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Best of John Grochowski
A shuffle through the gaming mailbag1 December 2011
A. The programming in video poker doesn't allow for a lower frequency of small-paying hands to pay for the progressive. Progressive or not, the deck is electronically shuffled, results are random and the odds are the same as if you were using a well-shuffled deck of real cards.
A casino that wants its base game to pay less on a progressive game will change the pay tables, just as they do on their regular video poker games. The same casino might have 9/6 Jacks or Better non-progressives and 8/5 progressives. If they have 9/6 progressives, they're giving the player something extra above the 9/6 pay table.
Slot machines are different both in programming and in regulatory requirements. Casinos can and do have lower-paying games with lower frequency of small paybacks on progressive machines. But in video poker, any change in the game is out there for the world to see in the form of the lower pay table.
Q. I have been getting lots of spam about a roulette technique that basically says the following:
A. It's awful. The system will win more often than it loses, but when it loses the losses will be ridiculous. It's a variation on the old double-up Martingale system, but more dangerous because the bets get bigger faster.
Let's take his $5 example. In a losing streak, your bets would have to be $5, $12.50, $31.25, $78.12, $195.31, $488.28, $1,220.70.
Note that after six losses, your wager is over $1,200. You're running into table maximums — I don't know of many casinos that allow that sort of bet on a $5 table, so at that point the system goes out the window. Even if you're allowed to make that bet, on your six losses you've already totaled over $800 in losses. And now you want to risk going over $2,000?
The odds of six losses in a row are greater than people who buy into these awful systems think. You'll lose six in a row on about 2.1% of all trials. That one streak in 47.6 trials will wipe out all winnings and still leave you with a big loss.
A. The Chicago area gaming market is going through a shakeout period, and I hesitate to predict what any of the operators in that area might or might not do. We had already seen slumps in business in Joliet, Aurora and Elgin due to the 1-2 punch delivered by the economic downturn and Illinois' smoking ban. Added competition from the summer opening of the very successful Rivers Casino in Des Plaines left smaller pieces of a shrinking pie for everyone.
Perhaps older casinos will regain some market share once everyone has seen Rivers. Some players will settle back into their old favorites. To bring old players back, and perhaps to attract new ones, casinos emphasize personal relationships with their guests along with updated restaurants and amenities, promotions and player reward incentives.
What I've not heard anyone speak of yet is a change in game mix. The Chicago area used to be an outstanding video poker market, with games that were an attraction. That's no longer the case. As you noted, minimum bets at the tables cater to premium players. And we're seeing more video slots that are pennies or 2 cents in name only, with minimum bets of 50 cents or a dollar on low-paying games.
In boom times, that might be way to go, maximizing revenues in packed casinos. In the current market, someone might benefit by rethinking a mix of games that prices some players out of the market and sends a message to choosy players that their business is not wanted.
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Best of John Grochowski