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Best of John Grochowski

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A shuffle through the gaming mailbag

25 August 2011

Q. I have a couple of questions:

1. Whenever we get together with a group of casino players, this question comes up quite often. When a new casino opens, they think the machines are set up to pay more to bring the people back. I think the odds are the same, because doesn't the state have control on setting changes and make sure everything is OK? I knew a gentleman that was working for the Empress Casino in Joliet, Illinois, a while ago, and he said whenever they get into the circuit board, a state rep. was there.

In Las Vegas, at the old Westward Ho, we watched them change the settings on the tournament machines. When the tournament was over, the computer man made the changes for regular operation!

2. A few years ago, we were on an overseas flight that had video games built into the back of the seat in front of you. When we played the video poker, it seemed neither my wife nor I could lose. I don't remember the odds. The question comes up, when the hand is dealt to you, are they already made up in the computer or is it random? How come we kept winning? Does the computer learn your style of playing? I know a little about computer programming, and that gets me thinking!

A. 1. In order to change the payback percentages, a slot attendant has to open the machine and change a chip. In most states, the process is very detailed. A gaming board agent has to be present, the machine is opened, evidence tape broken, the old chip removed, the new chip put in and resealed in evidence tape, the machine closed and locked, and the gaming board agent signs off on the move.

That process is going to be streamlined considerably as server-based gaming starts to take over more casino space. With server-based slots, the payback percentage, coin denomination and even the entire game theme can be changed quickly on a computer screen. Gaming board officials still will have to be sign off on changes, but instead of each machine being opened and individual chips changed, the operator will be able to define whole banks of machines to be changed at once from a remote computer.

State gaming boards are taking steps to make sure that games can't be changed while someone is playing, and that machines display a notice that changes are being made before they can take effect.

Tournament slots are subject to the same chip-changing process as machines set up for cash play. Tournament machines typically are set up for 200 to 300% payback. No casino is going to allow that in regular play for money. The chips have to be changed, and the gaming board must be aware of the process. Changing to tournament mode and back again also is being streamlined by server-based solutions.

2. I doubt the machine on your flight was letting you win. The operator wants to make a profit. You just hit a hot streak. They happen.

I can't speak for the randomness standards of the games you were playing over international waters. In licensed casinos in the United States, your draw is random. After you see your first five cards, the remaining 47 are continuously shuffled until you hit the draw button. Then you get replacement cards off the top of the deck. In some countries, that method is not used. Your final result is determined at the time of the initial deal.

That's also the case on Class II machines at some Native American casinos. Class II games are really electronic bingo, and the poker cards or slot reels are just designed as a user-friendly interface that provides a representation of the result determined by a bingo draw. Most Native American casinos have regular, random number generator video poker games, but in those that use Class II games, your strategy makes no difference. Your result has already been determined, and if you make a mistake on what cards to hold, the game will use a fairy or a leprechaun or genie or some magic symbol to give you the credits you should have won.

Regardless of which method is used, machines do not learn your style of play and adapt to it. Random number generator games just keep dealing cards, and let the odds of the game handle payback percentages. Class II bingo-style games draw bingo numbers from a central server that determines results for a number of machines in the casino. Video poker games in licensed commercial casinos and in Class III games in Native American casinos use a random number generator. In neither case does the machine learn your style of 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:

> More Books By John Grochowski