Monday, January 30, 2012

complicating the Chasing Comps threads

I got into a discussion on Chasing Comps and wrote so much, I thought I'd save it here as my boilerplate for other such discussions.
One thing became crystal clear.  Most often the "Don't chase comps talk" really means : Don't "bet over your head" and many folks don't want to expand into the complexities of chasing comps at all. 
Here is the complete discussion:

Here are my comments:

Most of the examples here are of high rollers.
Those who might get stuck gambling more than they should, do need to take the advice, "Don't chase comps."

But it is more complex than that for the low rollers.
The simple rule "Don't chase comps" does what most simple rules do, errs because it ignores complexities

I basically spend my entire time in Vegas chasing comps and promos. The affect of comps on the mathematics of my EV is huge.

In fact, I won't play unless I am playing with comps or a promo included.

Jean Scott suggested that the only real way to see gambling as lucrative was to include the comps. We were not going to make money. At best we were going to get a free vacation. Well, that is pretty good.

I was just figuring out the expenses of my last trip to Vegas. It cost me $35 a day (air, room, food, transportation - everything except tips) because I used comps. To play local live poker costs me more whether it is in Vegas or here in Florida. Gas is the biggest expense. I don't have that in Vegas.
That trip I paid for my air fare.
Next trip it will be free, because I start chasing comps when I charge everything, every day, on my Southwest card. All my trips used to be free, but the new way of figuring free flights makes it easier to use some points for shorter flights. The kids end up getting that benefit when they come home to visit.
But I still get a share, even if my airfare comps need to be shared.


So I gamble more than I would normally gamble to chase comps. I will run $1000 through the Main Street Station 10/7 DB VP once every trip because at the end of it I can get a free buffet (no points deducted) for that amount of play. I would not "normally" do that. I won't do it at all unless there is something to gain besides just the slight mathematical advantage for perfect play.
I'll gamble a couple $20 at the 9/6 JOB at the Boards Head bar because I can get a couple free Black Chip Porters that add to my EV. Once the comps are gone (two is enough for my pleasure) I'll stop gambling. If I can, I'll gamble first for the beer and then move to 10/7 to get the rest of the buffet credit.

Last trip I chased the newbie promo at the Cosmo. Played right this meant I was going to gamble in a loose manner in machines way over my normal gambling. My first $100 was going to rushed through a VP playing 15 rows at a time, full play on a quarter machine. I usually play one row. But that was what the promo ( a sort of comp) called for: Volatile play for the first $100, then the opposite if I lost. I never got to plan B because I stopped at $300. Nice. $200 profit in less than twenty minutes and still time to get to Sin City Comedy with a ticket from Groupon (anther sort of come on, like a comp)

I played at the poker tables that delivered the comp of free or reduced rate rooms and a weekly freeplay. I played longer at certain casinos (IP and Flamingo) because I wanted to get in my hours for the freeplay.
Yesterday at Tampa Hard rock was the last day to qualify for the free $150 gas card, a comp for players who played 20 hours from Sunday to Thursday. All night at my table in came players chasing their gas comps. Some were no limit players who came for the 2-4 limit just to chase that $150 gas card.
I did hear a guy in the bathroom complaining that he had qualified but lost $70 so now he had to get that money back before he would allow himself to go home. It seemed to me he was in some danger.

However, my mathematics is much different because the 10/7 DB is a game in my favor. I am expected if I am smart enough to grind the casino down rather than the reverse as is true in negative expectation games.
And the live poker can be a postitive EV game. The casino there is just paid for the service. The opponents determine winning potential.

So the good advice for the negative expection games is not good advice for the positive expectation games. I play way over my normal budget at the Four Queens 10/7 DB progressive because the mathematics are in my favor and they reward me with generous freeplay. I would not play as much otherwise. I chase those comps (free weekend night rooms and freeplay and free play)

We often think that the high rollers get the best comps.
Well, maybe that is true.
But the way I play MSS for two free beers, the value of the beer, figured into the money I put at risk, gives me a positive EV. If I were a high roller, the beer would be just pennies on the dollar.
It is the same with food comps.

I'll play the Golden Nugget poker late a night because I am chasing the $10 coupon for free breakfast the next morning. I start with an ACG coupon for $10 in free chips. If I am playing 2-4 limit, adding a value of $20 to my night of play is huge. If I were playing no limit, well.... twenty bucks is twenty bucks, but I had better not stay over the time I would normally leave tired or bored or uncomfortable just to get in my hours for that $10 promo.

So, in some cases "chasing comps" is the good advice. We can't get the best mathematical advantage in gambling without chasing comps. And if we can start the chasing by chasing positive expectation games, well that is the best advice. Grind the casino down whenever possible, whenever possible. Avoid letting the casino take advantage of you. That is the challenge.


