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Best of John Grochowski

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A shuffle through the gaming mailbag

21 June 2012

Q. I have a question about slots strategy. I went to the casino last night and got back a chunk of my recent losses. A little background: I'm very old-fashioned and only play the max (75 cents) on mechanical machines. There's too much going on with most video machines and I have no idea how I won or how I lost.

I won off a particular machine that KILLED ME this winter. My question is, how long do you keep playing a winning machine? I kept hitting multi-colored 7s with one or two doubler 7s thrown in. My rule of thumb is when I win a big chunk, to round it off and play that. I find it keeps me from giving it all back. For example, if I'm up to 356 credits I'll play the 56, and then convince myself to walk away.

Last night was tough, that machine was in an uncharacteristically giving mood. I think I played down 50 or 60 credits. Should I have stayed on longer? Before I left, I threw $20 more in the same machine with my usual luck.

A. Past wins or losses have no effect on future outcomes on slot machines. No matter what your results have been, the expected return on a game remains the same from that point forward. However, slot machines are what analysts call "negative-expectation games," meaning there is a house edge and players overall will lose money on the games.

In any negative-expectation game, it makes good sense to protect a large portion of any winnings, since your most likely outcome from that point forward is to lose money.

I like to play mental games that amount to floating win goals and loss limits. If my buy-in is $100 and my credit meter reaches $150, I tell myself, "OK, I want to give this game a shot, but I don't walk away a loser." So I'll set $100 as my floor, and if the credit meter drops to that point, I'll cash out. If I get a nice win or two and the meter rises to $175, I'll revisit my limits, and tell myself that I'll walk away at $125, for a $25 profit.

The details of any such system are up to the individual, but it helps discipline me to walk away from any negative expectation game without blowing my full stake.

With larger wins, you can give yourself more leeway, but target an exact amount to protect. If I buy in for $100 and the meter is down to $60 before I hit a $1,000 jackpot, I have a decision to make. My new total is $1,060. Do I want to set my floor at $1,000, so that the most I spend is my original buy-in, and I walk away with the full jackpot? Do I tell myself it's OK to invest another $100 in addition to my original buy-in, and set my floor at $900? Either way is valid, and enables me to walk away with a good chunk.

That's a roundabout way of saying there is no hard-and-fast rule. It's up to the individual. But I do suggest setting in your own mind an exact walk-away point that will protect most of your winnings, then sticking to it.

Q. My brother-in-law says he played at a blackjack table with video cards, but real chips. I've played with real cards, but video betting, and with all video. Do you have any idea why the differences, and how much difference it makes to players?

A. One of the leaders in electronic versions of table games is DigiDeal. Among its first products was Digital 21, with real chips but cards dealt on a video screen, with a random number generator. It blurred the lines between electronic game and table game, and was licensed for play in some jurisdictions that did not permit table games, or did not permit house-banked table games.

DigiDeal still distributes table games with video game play and real chips. Instead of a dealer, such tables have a "game host" who makes payoffs and serves as the casino's point of contact with its customers. But DigiDeal today also distributes games with real cards and electronic betting, and fully automated games in which both gameplay and wagering are electronic.

Other companies have chosen not to follow the real chips, electronic play model. Shuffle Master, the United States' largest distributor of proprietary table games, uses electronic wagering but real cards on its iTable, and has other product lines of fully automated electronic table games.

For advantage players, tables that use real cards can be counted like any other, though the iTable uses a card-reading shoe that has the potential to allow surveillance to rate play more accurately. If the cards are dealt by an RNG, on the other hand, the effect can be like a fresh shuffle on every hand, with no count possible. There have been electronic table games with "cards" removed from play between shuffles, but operators can offer a fresh deck with every hand with no time for shuffling necessary.

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:

> More Books By John Grochowski