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Best of John Grochowski

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A shuffle through the gaming mailbag

12 January 2012

Q. I have a question about the new server-based slots. I get that the games aren't allowed to be changed while you're playing. But what if you're just taking a little break? My husband and I usually play together, right next to each other if we can find seats at games we both like. If I have my husband watch my machine while I go to the restroom, then come back 10 minutes later, could they change the game while I'm gone? If I've been winning, can they change the payback? Should I have my husband push the button every so often just to be safe?

A. Every jurisdiction has its own regulations, but my understanding is that no jurisdictions that currently have server-based gaming would allow any change in the games while there are credits in the meter. There is not going to be any change of game theme, credit denomination or payback percentage as long as you have credits on the game.

Customer uncertainty about how changes are handled is one thing casinos and gaming boards will have to deal with as server-based slot machines become more common. In Nevada, there must be a message displayed on the game screens that a change is in progress, then another message afterward that a change has been made. In northwest Indiana, the Majestic Star casino told me they tape a paper work order to server-based slots to indicate a change is being made, just as they tape a work order to non-server machines whose CPUs have been pulled to make game changes.

But there is a PR job to be done to convince customers that changes that will cost them money aren't being made willy-nilly behind their backs.

Q. Is there a strategy for deciding when to change machines and play a different game? I like the Wizard of Oz slots, and the Hangover, Lucky Penny and some others. Is there a set amount of money where if I lose it I should move?

A. With rare exceptions in skill-based games, there is nothing you can do to change the payback percentages at slot machines. They are purely games of chance, and past outcomes are not indicators of future outcomes. If you've blown through $40 on a penny slot, you are no more and no less likely to win on the next $20 than if you'd had better luck.

Whether you change machines basically comes down to how much you like playing the game. If you're having fun, then you might want to stay, and if you're not, you might want to move.

Of course, if you're losing enough that you're approaching your bankroll limit for the day, then you might want to move not just to another game, but out of the casino. Treat playing the slots as entertainment, and don't risk money you can't afford to lose.

Q. Back in the day, I played a lot of video poker in Las Vegas. I remember playing 9/6 Jacks or Better, and the royal flush jackpot was $1,199 instead of the usual $1,000. I haven't seen that $1,199 jackpot in some time, but I was wondering just how much that adds to the payback percentage.

A. I still see the $1,199 jackpot games every now and again, but I don't think I've seen it on 9/6 Jacks or Better in a while. I saw a few in downtown Las Vegas last summer on 8/5 Jacks or Better games.

The extra payback on the royal adds about four-tenths of a percent to the overall payback. With expert play, 9/6 Jacks or Better returns 99.54% to players when it has the standard $1,000 royal. That jumps to 99.94% with an $1,199 royal.

That $1,199 bonanza is $1 below the figure for mandatory tax forms. At $1,200, the casino is required by the IRS to have you sign a W-2G before it can pay you. At $1,199, there is no paperwork for the casinos, and the taxes are between you and the IRS.

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:

The Craps Answer Book

> More Books By John Grochowski