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Best of John Grochowski

Gaming Guru

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A shuffle through the gaming mailbag

28 June 2012

Q. I won a mini-slot tournament for $750. Lucky me! It was a low entry fee with just one round of play, and the prize was based on the number of entrants. But then they said I had to sign a tax form before they could pay me.

I'd won slot jackpots before, and I thought they didn't have the tax form unless they were over $1,200. I said so to the lady who was running the tournament, but she said I had to sign or they couldn't pay me. How come?

A. Slot tournaments are treated by the IRS as contests, and winnings are subject to rules on contest winnings. The casino has to have you sign for any tournament winnings of $600 or more.

I first ran into that situation a couple of decades ago, in the Never-Ending Slot Tournament at the old Sands in Las Vegas. It was a daily tournament with a $10 entry fee. I had a strong qualifying round where I lined up blue 7s -- the top jackpot on the machines used -- three times. I came back that night and found I was in the top 10, so I qualified for the final. There I lined up the blue 7s four more times and cruised to the $1,000 top jackpot. I had to sign a tax form before I was handed my 10 $100 bills.

On the same trip, I'd drawn a royal flush on a quarter machine, and that also was worth $1,000, but without the tax form. Same size jackpot, different situation, different rules.

Q. In casino statistics online from various gambling states, I see casino hold percentages and win percentages in blackjack listed at 16%, 17%, 18%. How can that be? I know there are some bad players, but no one should be giving the house 16%.

A. Those hold percentages are not the same thing as the house edge. When gaming board statistics list a hold percentage of 16%, it doesn't mean blackjack players have lost 16% of wagers. It means they've lost 16% of buy-ins.

That includes the effect of rebetting winnings as you play. Let's take an average player -- not a basic strategy player or an advantage player, but the kind of player who fills most of the seats and bucks a house edge of about 2%. And let's say he buys in for $500, wagers $25 a hand, wins a little, loses a little, and sticks around long enough to play 200 hands. He's made $5,000 worth of wagers. His expected loss at a 2% house edge is $100.

But if he actually loses $100, casino statistics won't see that as 2% of his $5,000 in wagers. They'll see it as 20% of his $500 buy-in. That's the hold percentage.

Electronic games are reported differently. There, actual wagers are tracked, and what you see on gaming board reports as a hold percentage or win percentage is the percentage of money wagered that's kept by the house. A casino marketing exec once argued the point with me, claiming that slots were a better bet than tables, because his casinos slots were holding 8% while the tables were 20%. I'm not sure I ever convinced him that they were completely different statistics that couldn't be used as a basis for comparison.

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:

The Craps Answer Book

> More Books By John Grochowski