Q. I’m at a loss to explain what’s happening in my players club and hoped maybe you could help. My wife and I go to a casino together, maybe two or three times a month. She plays slots the whole time, mainly on pennies. She likes the entertainment, but doesn’t really like to spend much money, so sets a budget for herself. I don’t think she’s ever lost more than $40, or won more than maybe $25. Usually, she’s in the $20 range.
I spend maybe half my time playing slots with her. The other half, I play blackjack. The minimum bet at the low-roller tables where I play is $10, and I probably average $15 a hand. I have more risk tolerance than she does, so sometimes I lose $100, even $200, though I have bigger wins, too.
She gets more free play in the casino, which you’d expect since you get points for free play on the slots and not on the tables. What amazes me, though, is how much more she gets in the mail than I do. In the same day’s mail, she’ll get an offer for $20 in free play, two complimentary buffets and maybe a room for $55, while I’ll get $5 in free play, a buy one, get one buffet offer and a $75 room night.
I’m making bigger bets and giving them more of a shot at my money. So why are they giving me so much less?
A. There are a couple of components here. First, dollar for dollar, slot players are worth more to the casino than are table games players. When playing the penny slots, your wife is spotting the house an edge of roughly 12 percent. The exact figure varies from game to game and casino to casino, but penny slot paybacks usually are in the 85-to-90 percent range. When you’re playing blackjack, you’re spotting the house only half a percent or so if you know basic strategy, and somewhere between 1 and 2 percent if you’re an average player.
On top of that, slots play much faster than on table games. Your wife might be making 500 wagers per hour at her slot while you’re making about 60 wagers per hour at a mostly full blackjack table.
Let’s do a little arithmetic. If she’s betting one coin per line on a 40-line penny slot, she’s betting 40 cents a spin. Multiply that by 500 spins, and she’s wagering $200 an hour. If you’re betting $15 a hand for 60 hand an hour, you’re risking more money, at $900 an hour.
Now let’s factor in the house edge. If she’s spotting the house a 12 percent edge, her average losses come to $24. If you’re on the weak end of the average player spectrum and spot the house 2 percent at blackjack, your average losses come to $18 an hour. If the house assumes a 1 percent edge on an average player, then it will comp on the basis of a $9 theoretical hourly loss, and a basic strategy player cuts that down to about $4.50.
Even though your wife is far less money than you are, she’s worth more to the casino and will get more direct mail offers in an effort to entice her into a return visit.
In modern player rewards systems, there’s another factor — several other factors, but let’s keep this simple. Play patterns can be modeled and compared with those of other players. If the data suggests that players with your wife’s profile often step up to more visits, or to two-coin per line wagers, or anything else that makes her more valuable to the casino, she could receive offers based in part on her potential play.
In player rewards, it’s not just the size of your wagers that matters. The games you choose, their house edges, how often you play them and your potential value to the casino all count.
Q. A quick question. I’ve read that you shouldn’t split 10s. Do you have any stats on that? If I split 10s against a 6, isn’t it true that I win less money per dollar of my bet, but I win more money overall than if I stand?
A. No, 10 is a much weaker starting point than 20, and you win less money overall by splitting the pair even though you’re putting more money on the table.
If you stand on a pair of 10s vs. a 6, your average winnings come to $70.31 per $100 wagered. If you split the 10s instead, the average winnings drop to $43.18 per $100 in ORIGINAL wagers, or $43.18 per $200 once you include the split bets.
Unless you’re a card counter in an extreme positive count, it’s best never to split 10s.
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