Your decision to play where the better comps exist and to "chase" the next level of comp value all makes sense to me. That is what in my mind complicates the simple, " Don't chase comps" advice which may well just mean "Don't play over your bankroll," as one poster suggests, but it may not clearly mean that to everyone reading it. I've read many posts over the years that express this rule and discuss this topic, and I don't think it is as clear as it might be, especially to newbie gamblers.
I have never known quite how to write my position which is:

"Absolutely right, don't chase comps, but definitely do chase comps."

Somehow without some explanation that does not seem clear.
If what I said earlier in this thread made some sense to some folks, great.

I do think that my gambling is fundamentally different from most of the posters on this thread. I am at the low end economically, and I rarely play negative expectation games. I don't really know anything about the comps available for folks in upscale properties or the strategies for getting them. I play live poker at CET properties because they give me free rooms. Yet I see post after post where folks are totally unclear about what CET is offering for what play, and are totally unclear about how to book the free rooms offered. So, there is a good bit of work to do there to see what to chase and when.
For me the work is simple.
Only the higher rake seems on the surface to be a negative, say in the comparison between El Cortez poker and Flamingo/Imperial Palace poker. The EC rakes low but ignores me for comped rooms and gives me almost nothing in food and a very slim high hand of the day bonus. The CET raises the rake, but gives me low rates and free rooms, some good food comps, plenty of high hand awards, and tournament freerolls which probably amount to about $100 profit per trip.
Since I don't play against the house in poker, even the high rake works in my favor. CET high rakes discourage a lot of regular locals who don't need comped rooms, thus making my competition more tourist based than at the El Cortez. That makes it easier for me to win money and in most cases makes the pots higher to overcome the higher rakes.
So, it is a no brainer. I "chase" the comps by going to play at CET properties.

I do think it makes sense to "chase" comps, first by going to places that give us what we want for free. Then if we are just short of the play needed for what we want for free, I think it makes sense to "chase" the comps with more play, providing the play is pleasant and does not make us uncomfortable or make us feel controlled, and that it does not financially strain other parts of our lives.

I agree with the poster that suggests, "Don't chase comps" is often just a catch phrase for, "Don't play over your bankroll." I'd suggest that this clearer language be used in future discussions to end confusion, increase clarity, and eliminate doublespeak.

I agree that playing over your bankroll for whatever reason is a bad idea and that is the most common concern in these comp chasing threads.
It does not summarize the compexity of "chasing comps."
You can see in reading the posts on this thread that folks have often done a good bit of thinking about how to balance free stuff without losing too much.

And I understand that it might be comfortable to continue to try to just make a discussion of chasing comps a simple discussion of not playing over our heads; however, I don't think it is that simple.
That was the point of my first post.

Another comp chasing pitfall is when people stay longer obsessively playing when they are really no longer having fun. They would like to go to supper, but just another "whatever" will get them something, so they stay. I have friends who have plenty of money, so they can never go beyond their financial limits, but they play beyond the "utililty" value of their session.
It is a shame to waste money chasing comps, but wasting life chasing comps is worse.

Here are more examples of complexity in chasing comps:

Sometimes "chasing comps" means not playing at all . In my 22 night stints in Vegas I chase Four Queens comps: room, freeplay, free food. They are worth having as they give me the weekend expensive nights for free, so I can keep my room expenses down around $25 a night for the trip. Last trip I averaged $14.38.
The Four Queen comp helps me do that.
And I am chasing at the Four Queens by financially overplaying the best 10/7 DB in the world. So, I don't have to worry that the casino is grinding me down. I have the mathematical advantage. If I lose that advantage because I play foolishly, the casino does the grinding. If not, I do it.

On no other days do I play at the Four Queens at all. I don't want to water down the days I am chasing my comps. I want to look like a higher roller than I actually am.

I can't play at my all out comp chasing level for 23 days.

Last trip I wanted to clear up another complication in my comp chasing at the Four Queens. Binons poker room will give me $24/$40 nights in a Four Queens room for poker play. I could take my 3 free VP nights, then take some of those nights, and not have the check in check out inconvenience that we low level comp chasers live with. I could do it and often still be getting the best room value for a purchased room.
What I wanted to know was whether Binions comp chasing poker play would water down my Four Queens VP comp chasing play. I talked to a great host at Four Queens and he said no, as long as I did not play any four Queens machines on my Binions nights and as long as I did play poker at Binions on the nights I had the poker rates. Binions poker play goes into an entirely different computer, so until the time the two casinos actually revise their system and go to one card, I can do a longer stretch in a Four Queens room than I thought possible.

