Smart play plus cash-back makes for a positive expectation game

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I am a little confused when you say that with comps, you can make video poker and blackjack a “positive expectation” game. Could you please explain how comps make up for the “built-in” house edge on the two games that I play? Jason G.

Bless their hearts, casinos love to offer their patrons a wide variety of freebies ranging from small trinkets to first class, all expense paid trips. The hook here, Jason, is that all comps serve the same purpose: To fuel a player’s gambling losses at the machines and table games. Fortunately, many gamblers of today are hard-core bargainers who insist on being catered to at no cost to them.

Now here’s a dirty little casino secret. Gamblers did not invent complimentary drinks, food, rooms, or anything else educated gamblers can get their grubby little hands on. The casinos did!

Casinos make gazillions persuading players to hand over their hard-earned money. So, in the spirit of competition, casinos started offering comps to attract and keep loyal customers. Today these incentives are taken for granted, and knowledgeable player uses them to bargain for the best deals, along with lowering the house edge.

The main objective in using a Player’s Club card is to be rewarded for your patronage by getting your fair share of comps and cash-backs. When you add smart play and decent paytables, you can turn a game like video poker or blackjack into a positive expectation game.

For example, with proficient play, a 9/6 machine (nine for the full house, six for a flush), the house edge is under 1%. Coupling your skills with incentives like cash back and other comps, mathematically, you now have an overall return greater than 100%. Hence, a “positive expectation.”

Note, Jason, that it doesn’t necessarily have to be “comps included” to make a certain video poker machine a positive expectation game. Take an 8/5 (eight for the full house, five for a flush) video poker machine that has a progressive meter. If the linked progressive meter reads at least $2,200 on a quarter and $8,800 on a dollar game, you have now crossed the threshold to a positive expectation game.

As for blackjack, you not only earn more in comps and cash-backs than you would at most other table games, it too can be made into a positive expectation game, with of course, some use of your noggin. Here’s how.

Casinos by-and-large use a customary two-percent advantage over blackjack players in calculating how much they are willing to give a blackjack player in cash-backs or comps. However, the basic strategy player can reduce that house edge to under one percent, which, with cash rebates along with your skillful play, makes blackjack a winning proposition with an overall return greater than 100%.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: “A number of moralists condemn lotteries and refuse to see anything noble in the passion of the ordinary gambler. They judge gambling as some atheists’ judge religion, by its excesses.”  – Charles Lamb, Essays of Elia, 1832

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