Blackjack has always offered a great value in the casino for anyone willing to learn basic strategy. Without card counting, a player that uses an accurate basic strategy at the table can play games at most casinos with substantially under half a percent house edge. Even the worst rules and conditions rarely exceed a house edge of 0.8%.
If you are a recreational player, you can consistently overcome that small edge with the value you receive from comps of free rooms and food. Why is it possible to get back more in comp value than your actual expected loss?
The reason is simple… Most players do not play accurate basic strategy. They play the game badly. As a result, the typical player loses substantially more than a fraction of a percent of their action, and the comps given to blackjack players reflect this higher theoretical loss.
Of course casinos know that basic strategy players lose a lot less than the average player, and they supposedly have a way of dealing with this problem. But, fortunately, their solution just doesn’t work…
When you sit down at a table and hand over your player card, the pit personnel will write down the length of time you play, and the size of your average bet. What you may not know is that most casinos also have a notation for how strong a player you are. Generally the rating cards will have spots to mark your ability as “Superior”, “Average”, or “Poor”. If you are a solid basic strategy player, and the pit is doing their job, they should be marking you as “Superior”, meaning that your play has very low expected losses. This would negatively impact the comps that will be extended to you, because your theoretical loss will be very small. This system is intended to keep basic strategy players from getting more back in comps than they will lose at blackjack.
So, why is a basic strategy player still able to beat the system at virtually all casinos? Pit bosses mark almost every player as Average in skill. During a session at the recent G2E gaming conference, the moderator quoted a study that was done of 2 million player ratings. Of all those rating cards, only six were marked as “Poor” players. That’s easy enough to understand, because if a player were ever to accidentally learn that they were rated as a poor player, they would likely be offended. And poor players are the bread and butter of the casino. What’s more surprising is that of those same 2 million ratings, only a handful were rated as Superior. More than 99.9% of the ratings were “Average”.
So how do you exploit this casino loophole?
- Play accurate basic strategy. (If you aren’t sure of the exact strategy for your game, see our Strategy Engine).
- Inflate your rating by timing your bigger bets to be on the table while the floor person is watching.
- When you leave the table, ask about your average bet rating. When confronted, the floorperson will often fudge on the side of higher bets.
- Most importantly, make sure you get all the comps you have earned. Ask!
I still have a couple of topics that came from the gaming conference, including the comments on RFID chips that I said would be in this post. That’s coming next.
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