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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Player may not merit a frolic frenzy

15 October 1999

Dear Mark,
When I stayed at the NY, NY Hotel and Casino (Vegas), I played BJ and whenever I wanted a comp for food or anything, they said just put it on your room charge and your play will be evaluated. Well, that was my first and last time. When I checked out they didn't comp my food or beverage, only the room. What gives? Scott R.

Your question, Scott, was not specific as to how much you were betting or how long you were playing blackjack. That makes a huge difference when it comes to the casino doling out the goodies.

Casino comps are generally figured in the following manner. The pit boss (bull) will take your average bet multiplied by hours played, speed of the game and the casino advantage of that game. The final figure, in theory, should equal your loss. Comps are then rewarded accordingly. Conning the casino to give you more comps than your play deserves is nearly impossible now that corporate America is minding the store.
As for your room, it was easy to comp because it is a controlled price. It can take as little as $20 to dress out a room for the evening. When it comes to food and drink, many players charge the feedbox huge, hit the wine list hard and drive the comp expenditure to a point no pit boss could justify. You very well could have been a typical blackjack player playing $10 a hand, 50 hands an hour. Risking $500 and losing two percent of that is a total loss of $10 to the house for every 60 minutes of play. Hardly worth carte blanc treatment by the casino. But one complimentary buffet, possibly a room? Yes, you probably qualify.
You could, Scott, increase your prominence in the casino's eyes by playing $100 a hand for eight hours, but is it really worth blowing a king's ransom just to get a shot at the steak and lobster house and a few bottles of bubbly? That would be dumb, foolish and costly if you can't afford to wager $100 a hand.

Dear Mark,
My friends and I get together once a month for a night of poker. We were playing seven card, high low split. All the cards had been dealt and the betting started. Brant opened and checked. There were a couple of bets around the table and then it came back to Brant. He saw the bets and raised. At that time I protested and explained to him that because he had checked he couldn't raise. I didn't get much support at the table for this claim. I thought it was common knowledge. What's the ruling? Woody J.

The decision from Nevada: you lose. All the Nevada poker rooms play check and raise. But because Nevada is not your kitchen table, house rules like check and raise among belching buddies, should be discussed at the onset of the evening. Not after an argument ensues.

Dear Mark,
I have heard that Atlantic City casinos allow card counters but Nevada casinos do not. True? Jimmy C.

True, Jimmy, but a minefield of obstacles still hinders card counters on the Jersey shore. On September 15, 1982 the Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court ruled that a player could not be discriminated against because of his playing skills (counting). In Nevada, laws allow casinos to operate as private clubs and you can be legally ejected for using your intellect. Brains need to be checked at the door.

Atlantic City casinos still have an assortment of countermeasures to offset a counter's advantage. They lawfully impede skilled blackjack players by using eight-deck shoes, shuffle at will to thwart bet variance and instruct the dealers to move the cut card near the top of the shoe on suspected counters.

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Best of Mark Pilarski
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.
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.