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Best of John Grochowski

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A shuffle through the gaming mailbag: Guaranteed play video poker

30 January 2007

Q. I was interested in Guaranteed Play Video Poker. You wrote that players are guaranteed a set number of hands, and said you got 100 hands for a $20 buy-in. How will casinos make up for that guarantee? Will they cut the pay tables way down?

Answer. For a game we probably won't see until late spring or early summer, Guaranteed Play seems to have struck a nerve. My e-mail box has been jammed with questions.

At Global Gaming expo, I played a demonstration version, getting 100 hands of Deuces Wild for a pretend $20 buy-in. For $20 on a traditional quarter machine you're guaranteed only 16 hands, if every one is a loser. (Don't laugh. I've had it happen.)

So how could they guarantee 100, or any other number? (Guarantees to vary by game and pay table.)

Guaranteed Play will sometimes give you extra chances to hit big hands long after the money would have run out on other games. Players will hit four-Ace bonanzas and even royal flushes on hands they wouldn't even have been playing if not for the guarantee.

However, they'll also lose their entire 20 bucks within the set number of hands more frequently than they would on traditional pay-as-you-play video poker games. In the long run, that will balance out.

The key to all this is that on Guaranteed Play the credit meter starts at zero, while on traditional video poker machines, when you slide that $20 bill into a quarter machine, the credit meter starts at 80.

That 80-credit difference in the starting point is how the casino is able to offer you a guaranteed number of hands without losing its chandeliers.

Let's say you're playing the guarantee. The credit meter starts at zero, goes to minus-5 as you hit deal, and you get a pair of Jacks, a five-coin win that brings the credit meter back to zero. Now let's say I choose to pay per hand. The credit meter starts at 80, my bet takes it down to 75, and the pair of Jacks brings it back to 80.

At that point, I could cash in for $20, but you have nothing to cash in. There is an 80-credit gap between us, and that gap holds up throughout the game. If you have minus-45 credits on a Guaranteed Play game, it means you would have plus-35 on a pay-per-play machine.

In order to cash out money on a Guaranteed Play game, you have to have a winning session, and on those sessions, you will get paid 80 credits less than if you'd paid per play. If after betting on the last hand you have minus-45 credits, and hit four of a kind for a 125-coin winner, that gives you 80 credits to cash out. If you'd paid per pay, you'd have started with 35 credits and the four of a kind would have given you 160 to cash out. That 80-credit gap is the price of getting Guaranteed Play's big upside.

I've been playing around with Guaranteed Play on a demo disc at home, and I've experienced the up side. Playing Double Double Bonus Poker with a 75-hand guarantee, I saw my credit meter sink to minus-115. I was dealt a pair of 5s, and on the draw the other two 5s turned up. Four of a kind, worth 250 credits, and I was at plus-135. Had I been playing for money, I could have cashed in for $33.75, while on a traditional game, I'd have lost my $20 the instant the credit meter hit minus-80.

I've experienced the other side, too. At the end of another session, my credit meter stood at minus-15. That left nothing to cash out on Guaranteed Play. On a traditional machine, I'd have had 65 credits left, meaning I could have cashed out $16.25.

Whenever the credit meter hits minus-80, you're playing extra hands you wouldn't have had in a traditional game, getting extra chances to hit that big bonanza. Whenever the credit meter stays above minus-80, you're just playing hands you would have gotten to play on a pay-as-you-play machine, and you're cashing in less than you would have on a traditional game.

In the long run, the times you cash in less than on a traditional game balance out any jackpot hands hit on extra play. Pay tables will not have to be shorted to make up for the guarantee --- starting the credit meter at zero already gives the casino what it needs.

There's one question I haven't been asked, but I'll answer it anyway. Yes, Guaranteed Play will force strategy adjustments in the late going. If you have minus-20 credits as you start the last hand, a 20-credit straight does you no good. It just brings the credit meter to zero, leaving you nothing to cash out. You'll have to make a play that gives you a chance to get above zero --- perhaps holding a single card, hoping for a miracle four of a kind, or two or more suited cards, praying for a straight flush.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Beat the Odds" tips Saturdays at 6:20 a.m., 2:50 p.m. and 7:41 p.m. and Sundays at 8:20 a.m., 2:50 p.m. and 10:42 p.m. on WBBM-AM, News Radio 780 in Chicago, streaming online at www.wbbm780.com, and to his casino talk show from 7 to 8 p.m. Saturday on WCKG-FM (105.9), streaming at http://1059freefm.com.

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