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Best of John Grochowski

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A shuffle through the gaming mailbag

10 May 2011

Q. I was surprised to find a Three Card Poker game that was hand-dealt, going around the table in order just like regular poker. At most other casinos, it is machine-dealt in groups of three cards going around the table with the dealer last. Is there any difference in the odds based on these two different manners of dealing? Maybe the casino just does not want to pay for an automatic shuffler.

Also, at another place, the cards were machine-shuffled, but all three-card hands were given to the players, viewed by them, bets made or not, BEFORE the dealer took his three-card hand from the machine. I asked, "why" and got the "casino policy" answer. Your thoughts?

A. Hand shuffled vs. machine shuffled makes no difference in the odds of the game. Your guess is correct. Casinos that deal Three Card Poker by hand have just decided it's not worth the investment to pay for a shuffling machine. There's a tradeoff. Hand-shuffled games are slower, with fewer hands per hour. It's up to the casino to decide if the extra wagers per hour are worth the cost of the machine.

As for the method of the dealer waiting for the players to look at card and bet before taking his or her cards, that again makes no difference in the odds of the game.

Typically, a casino must submit a set of internal controls to the gaming board. Every detail, including the method of dealing the cards, must be submitted to the board, and then the casino must stick to them unless they notify the gaming board that they're changing. My best guess is that in the early days of Three Card Poker, table games execs at the casino you described decided this was how they were going to deal the game. That's what's in their internal controls and they've never felt a need to fall in step with the more common method of dealing the game.

Q. What can you tell me about the card game 3-5-7 Poker?

A. Available both on tables and as a video poker game, 3-5-7 Poker involves a three-card poker hand, then two more cards to make a five-card hand, then two more for a seven-card stud hand. Payoffs on all hands are according to a pay table. You must bet the three- and five-card hands, while an additional bet on the seven-card hand is optional. House edges are 3.5% on the three-card portion, 4.1% on five cards and 3.3% on the seven-card hand. Those are a little bit on the high side for poker-based games.

After you've seen the three-card hand, you have the option of surrendering half your seven-card bet instead of playing out that portion. Since the house edge is lowest on the seven-card portion, strategy for this game is to always play it out and never surrender.

Q. I know about the random generator, but if you're not doing well does it help to play slower till the cold streak is gone?

A. Playing slower doesn't affect game outcome. It does conserve money because you're making fewer bets per hour. So if you've been losing and want to stretch your money, then yes, playing slower is a way to do that.

Streaks happen, but they're not predictable in any way. There's no tendency for a hot machine to stay hot, or a cold machine to stay cold, and you can't help begin or end streaks in any way. But conserving money? That's a good thing.

Q. If choices make a difference in video slot bonus rounds, how can the game have a programmed payback percentage? If I always pick the bigger bonus, won't the game pay more?

A. Choices you make in a bonus round do make a difference on any one play, but not in any predictable sort of way.

Let's invent a simple bonus even, in which you pick one of three symbols to reveal a bonus award. If you touch one symbol, you get 25 credits, if you touch a different one, you get 50, and if you touch the other you get 75.

The amount you get isn't predetermined. You will get the amount assigned to whichever symbol you pick. If you're able to pick the 75-credit space, good for you. Your choice makes the difference.

However, no system for trying to determine which symbol hides the 75 will work. The shuffling of the symbols is random. The 75 could be on the left three times in a row, or not at all for several trials, or any other number. Over a very long time, hundreds of thousands of trials, players will pick the 75 about a third of the time, the 50 about a third of a time, and the 25 about a third of the time.

The odds of the game lead to an average payback of 50 credits on that particular bonus event. In determining a target payback percentage for the game, the programmer knows that, and that's built into calculations.

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