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Best of John Grochowski
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.
A. Those hold percentages are not the same thing as the house edge. When gaming board statistics list a hold percentage of 16 percent, it doesn't mean blackjack players have lost 16 percent of wagers. It means they've lost 16 percent 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 percent. 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 percent house edge is $100.
But if he actually loses $100, casino statistics won't see that as 2 percent of his $5,000 in wagers. They'll see it as 20 percent 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 percent while the tables were 20 percent. I'm not sure I ever convinced him that they were completely different statistics that couldn't be used as a basis for comparison.
This article is provided by the Frank Scoblete Network. Melissa A. Kaplan is the network's managing editor. If you would like to use this article on your website, please contact Casino City Press, the exclusive web syndication outlet for the Frank Scoblete Network. To contact Frank, please e-mail him at email@example.com.