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Best of John Grochowski

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A shuffle through the gaming mailbag

5 April 2012

Q. I have read, and understand what you have said about the random number generator. However, I vacationed many times in Mesquite, Nevada. The most recent was in January. I have played in the keno tournaments before, and the prize for winning first place was $325 in "Keno Bucks" (that you can only spend by purchasing more Keno tickets).

This year, they change the prize to $300 credit on the slot (any kind, including video poker) machines. I would swear, that when I enter my pin number to download the $300 in points, and begin to play, the winning payoffs are NOT as good as when you just put in cash.

My question: With the new computer/electronics, is there ANY way for the casino to LOWER the payoffs on slot machines, when the computer detects that you are "playing" on the $300 credit, and thereby changes the odds in payoffs? (Perhaps using another set of codes?)

A. The random number generator doesn't know where the credits on the machine came from. Free play, cash, tickets -- it makes no difference to the RNG.

Devices or programs that would change outcomes or payback percentages when free play is being used are illegal. You're getting the same game with free play as with fresh money.

If you tracked results over a very long time, you'd find your payback percentages with free play would be roughly the same as when you use fresh money or when you use tickets brought over from other games. In the short term, anything can happen, and a bad streak or two or three with free play can lead us to conclude there's something other than random chance at work.

Q. My husband and I are having a discussion regarding the slot machine Hangover and others like it. He claims that it doesn't matter which item you pick during a bonus round, the machine will give you the result it is programmed to. I think it does matter what item you choose in whether and what you win! Who is right?

A. You are. Your choices do make a difference. The random number generator on the machine just sets the possibilities. If it puts 160 credits behind the sword, and you pick the sword, then you're going to get 160 credits. If you pick something else, you're going to get a different outcome.

There's no way to exploit that. The RNG doesn't set the possible outcomes in any predictable sort of way. But your final result is not pre-determined.

Q. In your view, what does Frank Scoblete's Five-Count actually accomplish? Does it just save you a few extra bucks from not playing? It doesn't seem like there should be anything predictive about past results, and that the house edge should hold up.

A. When I first read Frank's Beat the Craps Out of the Casinos, way back in the 1990s, my thoughts weren't a million miles from yours. What and when you wager can't change the numbers that come up on the dice. Given a random game, the house edge is there, unchanging.

My feeling at the time was that the positives of playing the Five-Count lay in reducing exposure to the house edge. By not putting money at risk until the Five-Count was reached, the player was extending his session, staying in the action in the hopes of eventually catching a hot roll. The player would still lose 1.41% of his money on pass and come bets, but would have less money per hour at risk than a player who didn't Five Count.

I floated that past a fellow gambling writer, whose response was, "Maybe, but then why play at all? You could reduce your exposure to the house edge to zero by steering clear of craps."

But my view has shifted over the years, with a turning point coming when I started to see dice control in action and Frank shifted terminology in his books and articles from "rhythmic rollers" to "controlled shooters." What if, unbeknownst to you, you find yourself at a table with a controlled shooter? Will the Five-Count keep up off a disproportionate share of rolls by random rollers, and put on one a disproportionate share of rolls by the controlled roller?

To go a step further, there aren't all that many trained controlled rollers. But what if a player who is a random roller most of the time just has a stretch where he's doing everything right, gets in a rhythm that gives him a controlled roll that depresses the frequency of 7s? Will the Five-Count get you onto that controlled roll while keeping you off random rolls?

That, I think gives the Five-Count value beyond just reducing exposure to the house edge. It's not going to pick up a controlled shooter in every session, because there's not going to be a controlled shooter in every session. But as one who has seen some strong dice controllers in action, I want to be in on their rolls, while limiting wagers on the majority.

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