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Best of John Grochowski

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Bonehead plays

14 September 2014

QUESTION: I know you collect stories about unusual things that happen in casinos, and I have a couple for you. They’re a little embarrassing, since they’re about my own mistakes, but at least they’ve taught me to pay attention. So here goes.

I usually play dollar video poker but occasionally I go into the high-limit area and play one coin on a $5 machine. I've had success at hitting four deuces. Well, I hit a royal about six months ago. I thought I had hit for $4,000, since that's what a $5 bet would have been on a dollar machine. Imagine my disappointment when I realized the payout was only $1,250. I assumed same bet size would bring the same payoffs, but you have to bet max coins or else the royal is only 250-for-1.

It was a good payout, but I learned a lesson about not playing max coin in! But at the same time, I cannot afford $25 a hand.

The other thing is, when i get up from a machine to go to the men’s room, I always cash out, but leave my players card in the machine and cover the screen. In January I came back to my machine and began playing again. I hit four deuces for what I thought was for $1,000. It turns out the machine had a max 25-coin play instead of the usual five-coin max, and I had forgotten to limit my play to five coins, or $5. So, I ended up with a $5,000 payout instead of the thousand.

That time, I was grateful for the mistake, but by no means am I going to play $25 a hand on my bankroll!

ANSWER: Everybody makes mistakes from time to time, and in casinos, they’re often just like yours. Players make assumptions instead of reading the pay table, or just hit a button to play instead of making sure the bet is the size they want.

One of my own was on a quarter Multi Strike Poker machine. I assumed a 20-coin maximum bet, and hit the max bet button. This machine was set for a 100-coin max, and I was shocked when my $100 buy-in was down to $75 after one hand. I’ve done a similar thing on Super Times Pay, just assuming my machine was a quarter game like the one my wife was playing just to my right. It wasn’t, and my max bet was $30 instead of 30 quarters.

Your royal flush mishap came on a standard pay table, and that’s something you’re going to have to understand if you’re going to make one-coin wagers. Regardless of whether you’re playing nickels, quarters, dollars, $5 or any other denomination, royals usually bring 250 coins for a one-coin bet, with proportionate pays at 500-for-2, 750-for-3 and 1,000-for-4. Then there’s a big jump to a 4,000-coin jackpot with a five-coin bet. That means if pay tables are equal, you’re far better off to bet five coins at a time on a $1 game than one at a time on a $5 game.

QUESTION: I found a Three Card Poker game that paid 50-1 on a three-card royal instead of the 40-1 on a straight flush. All the games I’d seen before just treated Ace-King-Queen the same as any other straight flush. Other than that, it looked pretty normal, with 40 for a other straight flushes, 30 for three of a kind, 6 for a straight, 3 for a flush and 1 for a pair. How much does that lower the house edge?

ANSWER: Other than the mini-royal, the pay table you describe is the most common one offered by casinos in the Pair Plus portion of Three Card Poker. Without the mini-royal, that pay table leads to a house edge of 7.28 percent. With the mini-royal added, the house edge dips slightly to 7.10 percent.

There are 22,100 possible hands in Three Card Poker. Of those, 48 are straight flushes, and, of course, only four of the straight flushes are royals – one for each suit. With no mini-royal, you’ll be dealt a straight flush an average of once per 460.4 hands. On games that separate out the three-card royal, you’ll draw the straight flush once per 5,525 hands and other straight flushes once per 502.3.

Given such a small rise in payoffs, the mini-royals just don’t occur often enough to cut into the house edge by very much. At wizardofodds.com, Michael Shackleford calculates that a pay table that sets the mini royal at 200-1 on top of the 40-30-6-3-1 pay table has a 4.38 percent house edge. Even that’s nearly double the 2.32 percent house edge on the 40-30-6-4-1 game that was common a decade ago but extremely rare now.
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:

Winning Tips for Casino Games

> More Books By John Grochowski