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Best of John Grochowski

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Bankroll Bombers and Coin Gobblers

13 May 2003

A couple of weeks ago, I detailed some of the casino games that give players the best runs for their money.

Now it's time for the other side, the bankroll bombers and coin gobblers that are quickest to take your money.

SLOT MACHINES: The one-armed bandits--which often come armless nowadays--are the fastest, most efficient tool casinos have to separate you from your money.

In the look at the games that give you the best run for your money, I used a $10 bet on each game as the standard for comparison. On slot machines, that would mean betting two coins at a time on a $5 machine. In the Chicago area, $5 machines return about 96 percent of wagers to players. Steady play on a slot machine will bring about 500 spins per hour--for those who play rapidly, it's possible to get in close to 1,000 spins per hour. Using the slower pace, a two-coin bettor playing an hour on a $5 slot risks $5,000 per hour, and loses an average of $200.

Compare that to the average hourly loss of about $2.50 for a blackjack basic strategy player betting $10 a hand, $4.20 for a craps player betting pass or don't pass, or even the $25 for a video poker player betting the maximum five coins on a $2 9-6 Jacks or Better machine.

At lower slot denominations, the average bet and total risk falls, but the house edge rises. On a $1 slot, players who bet a maximum of three coins per pull will risk $1,500 per hour. The 95 percent return means average hourly losses of $75 per hour. On a quarter machine, three-coin bets mean a risk of $375 per hour, and a 93 percent return means average hourly losses of $26.25.

Nickels? You don't want to know. If you bet a maximum 45 coins per pull on a nickel video slot, you risk $1,125 per hour. With 88 percent payback, average hourly losses are $135. Even if you bet only one nickel for each of nine paylines, average hourly losses are $27--more than the average losses for $10 bets on any of the "best run" games listed here two weeks ago.

ROULETTE: Speed isn't an issue here. You play roulette only about a tenth as fast as you play the slots. If you get in 50 spins of the wheel per hour--and play sometimes is even slower--the average risk for a $10 bettor is $500 per hour.

The problem with roulette is that the house edge is higher than on most table games. On a common double-zero game, the house edge is 5.26 percent on all bets except for the five-number wager on 0, 00, 1, 2 and 3. The house edge on that one is a hefty 7.89 percent.

Assuming you avoid the worst bet, average losses for a $10 bettor at roulette amount to about $26 an hour. That figure is the same regardless of whether you bet the $10 on one proposition or spread it around on several numbers.

BIG SIX: This old carnival game looks flashy and novice gamblers sometimes find it irresistible. Looks aren't everything.

In Big Six, U.S. currency is placed in slots around a vertical gaming wheel, and the player bets on which denomination will be at the top when the wheel stops spinning.

There are 24 stops with a $1 bill, which pay even money; 15 with $2, which pay 2-1; seven with $5, which pay 5-1; four with $10, which pay 10-1; two with $20, which pay 2-1; and two with special symbols, such as a joker and a casino logo, which pay 40-1.

That 5.26 percent house edge on roulette would look great here. Big Six house edges are much higher--11.1 percent on $1, 16.7 percent on $2, 18.5 percent on $10, 22.2 percent on either $5 or $20, and 24.1 percent on the special symbols.

The saving grace is that this is a slow game. Forty spins an hour is breakneck speed for Big Six. At 40 spins an hour, the $10 bettor risks $400. If he or she sticks to the best bet on the wheel--the $1 spaces--average hourly losses come to about $44.

CRAPS: Okay, craps made the list of "best run" games, but that's for those who will stick to the best bets at the table. For those who bet the one-roll propositions, it's another matter. We're talking about house edges such as 11.11 percent on any craps, or 16.67 percent on any seven. And we're talking about a decision on every roll--as many as 100 decisions an hour. The best of the bunch is the field bet, with a house edge of 2.78 percent if the casino pays 3-1 on 12 and 2-1 on 2, or 5.56 percent if it pays 2-1 on both 2 and 12. With $10 wagers for 100 rolls, the risk is $1,000 an hour, with average losses of about $28 on the good version of the bet and $56 on the bad version.

Craps can be a good game, but avoid the one-rolls.

VIDEO POKER: Also on the list of good games, video poker turns sour in a hurry if you ignore the pay tables. In 9-6 Jacks or Better, where full houses pay 9-for-1 and flushes pay 6-for-1, expert play brings an expected return of 99.5 percent. That, as we saw two weeks ago, means average hourly losses of $25 if you're wagering $10 a hand by betting five coins on a $2 machine, or $12.50 an hour on dollar games and just $3.12 an hour on quarter games. But if you play the 7-5 version, with full houses paying just 7-for-1 and flushes 5-for-1, your expected average return drops to 96.2 percent, and average hourly losses soar to $190 on a $2 machine, $95 on a dollar machine and $24 on quarter game. Watch those pay tables, and watch your bankroll.

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