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Best of John Grochowski

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A shuffle through the gaming mailbag

5 August 2008

Q. Recently at the Grand Victoria in Elgin I was playing video poker (Double Bonus Poker or Double Double Bonus — I was switching).

A king, queen, jack and ace of clubs came up, along with a 10 of hearts. My husband said I should keep that hand because it was a winning hand, a straight. I keep thinking I should have gone for the royal. Isn't that what I'm there for? What would you have done? Thanks for your opinion.

A. I'd have gone for the royal. Keep the straight, and your five-coin bet brings you 20 coins on Double Double Bonus, or 25 on any Double Bonus games worth playing. (Hint: If straights pay only 4-for-1 at Double Bonus, don't play. Look for a better game.)

Break up the straight, and you risk getting nothing, but you have a 1 in 47 chance at a royal worth 4,000 coins. In addition, you could still draw one of the other two 10s for a straight, or a different club for a flush, or pair up one of the high cards. You'd have some kind of winner on 23 of the 47 possible draws.

That chance at the royal brings your average return on that hand up to more than 90 coins per trial, with the exact figure depending on pay table. The bigger reward is well worth the risk of winding up with a losing hand.

Temptation is strong to stick with a nice, safe winner, but if it was my hand, I'd have discarded the 10 of hearts, crossed my fingers and hoped for the big one.

Q. When playing slot machines I understand that the moment you hit the spin button your result is predetermined by the random number generator within the slot machine's computer brain. Now, many of the new video slots have bonus rounds that are interactive — allowing the player to pick whatever (diamonds, packages, monkeys, etc.) and many of the payoffs can be substantial, or they can be hardly anything at all.

My question is, are the bonus rounds really at the luck or skill of the player maneuvering through the bonus options or is that part of the payoff also predetermined by the computer brain upon the initial hit of the play button?

A. Bonus round possibilities are set by a random number generator, but your choices do make a difference. Let's say you're playing Jackpot Party and the gift box on the bottom left corner is hiding a 200-credit bonus while the one next to it is hiding a party pooper that ends the round. When you pick, you have a chance at that 200-credit bonus that will allow you to continue picking. You also have the chance at a pooper that will end it there, and you have the chance at any of the other outcomes hidden by gift boxes on the screen.

Your final bonus is not predetermined. It could be thousands of credits, it could be the minimum for hitting the pooper on the first pick, and it could be anything in between.

The random number generator just sets the possibilities. It does not just give you a set bonus.

Q. When playing a video slot machine at a casino, is a player rewarded equally in casino comps whether he puts cash in the machine or when he puts in a ticket with unused credits from a previous trip at the casino? Does a player receive more comps by inserting cash?

For example, if I play at a roulette table and purchase chips for cash, the casino employee falls all over me to rate me to determine my comps. However, if I sit down at the table and just use unused chips from a previous visit, the casino man ignores me, so obviously, the casino is only interested in fresh new cash coming in. Is it the same on the video slot machines? If so, from now on I will cash out my tickets every time I leave a machine so that on my subsequent visits I will put only cash in the machine.

A. Slot comps are based on your play, regardless of whether your credits came from cash or a voucher.

You can see that in casinos that let you know their formula up front. At the Empress Casino in Joliet, Illinois, for example, every $4 you wager on slots, or $8 on video poker, brings one point, and every 500 points brings $5 in cash back at the lowest club tier, with higher tier players needing only 450 or 425 points for their five bucks. It doesn't matter whether the credits for the wagers came from vouchers or fresh money, the points accumulate on the basis of your wagers.

You're going to see such systems go into effect at the tables in the next few years as more casinos invest in the technology to track your wagers electronically. The technology exists now, but it's expensive. As the price comes down, more casinos will go that direction, and your comps will be based on actual wagers rather than the pit trying to track buy-ins and average bet sizes.

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