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Best of John Grochowski

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A shuffle through the gaming mailbag

17 August 2010

Q. My wife and I decided to take a trip to Las Vegas for our 30th anniversary. We had a wonderful time, but there was something that really bothered me. Usually, we stay at less expensive places, but this time we decided to treat ourselves and stay at Wynn.

We'd reserved at $179 a night, but at the check-in desk they told us there was also a $20 a night resort fee. To my way of thinking, that's not a $179 room, it's a $199 room. I told the women at check-in that we weren't spa people, we were there to gamble a little, see a show or two, eat at some nice restaurants. We wouldn't be using these resort services they were charging us for.

She told us that the fee allows guests to use all the amenities without worrying about extra fees. I said this WAS an extra fee, and they shouldn't be hitting me with it without telling me in advance. This strikes me as false advertising.

A. The monthly Las Vegas Advisor (www.lasvegasadvisor.com) just did a survey of Las Vegas resorts, and found that the majority now have a mandatory resort fee on top of their room rates. They range from the token $1 a day at the Palms to $24.99 at J.W. Marriott and at Red Rock.

Among those with no resort fee are the Harrah's properties (Harrah's, Caesars Palace, Bally, Paris, Imperial Palace, Rio, Bill's, Flamingo); Boyd Gaming's downtown properties (Main Street Station, Fremont, California), and others — Bellagio, Aria at City Center, Golden Nugget, Golden Gate and the Arizona Charlie's properties among them.

I don't have a big problem with a resort including an amenities charge in its room rate, as long as that's disclosed upfront. If Wynn wants to charge you $199 a night, amenities included, you can make your decision on that basis. If it quotes you a rate of $179, the tacks on a $20 amenities fee after you've booked, THAT's a problem. Now the $179 rate is just a come-on.

The charge is the same either way, but there's a miles-long difference in terms of being honest with customers and letting them make an informed choice on where to stay and what to pay.

Q. I have had better luck playing on the downloaded slot credits rather than cash at the machines. I had one day where I downloaded credits they gave me and won $1,200, $2,400 and $4,800, all within 90 minutes. Does the fact that I downloaded credits play any part?

A. Nice streak! Congratulations. The possibility of a streak like that is why we play, isn't it?

Now then, as far as the random number generator goes, it doesn't know if you play cash or downloaded credits or tickets. It doesn't know if you've won or lost. It just keeps generating numbers that are as random as human programmers can manage. Nothing in the universe above quantum level is perfectly random, but RNGs get really, really close.

The manufacturer just sets the possibilities, and the odds of the game lead to the long-term payback percentages. It's the same as in a table game, where the possibilities — such as the presence of Nos. 1-36 plus 0 and 00 in roulette — lead to the odds of the game, which lead to a long-term payback percentage. It's possible in roulette for the same number to come up three times in a row, but over time, the hot streak will fade into statistical insignificance as random results and odds of the game lead to the house collecting an average of 5.26% of wagers.

Same deal on slot machines. Neither the manufacturer nor the casino are making your jackpots occur at any specific time, but every result is possible on every spin of the reels. If you hit three jackpots in 90 minutes, great. Over time, with repeated play the house will collect its percentage.

Q. Does a 9/6 Jacks or Better video poker game pay more on dollars than on quarters? I always heard that dollar games pay more.

A. In video poker, percentages are changed by changing the pay tables. A 9/6 Jacks or Better machine is the same game, with the same average paybacks regardless of whether it takes quarters, dollars or any other denomination.

On slot machines, it's usually true that the higher the denomination, the higher the payback percentage.

Video poker is different. You can tell the payback percentage on a machine by looking at the pay table. Assuming the rest of the pay table is equal — and it usually is — a 9/6 Jacks or Better game that pays 9-for-1 on full houses and 6-for-1 on flushes will pay 99.5% with expert play, regardless of the coin denomination. It'll pay something less than that to non-experts, depending on skill level.

If the casino wants to offer a lower-paying game, it's usually done by changing the flush and full house paybacks. An 8/5 Jacks or Better game, paying 8-for-1 on full houses and 5-for-1 on flushes, pays 97.3% with expert play and a few percent less to non-experts.

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