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Best of John Grochowski

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A shuffle through the gaming mailbag

19 October 2010

Q. The random number generator on a slot machine stops as soon as you press the button or pull the handle. So how does the RNG work when you play a cascading machine? You don't press any buttons, you just watch. So how does the RNG determine what comes up and when to stop?

A. On a cascading machine, the RNG still determines the positions each reel will stop in when you push the button or pull the handle. What you see on the screen is a segment of a very long reel strip, in a virtual sort of way.

What you see on reel No. 1 might be a diamond at the bottom, a ruby above it, an emerald above that and a sapphire above that, but if you were able to take the reel strip and stretch it out so you could see the whole thing, you might see a topaz above the sapphire, another ruby above the topaz and so on.

All those symbols already are "there," just as on a three-reel slot the double bar just out of sight is really there. When a winning combination causes the reels to cascade down, the next symbols in line just come into sight.

Your original spin determines where the reels stop, and the rest of the cascade just follows from what symbols are on those reel segments.

Q. How can we gamblers go about getting the taxable threshold of $1,200 on slot jackpots changed to today's current dollar value? In 1972, I went to Las Vegas and most machines paid out jackpots of $1,199, so you wouldn't have to pay taxes. If you did win $1,200 dollars or more, you didn't mind paying the taxes because that was about a month's salary.

Nowadays, 38 years later, it's still set at $1,200. If you are a dollar player, you usually have that much invested before you win, and paying taxes leaves you well behind.

I think today, it should be set about $10,000 for slots and at least $50,000 for tables. What do you think?

A. You have a good point. Certainly, $1,200 isn't worth anywhere near as much today as it was when the gambling tax law was written. Unfortunately, players have no clout with lawmakers. I don't think we're high on the list of those in line for tax relief. Individuals can complain to their representatives, but there is no national casino players lobby.

With the effects of inflation and rising incomes, many more people play dollar-and-above machines than did in 1972, meaning many more players will win jackpots that require tax forms. A taxable, $4,000 jackpot that comes with a royal flush on a dollar game today has the same buying power as $761 — well under the tax requirement — did in 1972. If we were going to adjust for inflation, then the equivalent of a $1,200 jackpot in 1972 is about $6,300 today.

As a player, do I think the requirements should be adjusted? Sure. I just don't think casino players have the political clout to make that happen.

Q. What are the odds of hitting the jackpot in video keno?

A. That depends on the number of spots you're betting. In keno, there are 80 numbers and 20 are drawn. If you're betting a single spot, betting that your number is going to be one of the 20 drawn, the chances of that happening are a lot greater than the chances that all six of your numbers will come in for the top jackpot on a six-spot.

Betting a single spot, you have a 1 in 4 chance of your number being drawn. With a six-spot ticket, the chances of all six coming up rise to 1 in 7,753. Of course, the top payoff is going to be much larger with more spots marked — usually $3 for a $1 bet on a one-spot ticket, and more like $1,500 on the six spot — with a lot of room for variation from game to game and pay table to pay table.

The top jackpot does not tell the whole story on the game's payback percentage. From three spots on up, there usually also are smaller payoffs to go with the top payoff. But the question was about odds of hitting the jackpot. And that depends on the number of spots you're playing.

The more spots you bet, the longer the odds against hitting the top jackpot — but the bigger the payoff when it comes.

We're No. 8: The British website CasinoOnline.co.uk has rated the top 50 gambling books of all time. Looking through a list that started with Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and continued with Ian Fleming's Casino Royale, I was both surprised and gratified to find my Video Poker Answer Book at No. 8. My thanks to those who had a hand in making the list.

The full list, with short reviews of all 50, is at www.casinoonline.co.uk/book-reviews/top-50-gambling-books.

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