Comps and the Average Daily Theoretical

I’m sure you’ve heard someone say, ‘wow you won so much, they’ll give you anything you want’.

No, that’s not true. That’s one of the biggest misconceptions about casino comp policy.

In reality, the casinos do not really care how much you win or lose. Sort of. I’ll explain why the ‘sort of’ in a bit, but generally when it comes to comps, the casino cares more about your Average Daily Theoretical (ADT).


Simply stated, your ADT is a formula the casino uses to determine how much you will lost in the future if you continue to play using your gambling history. Your ADT is your theoretical value to the casino. Casinos care about theoretical value – rather than actual value – because they’re dealing with hundreds of thousands or millions of patrons. For the casino, the theoretical value of its’ player base, with almost statistical certainty, materializes as the actual value because of the large sample size of hands, dice rolls, and slot spins.

Certain Games Have a Higher ADT Potential Than Others

A basic strategy player who is betting $100 at blackjack and is less valuable to the casino than a player betting $100 on roulette.

The most profitable games are the slot machines. Other than the largest players, known as ‘whales’, slot players always have the highest ADT among the general population of gamblers. Slot machines play fast, and generally, the house has a big advantage against the player. Also, there is the ever important factor: a slot machine does not require hourly pay, health insurance, dental, a retirement plan, and never calls in sick. Slot machines are pure profit for the casino.

The least profitable games tend to be either poker, blackjack, or craps. Poker is usually treated as a loss leader, meaning the house doesn’t make much money on poker, but uses it to draw in players, so that their friends or family will play slots, while they’re playing poker. Blackjack tends to run low on the margins; so low that the casinos have been changing the rules to make the game more profitable.

How ADT is calculated

There is no one universal formula for how to calculate ADT. Different casinos use various ways to calculate ADT, but there are general factors to how ADT is calculated: the game involved, the house edge of the game, the average amount bet per hand, and the length of time played. In a future article, I will go into more depth on this issue.

For the individual player, for any given day or year, their theoretical may not be their actual win or loss, but if the player plays long enough – like over a lifetime – their theoretical will move closer to becoming their actual win or loss.

In the end, whether or not you agree or disagree, almost every casino uses ADT to figure out how much in comps to give you.


Let’s now talk about the freebies, themselves. To really understand comps, you must understand the difference between ‘earned’ and ‘discretionary’ comps.

Earned Comps

Before the player ever arrives at the table, the casino has devises an ADT formula by which it will dole out comps. These comps are known as ‘earned’ comps because the player accrues those comps as they play, and the accrual of the comp is determined strictly by the formula set by the casino.

Depending on which game you play, how fast you play that game, and how much you wager, the player will earn comps based strictly on your ADT.

Your earned comps are put into a bank, with the casino, for you to spend. So lets say you lose $100, the casino will place a percentage of your losses into the ‘bank of comps’ for you to spend.

For example, here is a pic of my bank of earned comp points before my last trip to Las Vegas. I had 5,669 points, which is the equivalent of $56.59 worth of comps that I could use to apply to the cost of room, meal, goods in the casino, etc. If I had spent $10.00, on lets say a sandwich, then the casino wold deduct 1000 points from my comp bank, resulting in a balance of 4,669.

Notice that $56.69 is not enough for a room for one night in Las Vegas, much less four nights in the middle of the Las Vegas strip.

What this means is that the house is merely using your own money, that you lost, to buy you that ‘free room, buffet, food, drink, or whatever.  It’s arguable whether or not an earned comp can really be considered a comp, but that’s another issue for a later date.

Discretionary Comps

While the casino usually only cares only about ADT, there are exceptions. While it’s generally true that a casino doesn’t care if you win or lose, some wins or losses might be so big that it forces the casino to care. This is when the casino turns to something they refer to as ‘discretionary’ comps.

If you have a big win, the casino might be afraid that you will take your money to a competing casino and lose it at that competing casino. If you have a big loss, the casino is afraid that you’ve been burned so badly, they’ll lose a customer for the future.

So to keep you around, they will issue a comp at their discretion, just to keep you from wandering to the competition or quitting entirely. These discretionary comps usually require a host or casino supervisor to be involved.

Example of Discretionary Comp

Here is an email of my supervising host forcing a bean counter to comp me at Caesars Palace, which is a very expensive hotel.

Notice that the first person stated that I did not qualify for the comp. At the bottom of the email, the host, using his discretion, told the person to go ahead and book me for the room (nonsmoking king bed).

The casino will do everything in its’ power not to issue a discretionary comp. A discretionary comp is a form of gambling for the casino. Casinos, ironically, do not like to gamble. They want to know that any comps they’ve issued, you’ve earned through their ADT calculation. With a discretionary comp, the casino is betting that you will pay back the comp by continuing with them in the future. It’s a risk for the casino.

In a future article, I will talk about how to acquire discretionary comps. For now, it’s important to just know the difference.


I’ll close by adding this piece of advice: never alter your play for comps because the casino is just giving you back a small portion of your losses (this is true even with discretionary comps).

In a nutshell, that’s how comps work.