“There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.”




Whoever first uttered that famous expression obviously never went to Las Vegas or Atlantic City. Because here in the land of casinos, you can get a free lunch and even a free breakfast, free dinner, free drink, free show and free room. Your ticket to these freebies is the “comp.”




A “comp” is an abbreviation for “complimentary.” It’s the free perks that are given to players in appreciation for their loyal play, regardless of whether they win or lose.




The casinos don’t just hand players a comp because they show up and play. There’s a secret to getting one, and it’s this: You’ve got to ask. That seems like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many players never ask because they either don’t know any better or, worse, they are too shy to ask. As one smart pit boss told me years ago, “If you don’t get the comps that are available, someone else will.”




Now don’t get me wrong. Not anyone can get an expensive gourmet meal comped simply by asking. But the system is pretty straightforward; the more time and Slot Gacor money you risk at the tables or machines, the greater your chance will be of receiving a more valued comp. The most coveted comp is the RFB, short for free “room, food, and beverage.” Depending on the casino’s policy, you’d have to make (or in some casinos, average) at least $25 minimum bets per hand (more likely, $50-$100) for at least four or more hours per day to garner the RFB.




Why, you might ask, do casinos give players comps at all?




First, comps encourage players to bet at higher levels and for longer periods of time. Most players believe that when they get a comp, they’re getting something for nothing. Also, many are envious of other players who get comped meals, shows or even a room, so they’re determined to get one for themselves. These players play right into the casino’s hands. By betting more and playing longer than they had intended in the pursuit of a comp, most players will end up losing more money than the comp was worth. The casinos know this, which is why they do it. (In Nevada alone, casinos gave away about $500 million in comps last year.)




Here’s a story that happened to a friend of mine. He wanted to impress his business associates (myself included) with a comped “free” dinner at one of Atlantic City’s nicest casino restaurants. So instead of playing blackjack at his normal red chip ($5) betting level for a couple of hours, he played green ($25) chips for six consecutive hours at the same table. Yes, he got the comp for four that he was after. It was a meal that would have cost $350 (we ate like kings). But in the process, he lost close to $1,000 at the blackjack tables. I’m not so sure he enjoyed his “free” meal as much as we did.




Casinos also give comps because they want repeat customers. To gain the loyalty of players, casinos extend comps equal to a certain percentage of how much the customer is expected to lose.




The best part of comps from the player’s perspective is that you don’t have to have a losing session to get them. The value of the comp is based on the player’s “expected losses” for a playing session, not on their “actual losses.”




So, how do you go about getting a comp? First you need to go to a casino’s Player’s Club booth and sign up for a player’s card. Complete the application and give it to the attendant along with an ID. In short order, they’ll give you a card. While you’re at the booth, ask for any special promotions for new club members (some, for example, give free points just for signing up).




By using the player card when you play the slots or table games, the casino is able to track your play in their computer database. This allows them to know how much to extend to you when you ask for a comp.




At the slots or video poker machine, always insert your player card into the reader and make sure it registers (it will usually greet you with “Hello,” followed by your name). If it doesn’t register, you won’t get credit for your play; either reinsert it or try another machine.




Casinos give slot and video poker players so many comp points based on how much money they put through the slot or video poker machine (known as “coin-in”). In some casinos (e.g. the Coast properties in Las Vegas), it’s based on how many coins they win (known as “coin-out”). By far, coin-in is the more popular way to keep track of a player’s action, but, in either case, you’ll get slot points credited to your account based on your play.




Many slot clubs will tell their players how much money they need to play to obtain one slot point, and how many slot points will get them a specific amount of cash (known as “cashback”) or a specific amount of comps. In some cases, you could be eligible for both. For more information on this, read Jeffrey Compton’s “Slot Club Spotlight” in each issue of Casino Player.




When you play at the tables, place your player’s card on the felt layout and tell the dealer you want to be rated. (Note: Some casinos use a rating card rather than a player’s card.)




The formula that casinos use to determine your style of play and what it’s worth to them is as follows:




Formula #1


Average Bet x Speed of Game x Hours Played x Casino Advantage = Player Expected Loss




Formula #2


Player Expected Loss x Percentage Return = Comp Value




Here’s how the information in Formula #1 is derived: The floor supervisor will record the first bet that you make. Periodically, he’ll come back to your table and record the amount that you regularly continue to bet. This information will ultimately determine your Average Bet in Formula #1. The Speed of Game is the number of hands dealt, or dice throws, or roulette spins per hour. The Hours Played is just that-the amount of time that the player puts in at the tables. The Casino Advantage is the mathematical advantage the casino has over the player; it depends on the game, the type of bet the player is making, and sometimes the skill of the player.




The first three components in Formula #1 define the amount of a player’s action (average bet times speed of game times hour played). This is multiplied by the casino’s advantage to arrive at the player’s expected loss.




Formula #2 defines how much of a comp you’ll get. It’s determined by multiplying your expected loss (derived in Formula #1) by a rebate factor. The latter is the percentage the casino is willing to give back to players based on their expected loss. (Most casinos rebate 30-50%; the norm is usually 40%.)




Suppose a blackjack player averages $10 per hand and plays for four hours. By using Formula #1, the floor supervisor calculates the player’s expected loss at $56 (assuming 70 hands per hour and a casino advantage of 2%, an average for the majority of blackjack players). By using Formula #2 and assuming a 40% rebate, the player is eligible for a $20 comp (for example, a buffet for two).




In addition to your action, be cognizant of the fact that comps are not an exact science. Intangibles such as how often a player comes to the casino, how many other players he brings with him, and whether or not he tips the dealers are sometimes considered by the floor supervisor when determining the amount of the comp.




Will you always get a comp when you ask for one?




No. Sometimes you’ll be refused because “you haven’t played long enough.” Don’t get frustrated if you get turned down. And don’t stay and play longer for the sake of the comp. Just keep asking after you’re done with your normal playing session. Over time, you’ll get your fair share.