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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Price of comp munchies and kitchen etiquette

21 February 2005

Dear Mark,
You column last week was very interesting regarding RFID chips tracking your play. I'm with you, I too prefer playing anonymously, though working over the pit boss for an occasional buffet pass (I'm a low limit player, and that's usually the best I can do) is always my goal. You stated, "These days, the monitoring of your play at the table games is done via an educated guess from a pit boss, but his/her guesstimate is not always reliable." So, exactly how do they determine your worth to them as a player? Harold F.

Monitoring play, Harold, produces only an educated guess because a single pit boss can't hawk every player on every game. I was too busy monitoring other games, changing decks and dice, cleaning up spilled drinks on the roulette table, filling out football parlay cards and squinting to watch ESPN SportsCenter on the bar TV. That's why I needed my nifty little math formula to figure out what you're worth to the casino in the form of comps.

To acquire these goodies, a reward system for worthy play, you have to bet a decent chunk of change for a calculated duration to justify the casino's giving you a trip to the chow line. The mathematical formula I used considers your average bet, how many hours you play, speed of the game, and the casino advantage. This, in theory, computes essentially your expected loss to the casino over the period of time you play.

So, Harold, let's get specific. Suppose you are betting $20 a hand for three hours, averaging 100 hands per hour, coupled with a house advantage of 5% the casino holds over the average blackjack player, the casino can predict in advance that you should lose $300 ($20 x 3 hrs. x 100 hands x .05 = $300) of the $6,000 wagered over that time period.

Losing $300 bucks should certainly get you a trip to the buffet, so long as you ask to be rated. Regrettably, most players don't ask; consequently, a free feeding frenzy is not in their offing.

Dear Mark,
During our basement games, I am attempting to get all the players on the same page as far as stacking your chips. I say you should not be able to conceal your chips by hiding $1,000 in a $25 stack or something of that nature. Can you please explain if there are certain criteria to stacking your chips that all poker players should follow? Nothing is worse than when you think you put someone all in, and suddenly they are pulling out thousands and end up having more chips than you. Andrew R.

Players involved in rat-holing, taking money off the table or hiding chips, make the whole activity of playing poker a lot less pleasurable for everyone else. And although many of the kitchen table or basement games don't have specific rules against it, camouflaging chips is still poor poker etiquette.

Luckily, Andrew, most card rooms enforce the rule that all chips must be in sight. All players are entitled to a clear view of their
opponents' chips, with the higher denominations made easily observable, usually by putting your larger chips in the front of your stacks so all players can know how much you have.

Gambling quote of the week: Going to the bathroom during a poker or dice game is a mistake. You might miss a hot hand worth a hundred thousand, and nothing in the bathroom is worth that much. Nick "The Greek" Dandalos, quoted in Cy Rice, Nick the Greek, King of Gamblers (1969)

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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.