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Comp City

You Don't Have To Be a High Roller To Get the Perks from Vegas Casinos--You Just Have To Act Like One
Michael Konik
From the Print Edition:
Linda Evangelista, Autumn 95

(continued from page 2)

Still, even after digesting Rubin's entertaining, revelatory investigation, which reads like a comical how-to primer in larceny, I was incredulous. Though the mathematical explanations in Comp City couldn't be clearer, and Rubin's writing has the comforting ring of true authority, I wondered if the book's techniques would work in the real world, with a pit boss breathing over my shoulder.

"The only way the techniques in this book don't work is if you have moral and ethical qualms about taking thousands of dollars in goodies from the casinos," Rubin claims. "Course, the casinos don't have any problem bankrupting you."

I decided to see for myself.

Following the advice in Comp City, I called six Vegas hotels to ascertain which was most eager for my business. Posing as a black-chip player anxious to "gamble it up" on the big fight weekend, I was connected with executive hosts, whose job is to attract--and then keep--well-financed suckers to the tables. I told them they could expect $100-a-hand-and-up action from me. What, I politely inquired, could I expect in return?

As Rubin's book predicted, the fancier joints were not particularly impressed. Mirage told me they couldn't promise me anything until they saw my action. The Treasure Island said I could expect to be comped into a minisuite but shouldn't count on meals above and beyond the coffee shop. Luxor said my action would warrant a Jacuzzi suite and maybe food and beverage, depending on my play. Golden Nugget promised me full RFB (room, food and beverage) for $150-per-hand action at four hours of play a day but said for a suite I would have to play $200 to $250 per hand. Still, with no deposit, no up-front money in the cage, nothing more than my name and a telephone number--and a faint promise of action--each property gave me a guaranteed reservation on nights that had been "sold out" for weeks.

The less of a name brand, the more willing the casinos were to treat me like royalty. At the Frontier Hotel and Gambling Hall, a mid-Strip hotel which had been plagued by striking dishwashers for over a year, I was put through directly to one of the shift managers, who said that black chip action would entitle me to full RFB, including one of the atrium tower suites. "If you give us that kind of play you can have the run of the place," the manager told me.

For the past nine months, the Lady Luck Casino Hotel, downtown, has been making an aggressive pitch at uptown players, taking out full-page advertisements in many of the in-flight magazines. The ads promise green chip ($25) players all the spoils of the big name joints: gourmet dining, spacious suites, fully stocked limos--the works. What, I wondered, would the Lady Luck do for a black chip player?

"Anything you want," a host told me. I could almost hear him drooling on the other end of the telephone. Completely unbidden, he offered me full RFB, show tickets and golf--"Anywhere you want to play!" For four hours a day of $50 bets, all this could be mine. For double the action, I might have a shot at the ultimate comp: tickets to the heavyweight title fight.

Using conversion tables contained in Comp City, I quickly calculated the expected cost of my high-roller weekend: approximately $40. I knew I could play the Lady Luck's single-deck blackjack game at about a 2 percent disadvantage. At $50 a hand, I could expect to lose around $5 an hour. Eight hours of required play would cost me less than the price of taking my wife to the movies and dinner.

So why would the Lady Luck--or any casino for that matter--be so eager to wine and dine such a meager producer? Because, as Rubin's book explains, they think you are losing more than you really are. The casino figures the average player gives up a two percent disadvantage when playing 21, but part of being a comp wizard is learning how to play perfect basic strategy blackjack. (It takes about 30 minutes to learn and is explained clearly in the book.) The casino figures 75 to 100 hands an hour rate of play; but the comp wizard effectively slows the game down to 50 hands or less, reducing the casino's total handle dramatically. The casino is prepared to give back almost half of the player's losses in comps; but the comp wizard knows how to squeeze out a 1,000 percent return.

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