Sunday, February 09, 2014

Chasing comps part one

If you a regular casino visitor and gamble with a players card you know that comps are part of the system.  Lately though with the nationwide drop in overall casino revenue the bean counters have seemed to take control of the whole thing and we like many other regulars have seemed their comps fall dramatically. 

Boyd Casinos, who are currently embroiled in a sales tax issue with the the state of Nevada over comped meals, used to be known for its liberal comp policy.  Today things are much different.  We have seen offers dwindle and dwindle to nothing. 

No free play or five dollar in free play just doesn't hack it today Boyd.  Despite what your revenue management software tells you.  Sam Boyd must be turning in his grave.    But I digress.  

I ran across this posting in the Vegas Adventures concerning chasing comps:

complicating the Chasing Comps threads

I got into a discussion on Chasing Comps and wrote so much, I thought I'd save it here as my boilerplate for other such discussions.
One thing became crystal clear.  Most often the "Don't chase comps talk" really means : Don't "bet over your head" and many folks don't want to expand into the complexities of chasing comps at all. 
Here is the complete discussion:

Here are my comments:

Most of the examples here are of high rollers.
Those who might get stuck gambling more than they should, do need to take the advice, "Don't chase comps."

But it is more complex than that for the low rollers.
The simple rule "Don't chase comps" does what most simple rules do, errs because it ignores complexities

I basically spend my entire time in Vegas chasing comps and promos. The affect of comps on the mathematics of my EV is huge.

In fact, I won't play unless I am playing with comps or a promo included.

Jean Scott suggested that the only real way to see gambling as lucrative was to include the comps. We were not going to make money. At best we were going to get a free vacation. Well, that is pretty good.

I was just figuring out the expenses of my last trip to Vegas. It cost me $35 a day (air, room, food, transportation - everything except tips) because I used comps. To play local live poker costs me more whether it is in Vegas or here in Florida. Gas is the biggest expense. I don't have that in Vegas.
That trip I paid for my air fare.
Next trip it will be free, because I start chasing comps when I charge everything, every day, on my Southwest card. All my trips used to be free, but the new way of figuring free flights makes it easier to use some points for shorter flights. The kids end up getting that benefit when they come home to visit.
But I still get a share, even if my airfare comps need to be shared. So I gamble more than I would normally gamble to chase comps. I will run $1000 through the Main Street Station 10/7 DB VP once every trip because at the end of it I can get a free buffet (no points deducted) for that amount of play. I would not "normally" do that. I won't do it at all unless there is something to gain besides just the slight mathematical advantage for perfect play.
I'll gamble a couple $20 at the 9/6 JOB at the Boards Head bar because I can get a couple free Black Chip Porters that add to my EV. Once the comps are gone (two is enough for my pleasure) I'll stop gambling. If I can, I'll gamble first for the beer and then move to 10/7 to get the rest of the buffet credit.

Last trip I chased the newbie promo at the Cosmo. Played right this meant I was going to gamble in a loose manner in machines way over my normal gambling. My first $100 was going to rushed through a VP playing 15 rows at a time, full play on a quarter machine. I usually play one row. But that was what the promo ( a sort of comp) called for: Volatile play for the first $100, then the opposite if I lost. I never got to plan B because I stopped at $300. Nice. $200 profit in less than twenty minutes and still time to get to Sin City Comedy with a ticket from Groupon (anther sort of come on, like a comp)

I played at the poker tables that delivered the comp of free or reduced rate rooms and a weekly free play. I played longer at certain casinos (IP and Flamingo) because I wanted to get in my hours for the free play.
Yesterday at Tampa Hard rock was the last day to qualify for the free $150 gas card, a comp for players who played 20 hours from Sunday to Thursday. All night at my table in came players chasing their gas comps. Some were no limit players who came for the 2-4 limit just to chase that $150 gas card.
I did hear a guy in the bathroom complaining that he had qualified but lost $70 so now he had to get that money back before he would allow himself to go home. It seemed to me he was in some danger.

However, my mathematics is much different because the 10/7 DB is a game in my favor. I am expected if I am smart enough to grind the casino down rather than the reverse as is true in negative expectation games.
And the live poker can be a positive EV game. The casino there is just paid for the service. The opponents determine winning potential.

So the good advice for the negative expectation games is not good advice for the positive expectation games. I play way over my normal budget at the Four Queens 10/7 DB progressive because the mathematics are in my favor and they reward me with generous free play. I would not play as much otherwise. I chase those comps (free weekend night rooms and freeplay and free play)

We often think that the high rollers get the best comps.
Well, maybe that is true.
But the way I play MSS for two free beers, the value of the beer, figured into the money I put at risk, gives me a positive EV. If I were a high roller, the beer would be just pennies on the dollar.
It is the same with food comps.

I'll play the Golden Nugget poker late a night because I am chasing the $10 coupon for free breakfast the next morning. I start with an ACG coupon for $10 in free chips. If I am playing 2-4 limit, adding a value of $20 to my night of play is huge. If I were playing no limit, well.... twenty bucks is twenty bucks, but I had better not stay over the time I would normally leave tired or bored or uncomfortable just to get in my hours for that $10 promo.

So, in some cases "chasing comps" is the good advice. We can't get the best mathematical advantage in gambling without chasing comps. And if we can start the chasing by chasing positive expectation games, well that is the best advice. Grind the casino down whenever possible, whenever possible. Avoid letting the casino take advantage of you. That is the challenge.

More soon.