Travel Fanboy

Casino Comps Explained…Kind of

I received an email from a listener asking a question about comps. Now I know they also emailed/asked this of our friends over at You Can Bet on That, which I think is a really cool idea. Having multiple shows give their perspectives on a particular topic is great for getting different perspectives, so I hope they answer this as well. Especially considering I’m not an expert. Here’s the question:

I understand that how table game ratings are done is very vague. But what do you think will happen if I buy in for $500 at a craps table, put some green chips into my pocket from time to time while the dealers aren’t looking or when dealers are changing? So I color up with $200, and I have 8 green chips for another $200. I cash it at the cashier’s cage for $400 with a $100 loss, but the craps table will think I lost $300. I understand that the ratings are done using theoretical losses, but the casinos must care about actual losses to a certain degree. Any thought on this? I’d like to think that I get better mailers because the casino thinks I lost more than I really did.

Now, there are a few different layers to this scenario, which I think makes it interesting.

First, we need to try to develop an understanding as to how comps work then analyze that system to see how we can maximize our comps according to our budget.

As we all know, we are rewarded for our play at a different rate based on the property we are playing at. Even the major programs, MLife and Total Rewards, have somewhat contrasting structures.

For example, for Total Rewards you earn 1 credit for every $5 in slots and for every $10 in video poker play. MLife offers 1 credit for every $3 in slots and $10 in video poker. Of course, comp offerings and points required for said offerings can be quite different depending on the company, which makes it a little bit difficult to determine overall value. You also earn credits based on how much you spend on the property, including hotel bookings and dining.

But that’s electronic play. You’ll probably notice that electronic roulette and craps, like my favorite Shoot-to-win craps games do not offer rewards credits for play. Reason being, with these machines, players can kind of game the system. Both roulette and craps offer multiple betting strategies which can, in essence, cancel each other out or mitigate risk. For example, you could bet both black and red equally. Why would someone do that? To simply rake in the rewards credits and receive comps with very little risk. Of course, if green comes up a players is SOL, but the rewards they would get basically pay for that risk. This is why credits are typically not offered on that machine. These are not gamblers that enjoy the games – they are not after the ambiance and sociability that entertain us casual gamblers, these would be strictly advantage players, looking to take advantage of the comp system. This brings us to the main question, as it wasn’t truly asking about electronic play, but table games.

As I thought about the question, would a loss of $300 during an individual gaming session elicit better comps or “mailers” than a $100 loss would. As I thought about this question I formulated three answers at three different times, based on my working knowledge and cultivating information from a variety of sources. My answers in distinct order were “maybe”, “probably not”, and “no”. I’ll explain how I arrived at all three, but first, let’s get the basic of table game ratings out of the way.

For the most part, and there of course is variability among casinos, you are rated at a table game based on two main factors:

  1. How long you play.
  2. Average bet size.

From everything I know, those are the most important things a pit boss or whoever controls the rating will be observing. So, how did I arrive at each of my three answers. Let’s go through the progression:


Pit boss are human and can certainly be sympathetic. They may even be empathetic, having been or are gamblers themselves. Is it common for hosts or pit bosses to offer a more generous comp based on an individual loss? Not really. Can it happen? Sure.

“Probably Not”

My thought’s evolved from “maybe” to “probably not” with the recognition that in order to receive an offer based on a session’s losses, the loss would most likely have to be much more significant than $300. While perhaps that would be a lot to me and you, it’s not entirely uncommon to see at any casino and any given time.

We also have to think about what exactly a pit boss is observing. At a table game, players can leave suddenly and without much warning to the dealer, let alone a pit boss observing multiple games. While I’m not a pit boss myself and it would be interesting to hear from someone with experience (I’ll work on that), I’m more inclined to think that they would be able to determine potential losses not by trying to meticulously monitor the amount of chips each individual player takes away from the table, but by tracking their average bets and observing the general eb and flow of the table for how long they are there. By doing that, they’ll probably have a good idea of a player’s losses.

That being said, if you have a long session and are down a few hundred bucks, it wouldn’t hurt to ask about the possibility of receiving a comp or two. The worst they could say is no….


…which is my logical answer to the question. I’m going back to the idea that a $300 loss just isn’t enough to make a notable change in your comp offers. Again, $300 is a significant amount for based on my daily gaming budget, but in the context of a $25 table, it’s only 12 bets. 12 bets up or down won’t merit much attention from the people who matter. Heck, you can lose 12 bets before the boss hands your card back to you!

Also, it was astutely pointed out on the recent podcast Beating the Books. Not only is there a disconnect between the table and the cashier’s cage, but between the tables, reward system, and the marketing team, which usually handles the mailers. Now, the mail offers you receive will be typically be based on your overall play. I am getting different offers than that of the high rollers, but your loss at that one table session will not necessarily dictate what you receive.

My Tips

Don’t bother worrying about it. While I’m playing at the table, I simply want to enjoy myself. Figuring out how to beat the system is just another task which, for me at least, takes away from that enjoyability. There are two things besides your average bets and table time the dealers and pit bosses will also notice: your affability and your generosity. If you’re having a good time and making their casino, their pit, a fun place to play, they’ll recognize that. If, on top of that, you consistently tip well and are patient with the staff, they’ll be more likely to return the generosity. So I say, just have fun. You’ll be rewarded for it.

If you are truly concerned with receiving the best offers possible, there are a number of resources out there. Las Vegas Advisor and it’s subsequent columns are a good start. The Gambling With an Edge Podcast also details the best ways to become an advantage player. I would also suggest playing at casinos that are in the need to fill their tables. Places like the Downtown Grand, which has been struggling to attract players will be extremely generous with comps if they think they’ll gain a return visitor, even if you’re a low-roller like myself. If you’re a slot or video poker player, scour the casino promotions for their point multiplier days. These typically fall during the middle of the week, but recently the Plaza advertized a 10X point multiplier opportunity on Fridays. This is a good way to increase your rewards credits quickly and easily, if you’re gambling already.

“Hot Take”

Play how you would normally play, be nice, and don’t be afraid to ask. You do those three things, you’ll probably get the comps you deserve. If you have any other tips, I’d love to hear them. Feel free to email or reach out via social media.

I’d love your help for the next show. I’ve been longing to talk about the Vegas bucket list. While goofy and fun, we all have things we’d like to do in Vegas, but just haven’t been able to get to it yet. Sharing our lists or ideas may actually inspire others, like myself, to try something different, something we haven’t even thought of. I’ll be adding a poll to the website and I’d love to hear from you. I’ll read your responses on the next show.




Host of the Vegas Fanboy podcast. A reluctant Millennial. An amateur human.


  • I think we’re essentially on the same page here. The casino bases a player’s comps on his/her theoretical loss, but to a certain extent the casino also bases it on actual losses. Having said that, let me clarify something that might not have been clear on our show. Putting chips in your pocket (rat-holing) to disguise your actual loss at a single session will have little or no effect on your comps. If you rat-hole over a period of time at the same casino, they’re going to catch on, and that could actually HURT your comps, because they might start to overestimate how much you’ve actually tucked away. So don’t expect rat-holing to result in a mailbox stuffed with offers.

    • Exactly. My focus was on one particular session and the theoretical loss based on avg. bet and time. I did forget about the casino’s concern with the overall chip count of the table, so It was good to hear it on your show. I simply do a mental “rat-hole” to avoid any issues. Thanks for the feedback!