First let’s make sure you understand how casinos determine how much your action is worth. Action is defined as the amount of money you risk over time. Assuming you are dealt 60 hands per hour, your average bet at blackjack is $10, and you play for 3 hours. The casino calculates your total action as $1800 (60 hands x $10 per hand x 3 hours).
Casinos use the following formula to calculate how much of a player’s action they expect to win.
Action x Casino Advantage = Player’s Theoretical Loss
Since pit bosses can’t watch the play of every individual blackjack player to determine their skill level they general will estimate that their advantage over the masses of blackjack players to be 2%. This means they expect to win about $36 in the above example ($1800 x 2%).
Most casinos will give players comps worth 30 to 50% of a player’s expected loss. This means the above player can expect a comp worth about $14 ($36 x 40%).
Now here is how a blackjack player can get more in comps then his theoretical loss.
By learning the basic blackjack playing strategy, you can reduce the casino's edge to 0.5%. This means in the above example a basic strategy player’s expected loss is only $9 ($1800 x 0.5%). Your expected loss is only 25% of what the casino thinks they are going to win from you. So instead of a theoretical loss of $36, your expected loss is only $9 and the casino gives you $14 worth of comps. You’ve received more in comps than the amount of money you expected to lose. Not a bad deal.
You can even do better than this. If you slow down your play so that you are betting on only 40 hands per hour (instead of 60) your expected loss drops to $6 and you are still getting $14 worth of comps. If you play in very favorable games it’s possible to reduce the casinos edge to virtually 0 and by learning card counting you can actually gain the advantage. Your theoretical loss in this scenario is 0 and the comps you earn will be gravy.
Here are some more tips on how you can fool the casino into thinking you are betting more when you aren’t. After you buy in for chips and the floorperson is ready to record the first bet you make (they usually do this as part of the rating process) make it a slightly larger than normal bet. Then when he leaves, drop down to your normal bet. If you tip, put your tip wager on top of your chips in the betting spot. This way you will credit for your tip bet. To slow down your play, take frequent bathroom breaks or fake a cell phone call (which means you must step aside from the table while you “speak” on your phone. If you want a whole book full of comp tips, check out Max Rubin’s classic, Comp City.
The point is that it is possible in blackjack to get more in comps than your theoretical loss. If you add the value of the comp to the 99.5% return you can expect by playing perfect basic strategy, then it’s possible to gain a slight monetary edge over the casino. But you must, at the minimum, play perfect basic strategy and always ask the pit boss for a comp (don’t expect them to hand you a comp, always ask).
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