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Best of John Robison
Losing RFB23 April 2007
Thanks for the kind words about my column.
First off, a $4,000 bankroll is short for the high-limit ($50 and up) machines unless you're willing to accept the possibility that your money runs out before your desire to play. I like to have enough bankroll for 100 spins for a playing session. Your bankroll is fine for the $5 and $10 machines for a two-night stay, but not enough for the higher denomination machines. You seem to have the discipline to quit when your bankroll is gone and you seem to be able to deal with a quick loss emotionally, so if you want to hobnob with the high rollers, go for it.
Comps, however, are a different matter. It looks like your good luck on your early trips made you look like a bigger player than your bankroll really supports.
Comps are usually based on your theoretical loss, which is calculated from the action you give times the house edge against you. You didn't give much action the last few trips because your money ran out quickly. Hosts can sometimes "override" the formulas when a player's actual loss is much greater than his theoretical. Your host doesn't seem to be able to do this. Another strike against you is that your host seems to be judged only by how much action his or her players generate.
Credit players are assumed to be willing to lose whatever their credit line is per visit. Perhaps your host should have been able to infer that you're willing to keep playing and give back your winnings when you're winning, but when your credit line is gone, you're done.
In most slot clubs, points are the sole metric. If a comp requires a certain number of points, the system won't care if you earn them in a few minutes playing a $100 machine or a few hours playing a $1 machine. Either way, you've earned the comp.
You said that you earn "just as many, and maybe more, points playing high denomination machines for a shorter time than a person ... playing low denomination [machines] for a much longer period of time." You earned quite a few points and even won money when you were lucky on your first few trips and you earned very few points and lost money on your more recent trips. You didn't give much action on these trips. And your host is evaluated on action.
The irony here is that the casino rewarded you more when you played more even though you lost more money when you played less.
As you said, the casino does know how much you lost. And I'm sure you've heard stories of casinos returning a large portion of a high roller's losses as gifts or even cash. For us regular folks, the casino will usually give about 20% to 40% of theoretical loss in comps. The casino gives the comps even when you win. Because of that fact, I think it's fair for the casino to be not as generous in comping when it is based on actual loss. The bottom line is that you didn't earn RFB either through points or actual loss.
As the bean counters have gotten more control over the casino and comping has become more of a science than an art, hosts have lost much of their "power of the pen" and can't issue as many discretionary comps as they used to. Comping guidelines have gotten too rigid.
A host should never criticize a player for not playing enough. Even though you say the host explained the situation "in a nice way," you also called it a lecture, so I don't think it was really that nice. In this situation, the host could explain that the guidelines require a certain amount of play for RFB and that you've fallen below the guidelines. The host could then offer to do whatever he could do (e.g., RFL, free room, casino rate) now and see if he could do more for you at the end of your stay. Presumably, if you got lucky again, your level of action would go back up to its prior level and your RFB status restored.
I wouldn't recommend dropping out of the comp game altogether and paying rack rates for everything as some people have done. Instead, I would remember that the casino writes the rules of the game and it doesn't necessarily tell you what they are and you shouldn't let comps rule your playing decisions.
I see two options for you. One, continue to play however you feel comfortable playing. If you want the thrill of playing the ultra-high-limit machines, continue playing them — even if it means your bankroll vanishes in the blink of an eye. Take whatever comps you get. If your host drops you, then so be it.
Two, make a slight alteration to your game plan to try to generate more action. You can do this by either playing lower-denomination machines (mainly $5 and $10) exclusively or by using just a portion of your bankroll to attack the expensive machines. You may never be able to generate the same level of action as when you were hot on the high-limit machines, but you should be able to generate more action than on your last few trips.
Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
Send your slot and video poker questions to John Robison, Slot Expert, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Because of the volume of mail I receive, I regret that I can't reply to every question.
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Best of John Robison