How Comps Are Distributed to Blackjack Players

So, you’ve sidled up to a standard blackjack table, slid your M Life or Total Rewards card to the dealer, and watched them scan it through to the system. Now what?

Well, that’s a mystery many blackjack enthusiasts are still trying to crack.

The Total Rewards website spells things out quite clearly for slots and video poker:
“You will earn 1 Reward Credit for each $5 you play on reel slot machines and $10 for video poker.”
But when you scroll down in search of table games like blackjack, the numbers aren’t nearly as clear – and in fact, Total Rewards doesn’t provide any concrete numbers at all:
“For table play, be sure to hand your Total Rewards card to the dealer or pit supervisor as soon as you sit down to play and ask to be rated.
Reward Credits are earned based on length of play, average bet and type of game.”
As you can see, Caesars Entertainment properties use a proprietary formula – based on how long you play, your average wager amount, and the type of table game played – to determine how many comp points you’ll earn. Obviously, this leaves quite a bit of wiggle room for the casino, while players never really know for sure how their blackjack session is being parlayed into points.

It’s even murkier over on the M Life website, which only provides the following information for table game players:
“Members must present their M Life Rewards Card to a table games pit supervisor prior to table games play.
M Life Rewards members must satisfy minimum betting requirements to be rated for table games.
Please see a table games pit supervisor at participating M Life Rewards destinations for such assistance.”
In this case, playing at an MGM Resorts property leaves you at the whim of a table games pit boss, along with an unknown minimum betting requirement.

Thankfully, the internet levels the playing field tremendously, and you’ll find plenty of blackjack forums and travel sites where players can discuss their own comp experiences. By perusing a few of these platforms, I’ve been able to come up with the following figures.

Whether you’re using the M Life or Total Rewards card, you’ll need to bet an average of $25 per hand just to get your play “rated” by the casino. For most recreational gamblers who bet the minimum of $5, or $10 when they’re feeling lucky, that threshold alone prices them out of the comp program.

But let’s say you pony up the dough and bet a green $25 chip on each hand (on average). Now, the next factor to consider is your hands per hour rate. Most industry estimates peg the average blackjack table at 80 hands per hour, so I’ll go with that.

If you’re betting $25 per hand and playing 80 hands per hour, you’ll have $2,000 in total bets on the table over that span.

The next calculation the casinos use involves their theoretical hold rate, or the number of dollars they can expect to win based on the game’s house edge. Depending on your skill level, blackjack offers a house edge between 0.50% (for basic strategy experts) and 1.5% (for folks playing by “gut instinct” alone). Knowing this, I’ll use a flat 1% house edge to make the math easier.

Having bet $2,000 in total over the hour, while facing a house edge of 1%, the casino’s theoretical hold stands at $20.

From there, you can expect to receive comp points equal to 10% of the hold, which comes to just $2 in this example.

REMEMBER
That was for one hour of play only, while most of us tend to stick around the tables for a few hours at a time. But for a general rule of thumb, assume you’re earning about $1 in comp points for every $1,000 you put at risk in a 60-minute period.

The big problem most blackjack players encounter is improper ratings by the pit boss. It’s their job to closely observe the action, entering your typical betting unit and your time at the table into the system. But if the pit boss sees you starting out at $10 bets to warm up, before you start firing the green chips, you might not ever get rated at all.

On the other hand, you might get your rating set at $25 bets from the outset, only to up the ante when you’re on a heater. At this point, you could be betting $50 or $100 per hand, all while the system continues to track you as a $25 bettor.

For this reason, blackjack players who value comp points should always take measures to clarify their play to the pit boss. That’s their job, after all, so you’re not bothering anybody by asking for a quick chat. Just let them know your name, that you’ve had your card scanned, and your plan for the game.

Something like “Hi there, I’m so-and-so, and I’ll be betting $25 and up for the next hour or two” should be sufficient. And if you decide to increase the stakes midway through the session, just give the dealer a glance and let them know to alert the pit boss about the new wager.

This can all seem like a chore at first, especially for casual gamblers, but it’s the only ironclad way to ensure that your blackjack play is properly rated.

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