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Best of John Grochowski

Gaming Guru

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A shuffle through the gaming mailbag

2 December 2008

Q. I had something happen to me in Las Vegas that I found unusual. My wife and I go three or four times a year and play $5 slots. My reservations were made through my host, with room comped in advance.

When I got settled in, I sat down to play a $5 Double Diamond machine, and within 15 minutes a different host came up to me and called me by name. I'd never seen the guy before, but he seemed to know me. He said that my host was no longer with the casino, but that he'd take care of us, and if there was anything we needed to call him. Then he gave me his card.

My question is, how did he know me? It wasn't even, "Excuse me, are you Mr. Smith?" It was, "Hello Mr. Smith! Is Mrs. Smith with you? I'm Bill Jones, and I'll be taking care of you this trip." There was no hesitation at all. Was there a picture of me, or a description left for the new host?

A. If you and your wife are playing $5 slots for lengthy periods, you are premium players, much valued by the casinos. When the executive hosts know you're coming, they'll be looking for you.

My best guess at how you were so easily and quickly identified is through your player rewards cards. Modern customer relations management software gives casino operators the tools to ease interaction with big-playing slot customers. Some systems can be set up to flash an alert whenever a premium player is in action. Even without such an alert, if a host checks action on $5 slots, and cross-matches with player rewards accounts to find who is playing, they could find you quickly.

Back when all the really big action was at table games, premium players would be interacting with dealers, floor supervisors, pit bosses and hosts, and casinos would count on their people to know when a valued customer was playing. With slot machines now accounting for 80% or more of gaming revenue, casinos have had to find ways to provide personal service to players whose primary interaction is with a machine. Player rewards accounts and CRM software help the hosts on their way to giving you the personal touch.

Q. Are video keno results on a random number generator? I used to win pretty often, but lately I've been losing.

A. The numbers drawn in video keno are determined by a random number generator, just as are the reel symbols you see on slot machines or the cards dealt in video poker. Each of the 80 numbers in a keno game has an equal chance of being drawn on every play.

Losing streaks are a normal part of keno play, whether you're playing the video version with numbers drawn by a random number generator or a live version with balls in a blower. There are many more losing combinations than winners, meaning not only that the most likely result of any one play a loss, but also that lengthy losing streaks are not only possible, but inevitable.

Without the long losing streaks, the big rewards wouldn't be possible. Whenever you hit a big jackpot, or even have a medium win on video keno or slot machines, the casinos can afford to pay it because they know cold streaks like the one you've been in are coming.

Q. Can you answer a question once and for all? I say you have a better chance to win at blackjack. My brother-in-law says craps is better. We've been arguing this for years. Who's right?

A. It depends on the skill level of the player.

If you're playing craps and betting all the one-roll propositions, well, blackjack doesn't get that bad. Someone who bets on "any 7" bucks a 16.67% house edge. That's one of the worst bets around.

However, if you stick to the bet bets at craps, the house edge narrows in a hurry. The house edge is 1.4% on don't pass or don't come, 1.41% on pass or come, 1.52% on place bets on 6 or 8. All those are better than the 2 to 2.5% house edge against an average blackjack player.

But ... if the blackjack player learns basic strategy, he or she can narrow the house edge to half a percent or so, even a few tenths less with favorable house rules. Counter but ... craps players who take advantage of free odds can also get the house edge into the tenths of a percent, even hundredths of a percent if the house offers enough odds and the player's bankroll is big enough.

Really skilled blackjack players can get an edge on the game, erasing the house edge entirely, by counting cards, but it's not easy. A select few craps players can get an edge with dice control, but that's really not easy.

Bottom line is that there is no short answer. Whether it's craps or blackjack that has the lower house edge depends on how well you play the games.

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:

Winning Tips for Casino Games

> 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:

> More Books By John Grochowski