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Best of John Grochowski

Gaming Guru

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A shuffle through the gaming mailbag

19 April 2012

Q. You always mention that the payback percentage for dollar slots is better than the 50- or 25-cent slots. How about in a multi-play slot machine where you can choose $1, $.50 or $.25? Does the payback change as you change the denomination, or are you getting a lower payback for dollars because you can play the smaller denominations also?

A. Yes, as a rule, the higher denominations on a multidenominational game pay more than the lower denominations. Each game on a multidenom machine has its own random number generator and game programming.

I can't vouch for the percentages being different on every game on every machine. Casinos have options as to what payback percentages they have installed when they order the games from manufacturers, and if they wanted the same version on quarters as on dollars, they certainly could do that. But that's not the norm, and there is nothing about putting the different denominations on the same machine that sticks all permutations with the same payback percentage.

We can see that most easily on video poker games, where it's visible that pay tables change as you change denominations on most multidenominational machines. In the first week of April, I was playing on an IGT Game King machine that had 9/6 Double Double Bonus Poker at dollar level, and 8/5 Double Double Bonus on quarters. Casinos don't follow the policy of putting higher-paying games at higher denominations as closely on video poker as they do on slot machines, but pay table differences do show us that on electronic games, it's not at all difficult to offer different payback percentages on different denominations.

With slot games, we don't have the same kind of visual cue that tells us which version pays more. But the standard procedure of putting higher payback percentages on higher-denomination games does apply. Far more often than not, if you choose a quarter game, it'll have a lower long-term payback percentage than the dollar version of the same game.

Q. I had a coupon for a 2-1 payoff on my first blackjack, but it said not valid on one-deck or two-deck games. Can you tell me why?

A. Without knowing where you were playing, or the specific rules of their games, my best guess is that the one- and two-deck games were paying 6-5 on blackjacks, while perhaps the six- or eight-deckers were paying 3-2.

When casinos were first adopting 6-5 payoffs, they usually were seen on single-deck games with good rules other than the blackjack payoffs. And some of those casinos offered coupons in their funbooks for 2-1 payoffs on the first blackjack.

Sharp players were using the coupons at the single-deck tables. If a casino offered a single-deck game where the dealer stood on all 17s, no double after split, no exotic rules, that's essentially a break-even game, with a very slight edge to a basic strategy player if blackjacks pay 2-1. If blackjacks pay 6-5, the house reclaims the edge in a big way, at nearly 1.4%.

But if a player goes to that single-deck game armed with a coupon for a 2-1 payoff on blackjacks, the 6-5 payoff doesn't come into play. The player gets a game with a 2.4% player edge, plays until the first blackjack, then leaves when the edge turns hard back in favor of the house.

Offering sharp players a single-deck game with good rules is obviously not the casinos' intent in distributing the coupons. Some quickly moved to deny the coupons at single-deck and double-deck games, and some eventually moved to put the conditions in print on the tickets.

That's probably what happened to you. The casino wanted the coupons used by tourists at six-deck tables rather than by advantage players at single-deck and double-deck tables.

Q. A question about casino memorabilia. A friend has gotten into collecting Sahara items after it closed last year. He showed me a rectangular chip marked with a $20 value. I'd never seen rectangular chips before. Was it actually used in the casino?

A. It was a baccarat chip. At the big tables in the baccarat room, the minimum bet often was $20. The only way a low-roller could play for $5 or $10 a hand as on a mini-baccarat table in the main casino floor. Twenty dollars is not a common minimum wager anywhere else in the casino, so chips of that denomination were made specifically for the baccarat room.

Nevada and New Jersey casinos alike have issued $20 baccarat chips, though I'm not sure I've ever seen one from parts of the country where big baccarat is less common.

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