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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 3)

Upon arrival at the Lady Luck, the afternoon before the big Foreman fight, I met Max Rubin at the casino's cage, where, under the watchful eye of an executive host, I deposited a bankroll of $10,000, most of which I had no intention of touching. The host immediately made dinner reservations for us that evening at the hotel's gourmet restaurant, the Burgundy Room.

After a brief meeting in my deluxe accommodations, where Rubin and I sipped complimentary Champagne and discussed playing strategy and tableside demeanor (pleasant but needy), we made our first play. Finding a table with several other patrons and a slow dealer, we settled into two empty seats, flashed a fistful of hundreds and ordered whiskeys and cigars .

A pit boss immediately gravitated to our table and made a formal introduction. With her hovering at my side, I made a few $200 bets, making sure my oversized action was duly noted. When she went to attend to other business, I scaled my wagers back to $50 and $75. An hour later, following a leisurely 10 minute break to "make a telephone call," three men in suits approached me with their arms outstretched. One was the director of this and the other was the director of that. They all wanted to tell me how pleased they were to have me as their honored guest, and, oh, by the way, anything I possibly might need please let them know.

One of them reserved the best seats in the house to the Lady Luck's long-running production, "Melinda: First Lady of Magic"; the other handed me a gold plastic card that entitled me to complimentary meals in any of their restaurants, complimentary room service and limousine transportation wherever I pleased.

"Not bad," Rubin said, laughing, "for only an hour's worth of play. Give them a few more hours and we can ask for golf and seats at the fight."

After three hours of play, strategically interrupted by two more 10-minute breaks and a few major stalls while I chatted with my new executive pals, I pushed in my chips and asked the pit boss how I was doing on my rating (the casino's method of quantifying a player's level of action). "You're a solid $200-a-hand player. Everything will be taken care of," he said.

"I guess he didn't notice your $25 bets," Rubin said later, smiling. "What was your real average? Around $75?" He suggested I inquire about fight tickets at this point, before the casino figured out that $1,000 of the $1,120 I had "lost" ended up in the pockets of my suit.

A fruit and cheese basket was waiting in my room upon my return. So was a liter bottle of Stolichnaya. The booze and our upcoming meal, I calculated, was already worth more than the $120 I had dropped. But, I asked Rubin, what if I had lost more? Is it worth losing thousands of dollars in the pursuit of comps?

He explained that most people who come to Vegas lose their money anyway but don't get any of the perquisites to which they're entitled. The comp wizard, on the other hand, knows precisely the expected loss of his play and the expected gain of his comps, and usually the schism between the two is not even close . But expected loss does not always translate to actual loss. Blackjack is volatile; deviations happen, and deviations go both ways--I could easily have lost several thousand. In fact, Rubin reminded me, he and the tournament blackjack expert, Anthony Curtis, won $2,200 in 45 minutes when going after four $200 tickets to the Rolling Stones Voodoo Lounge concert--and they nabbed the tickets. "Our expected loss in the 'Voodoo' play was $45," Rubin explained. "We ended up with a $3,000 profit."

At the nadir of my comped weekend, I was down nearly $3,800. At the zenith I was up $2,400. (Playing with black chips, the swings are quick.) At the end of my play, after several gluttonous meals, a round of golf at the Desert Inn Golf Club and, of course, the ultimate prize (the fight ticket), I was a $24 winner. Heeding Rubin's advice from Comp City, I plowed my profits into a commemorative Foreman vs. Schulz T-shirt, a $22 investment that I could give to my executive host as a token of my appreciation for taking such good care of me. "That will pay big dividends," Rubin predicted.

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