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Best of John Grochowski

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A shuffle through the gaming mailbag

17 February 2009

Catching up on my e-mail after Global Gaming Expo, the first of a two-part shuffle through the Gaming mailbag:

Q. On video slots with bonus rounds, how much of your return comes from the regular game and how much comes from the bonus rounds? It seems like I do OK as long as I get the bonuses pretty often, but on a dry spell on the bonuses, the reels can't keep me going.

A. That differs from game to game and manufacturer to manufacturer. Some games have bonus events that occur more frequently than others. Some have bonus events that pay more than others. And some just have more bonus events than others.

Still, to generalize, one manufacturer told me that on its games, about a third of your return comes from bonus rounds. If you're playing a game that returns 90% to players, it's a 60% game without the bonus payoffs added. A 60% game is one that will gobble your bankroll, so you need those bonus events to stay in action.

Also keep in mind that when you are playing a bonus event, you're making no additional wagers. So when you go long stretches without a bonus event, you're making more wagers than you would with normal luck. That eats at your bankroll, too.

Long stretches without going to the bonus round are part of normal probability — they happen. A game programmed so that a bonus event occurs an average of once per 60 plays can have the bonus pop up twice in a row, and it also can go 100 or more spins without one. I know, and not just in theory. I count such things. The last time I played WMS Gaming's Jackpot Party, I went 148 spins without a bonus, then I got two in a row, and another five spins later.

When you hit a dry spell, all you can do is play within your bankroll and get out if the price is getting too steep. That's the same advice I give for any casino game. Play for entertainment, and set limits on just how much you're willing to invest.

Q. I was invited to play in a slot tournament, and I was surprised at how many winners I was getting. I must have hit the jackpot four times in 15 minutes! We were just playing for credits to see who won in the tournament standings, so I didn't get any money for all those jackpots. (Well, I did get a little — I finished third in the tournament.)

After the tournament, they shut all those machines down. Too bad, I wanted to play them and see if I could win some money.

A. Most slot tournaments use "tournament chips" with different math models than the chips that are in the games outside tournament play. The odds of the games are changed so you have a greater chance of seeing big winning combinations. Not only the number of top jackpots are increased, but also the number of smaller pays. Payback percentages are altered so that a player with average luck will see well over a 100% return.

Once the tournament is over, machines are shut down, as you noticed. Chips are then changed for normal casino play before they're brought back up.

If tournament chips were left in the machines for cash play, the casino would lose money. Had you gone out for a while and come back after the machines were reactivated, your play experience would have been far different than in the tournament.

Q. Is it ever smart to throw away a 2 in Deuces Wild video poker?

A. No. The closest call comes when you have four parts to a natural royal flush along with a Deuce. Let's say you have 10-jack-queen-king of diamonds, along with a 2, giving you a royal flush with wild cards. On most Deuces Wild machines, that's worth 125 coins for a five-coin bet, though some machines to be avoided pay as little as 100.

What if you throw away the 2 and hope for an ace of diamonds to complete a natural royal flush worth 4,000 coins? Your average return will vary according to pay table, but will always be less than 125, or even 100. In full-pay Deuces Wild, which pays 125 coins on the wild royal, 10 for a flush and 10 for a straight — your potential winners on a one-card draw to this hand, the average return for discarding the deuce is 96.6 coins.

Change to a common Deuces Wild version in which wild royals pay 125 coins, flushes 15 and straights 10, and the average return when discarding a 2 from 10-Jack-Queen-King suited is 97.2 coins. It's a closer call if you drop the wild royal to 100 coins, but the average return of 95.6 coins is still lower than your return for just keeping the wild royal.

It's possible to design a Deuces Wild pay table that occasionally would reward you for tossing a 2, but I haven't seen one yet.

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:

> More Books By John Grochowski