a comp. At this point all you can do is to explain to the player that unless he has a player’s card, he can’t be comped. Then you can offer to get them a player’s card and perhaps notify your pit manager so he can enter a rating for the player and give the player a comp.
This is why it is important to ask all players for their player’s card when they first come to a game. If the player says he doesn’t have one, then offer to get them one. The usual procedure is to have the player fill out a form or give you their driver’s license so you, the pit clerk or a casino host can fill out the form.
When you give this player his new card, explain to him that he should show it whenever he plays at a new game whether he buys-in or not. The vast majority of players believe that their rating is based on the amount of money they buy-in. You should take every opportunity to explain to them that their rating is based on their average bet and the time that they play.
If a player asks why he should have a player’s card, then you can say something like; "In case you decide you want a comp, we have a record of you playing."
Deciding whether or not to comp a player.
Under the strictest of circumstances, the decision to grant a comp will be solely based on the amount of comp dollars available in the player’s account. You would look up the player in the computer and see if he has adequate comp dollars to cover the cost of the comp. If he does, you give him the comp. If he doesn’t, you explain to the player that the casino’s rules forbid you from granting a comp unless the computer shows him having the available comp dollars.
Inevitably, the player will question how the computer can show him not qualifying for a comp when "I lost a thousand in here tonight." At this point you ask them; "Did you show your player’s card every time you played on a new game, whether you bought in or not?" This drives home the point that the casino isn’t impressed by the amount of money the player bought in and discourages players from creating "false drop" by buying-in and them cashing out, after only playing a couple of hands.
If the casino you work at will give you a fair amount of leeway in granting comps and will allow you to take a player’s account into the negative, I generally opt for giving the player any reasonable thing he ask for. In the case of the player that makes unreasonable requests, you can sometimes negotiate to a more equitable solution that you both can live with. If a player asks for a $50 comp and has only $20 available, I might say; "You only have $20 available for comps. But I am willing to give you a comp for $30. If that doesn’t cover your entire check, hopefully it will cover most of it." Customers sometimes aren’t aware that they have the option of paying the difference in cash.
If I decide to grant a comp request when the player doesn’t have the available comp dollars, I make sure I reiterate a couple of points by saying this when I am handing them the comp; "I’m giving you this even though your account is already in the negative. I know you are a good player and the only thing I can think of is that you aren’t showing your card every time you change tables. Please make sure you show your card, whether you buy- in or not because I would hate to have to turn you down next time." That statement was a bit long-winded but look at all that I communicated! First his account is negative so he can expect to be turned down, next time he asks. Second, show the goddamn card or don’t expect to be comped!
My primary goal in my decision whether or not to grant comps is to keep the player and my boss happy. While today’s resorts may tell you that the only concern is to keep the customer happy and that you should give them whatever will make them happy, ten minutes on the job is usually sufficient to demonstrate how much bullshit this is. Some customers are not going to be happy, no matter what you do or say, unless you give them everything they ask for.
If you turn down a player for a comp, you can expect them to run screaming to your boss. You will then have to justify your decision and should start to think "damage control" before your boss comes to you. I will plan what I am going to say and it will be something like; "His account was negative $500, he only plays an average of $10, he wanted a $100 restaurant comp and I offered him a $20 comp."
If you grant a comp to someone that doesn’t deserve it, you may need to justify this as well. Say I did give this player his $100 comp and my boss comes to me later to ask me why I did it. I won’t over-comp players if I expect to have this conversation with my boss on a regular basis, but if I am forced to endure this inquisition, I may say something like; "I saw him playing $100 average bets a couple of nights ago and couldn't remember the patron's name because he/she refused to give up the card. When I gave him the comp, I told him that he needed to show his card every time he plays, if he wants to get comped in the future."
Writing the comp.If, at your property, writing a comp involves completing a form on paper, then there are just too many variations in forms to justify me covering any of them here. I would imagine that the one entry that might be overlooked is the customer account number. If the customer doesn’t have an account, then you can sometimes write "CO" in that space which indicates that you gave the comp for a "customer opportunity." This is sometimes done for a big player that doesn’t want to be bothered getting a player’s card or to smooth out a beef.
As a side note; You also want to find out if your CMS program has an option that when singing up a player can opt out of promotional mail or any communication from your casino. I have found that many good players who don't want a card is because they don't want promotional marketing mail. If this option is available; then communicate that fact and you may get the patron to at least sign into the system even though they don't want a physical card or any promotional communication. Their ID will serve as their players card when rating them. Most rating slips or CMS rating entries will have a space for name and birthdate where the pit clerk can locate associated player ID number.
Using comps as a tool to develop play.
The best comps to give are the ones that you offer a player before he has had a chance to ask for it. If you see a BP (big player) crumpling his empty pack of cigarettes, you should ask him if he wants you to buy him another pack. While it is nice to offer a player that has blown a lot of money a comp, it is much classier to offer a comp to the player that is coloring-up.
I often offer comps to players that are new to the property, for example; I signed up a local couple playing BJ the other day, each with an average bet of $15 a hand. They played for a couple of hours and when they were ready to leave I offered a lunch buffet. They looked at each other, smiled and said SURE! I print the comp, point to the buffet, shake hands and tell them to come back soon. They did. And they live across town! It's the little things like this that may go unnoticed by your boss but it's good for business not to mention that as a table games supervisor, part of your job description is also to be a host.
I also use comps as a way to smooth out a difficult situation. The other day, I caught a pai gow poker dealer paying a player, after the dealer had incorrectly set the house hand. Of course the player was miffed when I told her that the house hand would have to be re-set but I smoothed it out by saying; "There are some decisions I’m allowed to make and some that no one can make. I can decide to buy you dinner but I can’t allow the dealer to set a house hand incorrectly." Even though the price of dinner was far less than this lady’s bet and she knew she could have a comp, regardless of whether the dealer screwed up or not, she realized that I was doing everything in my power to make her happy.
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