However, I don't want to "chase" the room comps at Binions for 23 nights either. There are other poker rooms to try. As many have mentioned, we also have to satisfy our desire for some variety. The nice thing about chasing comps at CET poker rooms is that any play in any place yields comp benefits in a variety of CET properties.

So it greatly helps my bankroll to grab rooms on sale Sunday-Thursday at a cheap price.
As Auggie says, we have to evaluate the comps we chase. My rooms at the Gold Spike last time were $12 plus $9 resort fee. So where could I chase a room comp that would make the chasing a good value?

Or another complexity.

I was chasing room comps at Main Street Station until they just seemed to get too tight for me. As Auggie says, the free rooms did not manage to justify the amount of play they required to get them, and so the value of the comp was reduced.
So I quit chasing room comps there.
However, that frees me up to take a $20 bill and play a bit of VP anytime on my trip without worrying about the watering down of my comp score. It especially frees me to play for the free Black Chip Porter at the Boars Head Bar as that requires play of $20 to 40 tops.

My sale nights last trip at the Gold Spike freed me up entirely from chasing comps on those nights. The only good play there is some 3/2 blackjack, and since I started playing live poker, I find Blackjack a bit boring and too much of a hassle to make it a postive expectation game. The rest at GS is all negative expectation. So those are the days I planned to walk the UNLV museum or take a hike at Red Rock, or play at the Pinball Hall of fame, or ride out to Henderson. I gambled some those days, but with no intention of any comps other than food and the free alcohol.

Chasing comps never means playing below bankroll; however, it often means playing nothing at all on some days and concentrating money to play above bankroll on others.


My wife does not like gambling and sometimes I feel sad about that. But these solo trips to Vegas are pretty free times with no schedules and no household management discussions. So, I guess I am lucky she does not like gambling.

She gets tired too of my couponing, the cousin of comp chasing.

When her friends ask her in that soto voice if she isn't worried that I am addicted, she tells them, "Oh, I know he is addicted, but its not to gambling. He's addicted to coupons."

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

TR Snippet Cosmopolitan freeplay signup gets me $200 profit

The Cosmopolitan promotion is probably the best right now. It is not advertised. If you don't know about it, they just give you $10 in freeplay.
However, if you choose the $100 deal, here is how it works.
If you lose $100 on machine play, they will give you $100 in freeplay.
However, you must be down to zero to qualify. So if you play some small advantage game, and if you win $50, you must lose that $50 as well was the $100.

For many of us, this has meant that the best approach to this promotion is to gamble big at a high variance while putting the first hundred at risk, and have a winning stop place in mind. Many people feel if they double up, that is plenty, and so they set a stop score of $200.

If the $100 goes away, then when the casino gives the $100 in freeplay, we do just the opposite and gamble at low variance, maybe video blackjack, where after running the freeplay through one time, we can recoup much of it. Deciding ahead of time to do this means that the high risks associated with the initial high volatility gamble are offest with the knowledge that rather than risking $100 overall, we are probably risking more like $50 total at worst.

So, one of my local poker buddies did this, lost on the big bets, and recouped $95 on the freeplay.

Bucket on this board took the same approach and I think he about doubled up.

I walked around quite a while. I am a very low stakes gambler. This was to be a treat kind of gambling, a chance to gamble big time with no chance of losing big time. It was a good bit of fun. 

I suggest if the whole idea of putting $100 at risk over just a short while makes you feel uncomfortable, this system is not for you. Also, if you really would like to be entertained over a long period of time, then you might want to put even the first hundred into one of your favorite grinding slots. You still get benefit from the promotion.

If entertainmentforms the utility of your gambling pleasure, then you might lose $100 and then the freeplay as well, but see that you had just twice as much fun for the money.

For me, I wanted a shot at making a bit of money. 
And I expected that within an hour I would be done, one way of the other.

At first, I thought I might try just two pulls on a $25 two coin slot. When will I ever do that in my life? But I decided I wanted a bit more pleasure than that and found a high volatility double, double or triple video poker. Playing max coin meant putting at risk $19 a spin, but it got me 15 lines.

I went down to $83, and never any lower. My stopping point was $200, and I was soon at $268, so I did what I do when my bankroll is just one $20. I set $200 as one stop point and $300 as another. Some quad sixes set me up to about $340, so I reset my two stopping points and that was the end of the winning. I cashed at $301 having played for about fifteen minutes and sauntered off happy to see my $10 Sin City Comedy show. To put this win in perspective. I was in Vegas for 23 days and left $236 behind. The lowest I ahd been was $500 and the highest about $300 up. So this was a huge gamble for this small stakes player