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Best of John Grochowski

Gaming Guru

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A shuffle through the gaming mailbag

3 May 2012

Q. I saw a craps game with cards. It used two cards instead of a dice roll. You played just like at a craps table with 10 times odds. It had the same craps layout. What do you think of this game? What are the odds?

A. The came is called Card Craps, and it's primarily used in markets such as California where dice games are illegal.

The only cards used are aces through 6s, mirroring the 1 through 6 spots on the faces of a standard die. All the familiar craps bets -- pass/don't pass, come/don't come, place numbers, the field, hard ways and more -- are there. Bets are on two-card deals. If the dealer turns up an ace and a 6, that's a 7 that's a pass-line winner if it's a come-out or a loser if a point's already been established.

There's one extra feature, necessary to give Card Craps wagers the same odds as their equivalents at the dice tables. Two cards of the same suit are a "No Call."

All wagers hold until the next deal that turns up cards of different suits. You can bet on No Call, for a 3-1 payoff.

I first saw the game a few years ago at Global Gaming Expo, and game distributor Red Door Gaming passed out an analysis by Stanley Ko, who as proprietor of Gambology is hired to analyze many new games. The house edges will sound familiar to any craps veteran -- 1.41% on the pass line, 1.52% when placing the 6 or 8, 16.67% on any 7, and so on.

There are fewer players per table at Card Craps, the pace isn't quite so frenetic, and the player can relate easily to a single dealer instead of a boxman, stickman and two dealers. I like it as an option in states where standard craps with dice is barred.

Q. Can a video poker game be manipulated to return lower odds even if the pay table states a 9-6 game? Is there a legal way for the casino lower the payout or restrict certain hands from appearing and still display the traditional pay table?

A. For those who aren't experienced video poker players, let's start by explaining that a 9/6 machine refers to the payoffs on full houses and flushes. When full houses pay 9-for-1 and flushes 6-for-1, it's a 9/6 game. We refer to games by those numbers because changing full house and flush paybacks is the most common way casinos use to change the payback percent on video poker games.

Now then, manipulating programming so that high pay tables appear on the screen but certain winning hands are repressed or payouts otherwise altered is illegal in nearly all gaming states, and would be caught by the testing labs before the game was licensed for casino use.

There are exceptions. Some Native American casinos have what are known as Class II games, which are really electronic bingo machines even if they have a video poker interface. They are recognizable by a bingo logo on the screen or glass. On such games, your result is going to be whatever the electronically drawn bingo balls say it should be. If you make a strategy mistake, the machine will fix things so you get the credits the bingo draw says you should get. On such games, strategy does not matter, and they don't necessarily have payback percentages that correspond to the pay tables.

Similarly, in New York State there are video lottery terminals that look like video poker machines, but game play is really the equivalent of getting an electronic scratch-off card on every play. Again, strategy makes no difference, and payback percentages can be lower than the pay table suggests.

But in state-licensed casinos in Nevada, Mississippi, New Jersey, Colorado, Illinois and nearly all other gaming states, as well as in Native American casinos on non-bingo machines, video poker is programmed and regulated so that every card has an equal chance of appearing.

That doesn't mean you're going to get the full theoretical payback percentage every time you play, or even most times you play. A 9/6 Jacks or Better game has a 99.5% returns with expert play, but most players aren't experts, and get a few percent less than that.

Even for experts, that percentage takes into account royal flushes that come up an average of only once per 40,391 hands. They account for nearly 2% of the overall return, but it can be a long, long time between royals. Between royals, even experts are playing only a 97.5% game, and that means most sessions will be losers.

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:

The Craps Answer Book

> 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