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Best of Henry Tamburin

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Getting maximum comps by playing blackjack

13 September 2002

"Comp" is short for complimentary. They're the nice perks that casinos give you just for playing. Depending upon your betting level and how long you play, you could get comped to a buffet, a café, a gourmet room, a hotel room, a suite, even air fare. And by playing blackjack, you can get the most in comps compared to other casino games.

Here's how.

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 100 hands per hour, your average bet is $10, and you play for 4 hours, your total action is 100 hands x $10 per hand x 4 hours = $4,000. In your 4 hours of play, you've given the casino $4,000 worth of action.

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 generally will estimate a 2 percent advantage over the masses of players that play blackjack. This means they expect to win about $80 in the above example ($4,000 x 2 percent).

Most casinos will give players comps worth 20 to 40 percent of a player's expected loss. This means the above player can expect a comp worth about $25.

Now here is how a blackjack player can get more in comps then their theoretical loss.

First, a player can and should learn the basic playing strategy. This is a set of rules that tells the player when to hit, stand, double down, pair split and surrender. By learning and using the basic strategy flawlessly at the tables, a player will reduce the casino's edge from 2 percent (which is what the pit boss is estimating) down to 0.5 percent.

Now let's recalculate the player's expected loss in the above example. With a 0.5 percent casino edge facing the player, his expected loss is only $20 ($4,000 x 0.5 percent). Your expected loss is only 25 percent of what the casino thinks they are going to win from you.

Do you see where this is heading? The pit boss has the player earmarked for a $80 theoretical loss so he dolls out a comp worth $25. Meantime the player's actual expected loss is only $20. The player is actually ahead of the game by $5. Not a bad deal.

If you think this is a good, wait to you see how you make it even better. Instead of playing 100 hands per hour, S-L-O-W down your play at the tables. You can do this by playing at full tables instead of tables with only a few players. Take your time making your playing decisions. Skip a few hands and take a few "restroom" breaks. The point is that if you slow down your play so that you are betting on only 50 hands per hour (instead of 100) your expected loss drops to $10 and you are still getting $25 worth of comps. Now you're ahead by $15 instead of $5.

Can you do even better then this? Yes, if you play in very favorable games with very good rules, it's possible to reduce the casino's edge to virtually 0 with basic strategy. 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.

There are other tricks to getting more value in comps for your perceived skill and betting level when you play blackjack. In fact books have been written about how to go about this (two of the best are the second edition of "Comp City" by Max Rubin written for the high roller and "The Frugal Gambler" by Jean Scott, which is geared more to the low roller).

By adding the value of the comps to your expected return when you play blackjack, it's possible to gain the monetary edge over the casino. By playing perfect basic strategy, your expected return is 99.5 percent (assuming a 0.5 percent casino edge) and if you add to this the value of comps, it's possible to gain a slight monetary edge (overall return greater than 100 percent) when you play. That's the smart way to play blackjack.


For more information about blackjack and comps, we recommend:

Blackjack: Take the Money and Run by Henry Tamburin
Comp City by Max Rubin
The Frugal Gambler by Jean Scott
Best Blackjack by Frank Scoblete
The Morons of Blackjack and Other Monsters! by Frank Scoblete
Winning Strategies at Blackjack! Video tape hosted by Academy Award Winner James Coburn, Written by Frank Scoblete
Recent Articles
Best of Henry Tamburin
Henry Tamburin

Henry Tamburin is the author of the best-selling book, Blackjack: Take The Money and Run, editor of the Blackjack Insider e-Newsletter, and Lead Instructor for the Golden Touch Blackjack course. For a free 3-month subscription to his blackjack newsletter with full membership privileges, visit www.bjinsider.com/free. For details on the Golden Touch Blackjack course visit www.goldentouchblackjack.com or call 866/WIN-BJ21. For a free copy of his casino gambling catalog featuring over 50 products call 888/353-3234 or visit the Internet store at www.smartgaming.com.

Henry Tamburin Websites:

www.smartgaming.com

Books by Henry Tamburin:

> More Books By Henry Tamburin

Henry Tamburin
Henry Tamburin is the author of the best-selling book, Blackjack: Take The Money and Run, editor of the Blackjack Insider e-Newsletter, and Lead Instructor for the Golden Touch Blackjack course. For a free 3-month subscription to his blackjack newsletter with full membership privileges, visit www.bjinsider.com/free. For details on the Golden Touch Blackjack course visit www.goldentouchblackjack.com or call 866/WIN-BJ21. For a free copy of his casino gambling catalog featuring over 50 products call 888/353-3234 or visit the Internet store at www.smartgaming.com.

Henry Tamburin Websites:

www.smartgaming.com

Books by Henry Tamburin:

> More Books By Henry Tamburin