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16 July 2016
By Henry Tamburin
Most players don’t get rated when they play because they either don’t know how to do it or assume it isn’t worthwhile; however, it’s a mistake if you don’t get rated. I’ll explain why shortly, show you how easy it is to get rated, and give you tips on how to boost your ratings.
The reason you want to get rated when you play blackjack is to take advantage of casino perks that will come your way. The value of the perks or comps depends on your betting level and the amount of your action. But the point is this: Casinos want to reward their loyal players and unless you get rated, you won’t be receiving these benefits.
The key to the perks is getting rated. Here’s how this is done.
First you’ve got to sign up for a Players Card. You can apply for one (they are free) at the Players Club (with some casinos, you can fill out the application online on their website). Here’s a tip I’ve used several times when there are long lines at the Players Club. After you sit down at a blackjack table, get the attention of the floor supervisor, give him or her your driver’s license and say you’d like a Players Card so you can be rated. The supervisor will organize getting you a Players Card in short order.
Every time you sit down at a blackjack table, place your Players Card on the layout next to the cash you brought for your buy in. In some casinos, the dealer will use a terminal right on the table to log you in as a player. In other casinos, she will set your Players Card aside for the floor supervisor to pick up and log you in.
The floor supervisor will track your play either electronically or manually using a rating card (this is how it was done in the old days). What the supervisor will record is the time you start playing, your buy-in, the amount of your wager, the time you stop playing, sometimes your level of playing skill, and sometimes how much you won or lost.
Obviously, the supervisor can’t track and record every bet that you make. He or she will usually record the amount of the initial bet and periodically glance over at your table to see how much you are betting and record this information. How frequently the supervisor tracks your bets depends on how busy he or she is but at the minimum it will be a few times per hour.
What the casino wants to know from your playing session is the theoretical amount you should have lost, because they base the amount of the comp they will give you (if you ask nicely) on this calculated figure. (Notice I said “theoretical loss” and not the actual amount you lost.)
Your theoretical loss is calculated using this equation: Average bet x hours played x number of decisions per hour x house advantage = theoretical loss.
As I mentioned, the floor supervisor will determine your average bet size by periodically observing and recording your bets while you play. He or she also knows the amount of time you played. Most casinos use 60 decisions (or hands played) per hour although a supervisor can override this and use a higher number if, say, the player has been playing alone against the dealer (where the number of decisions per hour can be as high as 200).
Most casinos use 1% or 2% for their house edge. This is an average house edge against the masses of players who play blackjack. Some players are skillful, know the basic strategy, and play with a house edge against them of only 0.5% while other unskilled players may be facing up to a 2% or greater house edge. However, because the supervisor doesn’t have the time to spend watching how each player plays his hands to determine his skill level, they usually will use the 1% or 2% figure as their house edge. (Note: Some casinos, however, will factor your level of skill in the rating process.)
Let’s see how this equation plays out in the real world. Suppose you play four hours of blackjack with an average bet size of $25 (this means sometimes you bet less than $25, other times more). The supervisor assumed 60 decisions per hour and a casino advantage of 1%. If you plug these numbers into the above equation, you arrive at a theoretical loss of $60.
Obviously, your actual loss could either be higher or lower than $60 (or you could have hit a streak and won big), but for the purpose of rating your play to determine the value of the comps, the casino uses their calculated theoretical loss. Most casinos will rebate 20?40% of your theoretical loss in comps. This means for a $60 theo (short for theoretical loss), you can expect a comp in the range of $12?$24.
I’ve used some general numbers so you get the idea of how your rating converts into a comp. It’s important that you get more information about a specific casino’s comping policy. You can do this by speaking to a casino host. For your level of play, a host will be able to tell you what you can expect to receive in comps. (Note: Most high-end casinos don’t rate $5 and $10 table players. If this happens to be your level of betting, you need to shop around for a casino that values and will rate $5 and $10 players.)
Here are some tips on how to boost your ratings (and your comps):
1. When the floor supervisor is looking your way, bump up the size of your bets.
2. After you are done playing, ask the supervisor what he or she has you rated for average bet size. If the supervisor says $20 and you know you’ve made some bigger bets during your play, bring that point up to him (he may not have noticed and recorded the bigger bets). Oftentimes, the supervisor will bump up your average bet because he wants to keep his players happy.
3. Play at full tables and take several breaks each hour. The actual number of hands you will play per hour will be lower than what the casino has you rated for. Also, If you wait to increase your bets until you haven’t seen many picture cards or aces being played, this could reduce the house edge slightly (say, from 0.5% to 0.3%; or better yet, learn a simple card counting system to achieve this reduction in house edge). Using these actual figures, the smart player’s theoretical loss decreases to only $18 vs. the casino-calculated $60. The net result is the casino is giving the player an amount of comps ($18) equal to his “actual” theoretical loss ($18). That’s the smart way to boost your ratings and get more comps than you deserve.
Henry Tamburin, Ph.D. is the editor of the Blackjack Insider e-Newsletter (www.bjinsider.com), and host of smartgaming.com.
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