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28 November 2015
By Jerry Stickman
In the late ‘80s when I first got serious about advantage casino play, casino comps were fairly easy to get. At that time I played $1 blackjack and quarter video poker. The blackjack games were fantastic, single-deck, and the dealers would deal almost the entire deck before shuffling up. The video poker selection included several positive-expectation games. In short, playing conditions were fabulous. My play at a downtown Las Vegas casino got me free room, non-gourmet food and beverage (RLFB).
As my skills in advantage play techniques and mastery of several video poker strategies improved, my bankroll increased. With the added bankroll I moved up to five-dollar blackjack. My comps increased to room, any restaurant (including gourmet restaurants) and beverage (RFB). I also started receiving mini-suites with baskets of fruit in the room upon arrival each trip.
As I continued to build my bankroll, the video poker denomination also increased to 50 cents and then to dollar games. I was treated like a king; given suites, gift baskets, free gifts and limos from and to the airport as well as anywhere else I wanted to go. It seemed the downtown casinos could not do enough for me.
As my skill in throwing the dice increased, I went from playing five-dollar tables at downtown casinos to 25- and 50-dollar tables on the strip. My betting spread ran from about $250 to $2,000. This amount of play garnered RFB in one of the premier casinos on the strip. These were the golden days of comps.
Then, slowly at first, the comps began to be reduced. First the little freebies at the strip casino started getting smaller. Then RFB became RLFB and finally food was no longer included. This very well could have been caused by the fact that the casino was making no money off me – it was actually losing money. Perhaps they finally wised up and did something about it.
Ultimately I decided to no longer stay there. I played, and made money, but I did not stay.
In downtown Las Vegas and in Atlantic City, things continued to go as normal until about five or six years ago. Then my favorite casino downtown also started reducing gift vouchers and bounce-back cash offers. RFB was still the norm, but the future trend was set. Gone were all the positive video poker games, but there were still several with a very low house edge of less than a quarter of a percent when counting slot points. I continued to earn the same number of slot points as in the past, but it didn’t get the same comp results.
Recently RFB has become RLFB and ultimately eliminated in favor of using slot points to pay for food. Initially I thought this might be happening because of my slim losses to the casino for my video poker play. So slim in fact that if you factored in the comps I was way ahead. I found out, however, that the same thing was happening to almost everyone else regardless of the games played. It seems 20,000 to 30,000 points a day no longer means much to them.
Apparently this is a very common trend. I understand that casinos have to make money to stay in business and don’t begrudge them a profit, but reducing and even eliminating comps may ultimately produce undesired results. Only time will tell.
May all your wins be swift and large and all your losses slow and small.
Jerry “Stickman” is an expert in craps, blackjack, video poker and advantage slot machine play. He authored the video poker section of "Everything Casino Poker: Get the Edge at Video Poker, Texas Hold'em, Omaha Hi-Lo, and Pai Gow Poker!" You can contact Jerry “Stickman” at firstname.lastname@example.org
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7 November 2015Hi Jerry, Last time I wrote I told you I was heading down to Alabama to visit my daughters and I had asked you about class "b" machines at Indian casinos. Well, I got my answer: they suck. One night we drove to a local Indian casino. The kids like the fun of playing penny slots. I found only one bank of video poker machines. ... (read more)
17 October 2015An e-mail from Disgusted Steve in New Orleans: What is your take on Steve Wynn dropping his craps odds to 2x? I think this is a disgrace when casinos are looking to attract as many customers as they can. I would rather go to a casino that offers better odds. What do you think? I will look for your reply in your Casino City Times newsletter. ... (read more)
26 September 2015Norman writes: Hi Stickman, Hope all is well. I have two daughters that live in Mobile, Alabama with their families and when I visit I usually stay in Biloxi at the Grand Biloxi or the IP. It's only about a 45-minute drive for them, and when they go home at the end of the day I get to relax and spend time in the casino alone. ... (read more)