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Best of John Grochowski

Gaming Guru

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A Shuffle Through the Gaming Mailbag

9 May 2006

Q. Is a person better off playing two quarters on a two-quarter [reel-spinning] slot or nine or 10 nickels on a nickel slot? Also, on a progressive slot it states that in order to win the jackpot one has to play the maximum amount. On a nickel progressive machine this quite often has 20 lines and play of maybe five coins per line. Does that mean that I would have to play one hundred coins --- 20 lines times five coins per line?

A. On a strict payback percentage basis, you're usually better off betting a couple of quarters on a three-reel slot than the same amount of money on a nickel video slot. Even though players bet as much or more money per spin on the nickel games as they do on quarter reel-spinners, the quarter games have higher payback percentages. In the Chicago area, we see payback percentages of about 91 to 93 percent on quarter games, but only 87 to 89 percent on nickels.

Payback percentage is just one way to evaluate what slot you should play, however. There's a difference in the experience that makes reel-spinning games appealing to some players, while others prefer the video slots that have more paylines and more bonus features. The quarter reel-spinners may have a higher payback percentage, but they're also more volatile. There's more of a chance you'll lose your money fast on those games. The multiline nickel video games are less volatile, with more frequent small payoffs. They'll keep you in your seat longer, but in the long run will pay less.

It comes down to choosing why you are playing the game. If you want the best long-term payback, and the best chance at a large win, you'll get that on the quarter reel-spinners. If you like the entertainment value of bonus rounds, want a good, long run for your money and are willing to give up some of the payback percentage to get it, that's what you'll find on the nickel video games.

As for your second question, some, but not all, video slots with progressive jackpots require you to play maximum coins to be eligible for the progressive payoff. Read the rules on the machine before you play.

As you know, playing max coins even on low-denomination slots can get pretty expensive in the video age. Bet 100 nickels, as in your example, and you're wagering $5 per spin --- more than the average player on dollar reel-spinning slots. I've even seen penny video slots with 25 paylines taking up to 20 coins per line. Again, that's a potential $5 wager. A pretty penny indeed, if you're betting the max to be eligible for a progressive jackpot.

Slot manufacturers have come up with some creative ways to address that issue. Aristocrat, king of the penny games, makes the progressive jackpot a separate bet in its double standalone games, including George Lopez, Agassi and Zorro. To be eligible for the two-level progressive, the player must bet at least one coin on each payline, and make a 10-coin progressive ante. On a game such as George Lopez, with 25 paylines taking up to 20 coins per line, you can be eligible for the progressive jackpot with a 35-coin bet, instead of the max coins wager of 500 coins.

Atronic has gone about it a different way with its e-Millions wide-area progressives. These are nickel video slots, linked to a big progressive jackpot that starts at $1 million. What if you don't bet the max? Well, you're not eligible for a million bucks, but you can still win a million nickels.

Few players really bet the max on multiline video slots. I don't --- I usually bet one coin per line, even on penny games. For progressive jackpots to have any real impact on video games, the jackpots have to be available to players who don't bet $5 a spin, and that's something manufacturers and casino operators understand.

Q. I learned to play video poker on 9-6 Jacks or Better. My problem is that I get a little intimidated when I play other games. I'm never really sure that I'm making the right play. Do you have a suggestion for a game to try? I play sometimes in Indiana, but I save my main play for Las Vegas.

A. The game that plays most like Jacks or Better is Bonus Poker, since both have the 2-for-1 return on two pair. But since you play in Las Vegas, you might want to look for 10-7 Double Bonus Poker. Playing at expert level requires learning a number of quirky little moves, but it's a high-paying game even if you just apply expert strategy for 9-6 Jacks or Better to the Double Bonus machines. With expert play, 10-7 Double Bonus returns 100.17 percent, but video poker pro Bob Dancer once wrote that applying 9-6 Jacks or Better strategy brings a 99.8 percent return on 10-7 Double Bonus.

For any game, I recommend practicing on the computer, with either Jean Scott's Frugal Video Poker or Bob Dancer Presents WinPoker being terrific learning tools.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Beat the Odds" tips Saturdays at 6:20 a.m., 2:50 p.m. and 7:41 p.m. and Sundays at 8:20 a.m., 2:50 p.m. and 10:42 p.m. on WBBM-AM, News Radio 780 in Chicago, streaming online at www.wbbm780.com, and to his casino talk show from 7 to 8 p.m. Saturday on WCKG-FM (105.9).

Recent Articles
Best of John Grochowski
John Grochowski

John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

> More Books By John Grochowski

John Grochowski
John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

Winning Tips for Casino Games

> More Books By John Grochowski