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Deal Me In: The price of your free lunch

10 September 2010

By Mark Pilarski

Dear Mark: In general, how much money has to be gambled to earn enough points for complimentary meals and hotel rooms. I've always gotten vague responses from the casinos and gamblers. Morris R.

The reason for the elusive replies, Morris, is because the formula for getting the goodies differs from casino to casino, even between contiguous casinos.

For slot players, many of the Player's Club brochures describe your rewards by points accumulated. When you insert your slot club card into a slot machine, the magnetic strip enables the casino to know exactly how much money you are actually betting. The slot machine tracks your coin-in play, then funds your slot club card with comp points. The greater the coin-in, the more compensation the casino is willing to part with. But again, Morris, side-by-side casinos have different point totals to justify their freebies, so refer to your Player's Club brochure or slot host to see what you need to play for a hot and a cot.

The pit may use a different criterion to assess your rating and eligibility for room, food and beverages (RFB s). In the casinos I worked in, we considered your average bet, how many hours you were possibly going to play, speed of the game, and the casino advantage. This, in theory, computes essentially your expected loss to us over a certain period of time.

Here's an example of that formula: Suppose you are betting $10 a hand for three hours, averaging 100 hands per hour, saddled with a house advantage of five percent the casino holds over the average blackjack player. We could predict that you should lose $150 ($10 X 3 hrs. X 100 hands X .05 = $150). Since you were putting a decent chunk of change ($3,000) "in action" over a calculated stretch of time, yes, Morris, a free trip to the chow line, that really cost you $150, might be warranted.

Dear Mark: Per your "curious as to why casinos do not give you any $10 bills when you cash in a ticket at the cashier cage or the ticket redemption machine" question last week from Stan, I would like to comment. I work in a cage on the Strip. The ticket redemption machines have room for only four canisters; so, ones, fives, $20's and $100's are carried in them. There is no room for tens. I'd be curious where this casino is that does not give out tens at the cage? Never heard of that on the Las Vegas Strip. There are currently two problems with currency put into the slot machines. The 100's issued in 2006, for which they have been working on a fix for many months, and certain new fives do not work well. Have not heard if they have a fix for either of these yet. Will keep you informed. Steve S.

Last week I tossed that question out to the Standing Committee (our readers) to see if and why it is happening where they play. I received lots of e-mail, yours, Steve, giving a good descriptive reason as to possibly why. I also received emails from just about every geographic area where the column runs stating that no such problem regarding tens exists. Then there's Sparky, from Reno, NV, claiming he has never gotten a ten-dollar bill from a ticket-cashing machine, to which Nelson, from Torrance, CA, believes like ATM's that only dispense $20's, thinks it is a space and cost issue. As to why a cage cashier isn't handing out $10's where Stan plays, that's still an unsolved mystery.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: It would appear that gambling in the betting sense is a thread in the pattern of social evolution – a thread that has remained unbroken since the dawn of time. - J Philip Jones Gambling Yesterday and Today 1973
Mark Pilarski
As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.