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Best of John Grochowski

Gaming Guru

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A shuffle through the gaming mailbag

25 August 2009

Q. Is it better to play a single-line video poker machine or the multi-line machines? If they have they same pay table (10/7/5) would it really matter?

A. Payback percentages and strategies are the same regardless of whether you're playing single-hand, Triple Play, Five Play, Ten Play or any other multiple-hand version of video poker. The determining factor on payback percentage and strategy is the pay table, not the number of hands being played.

If you're playing 10/7/5 Double Bonus Poker, it's a 100.17% game with expert play regardless of the number of hands being played, and if the Double Bonus pay table is dropped to 9/6/5, it's a 97.9% game with one, three, five, 10, 50 or 100 hands.

Obviously, betting three hands at once requires a larger wager in credits than playing one hand at a time, so if you're bankrolled for a 25-cent, single-hand game, you don't want to go jumping into quarter Triple Play. But for a dollar single-hand player, quarter Triple Play or Five Play can be a fun option. Just be cautious on the pay table — if you're getting 9/6 Jacks or Better on a single-hand machine, it's not worth the pay table drop to play 8/5 Jacks or Better on a multi-hand game.

For the uninitiated, the numbers before the names of video poker games usually refer to the returns with one coin wagered on full houses and flushes. In the case of Double Bonus, a third number is added to refer to the payoff on straights, so that 10/7/5 pays 10-for-1 on full houses, 7-for-1 on flushes and 5-for-1 on straights.

One caution on payback percentages: When we talk about a 100.17% return with expert play on 10/7/5 Double Bonus, or a 99.5% return on 9/6 Jacks or Better, the figures are long-term averages. All video poker players, experts or not, lose more sessions than they win, with rare hands such as royal flushes making up the difference in the few sessions they come up.

Q. I had been playing craps in a casino where they allowed a "put bet." They have stopped this play after at least three years that I was playing there.

What do you think of a put bet and do you of any casinos who offer this play?

A. Most casinos offer a put bet, which bypasses the comeout roll and permits you to wager on a point number while taking free odds. Just ask the dealer or stickman when you buy in.

There are advantages and disadvantages to the put. The disadvantage is that you don't get the come-out effect, winning on 7 or 11 while losing only on the less often-rolled 2, 3 or 12 before your come point is established. If you don't take free odds, that leaves a house edge of 9.1% on 6 or 8, 20% on 5 or 9 and a whopping 33.3% on 4 or 10.

The advantage, of course, is that you get to take your free odds right away, and free odds carry no house edge, being paid at true odds. The point at which a put bet on 6 or 8 is as good as a place bet is 5x odds. Anything less, and you're better off placing the numbers instead, but at more than 5x odds, you're better with the put than the place.

If your number is 4, 5, 9 or 10, the meeting point is 4x odds. But then, the house edge is 4% on placing 5 or 9 and 6.67 on 4 or 10, so a bet as good as place is no bargain.

Q. We see the progressive slots and wonder, how often do the top prizes actually get paid? Are the machines programmed to pay after a certain number of spins?

A. It's not that the slots are programmed to pay out over a certain number of plays or a certain amount of time, it's that the odds are set so that payoffs will come on the average once per a certain number of plays.

On games such as Blazing 7s, with small, rapid-hit top jackpots, the odds are set so that the jackpot will be paid an average of once per few thousand plays. On Megabucks, with its jackpot in the millions, the odds are set so the top jackpot will be paid an average of once per tens of millions of plays — my friend and colleague John Robison got hold of par sheets for Nevada Megabucks, and found odds of about 1 in 50 million.

But once the odds are set, they're just that — odds. In Blazing 7s, it's possible to hit the jackpot twice in a row, and it's possible to go tens of thousands of plays without one. In Megabucks, it's possible to hit twice in a row, and it's possible to go hundreds of millions of plays without one. Nevada Megabucks sometimes goes years between jackpots, even though the machines are being played enough to earn their keep.

The number of jackpot symbol stops and the total number of stops on the virtual reels determine the odds. But once you start the reels spinning, anything can happen on any play.

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