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Best of John Grochowski

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How to play "gift" play

27 December 2015

QUESTION: I always use my player's card, and I earn free play to use on the machines while I play, and also get coupons in the mail for free play. Is one game better than another for using the free play?

ANSWER: That depends on your goal. If you love to play the penny slots and have $20 in free play, then why not just use it on a favorite game instead of using $20 of your own?

However, if your goal is to convert that free play into cash as close to $20 as you can, then use it for something other than slot play. Video poker gives you your best chance.

Video poker usually has a higher payback percentage than slot machines. Slot paybacks differ from casino to casino and market to market, but you’re usually looking at around 84 to 88% on penny games, 90 to 93% on quarters and 93 to 95% on dollars.

Even a so-so video poker game tops those percentages. Maybe your casino doesn’t have 9/6 Jacks or Better (99.5% return with optimal play) or even the 8/5 version (97.3%), but it’s a rare casino that doesn’t have games at least the quality of 7/5 Jacks or Better (96.2%).

Video poker also is a less volatile game than most slot machines. In Jacks or Better, more than 45% of hands at least get your money back. On three-reel, single-payline slots, you’re looking at winning spins less than 15% of the time. Some video slots have hit frequencies of more than 50%, but a large share of paybacks are for less than your wager.

If you’re a video poker player, I’d suggest you use the free play on the games you normally play at the highest pay tables available. If you’re a slot player just dabbling in video poker, then I’d suggest you use the free play on a low-volatility game such as Jacks or Better or Bonus Poker. Those games pay 2-for-1 on two pairs, compared to 1-for-1 on games such as Double Double Bonus Poker that put more of their payoffs into jackpot hands.

Again, it depends on what your goal is, and there are never any guarantees, but low-volatility video poker games give you your best chance at converting $20 in free play into something close to $20 in cash.


QUESTION: I think maybe you’ve written about this before, but what do you think about the idea that casinos make their money from winners?

ANSWER: Oh boy. First, let’s forestall those who always want to short-circuit this discussion by saying, “If casinos make money from winners, shouldn’t they just let everyone win?” Of course not. Casino revenue comes from losing bets, and if you want to stop at “casinos make all their money from losers,” go right ahead.

However, if casinos paid winners at true odds, then the winners would balance the losers and there would be no revenue. If you bet $1 on No. 17 on each of 38 spins of double-zero roulette wheel, then your average result is one win and 37 losses. The casino collects all its revenue your 37 losses and pays out on your one win.

However, if it paid you the true odds of 37-1 on that one win, then at the end of 38 spins in which you bet a total of $38, you would still have $38 — $37 in winnings plus your $1 wager on the winner. The casino makes money because it doesn’t pay true odds. It pays 35-1 on winning single numbers, so at the end of 38 spins you have only $36 of your $38, and the casino has a $2 profit.

All of the casino’s gross gaming income comes from losing bets. However, the reason its outgo doesn’t exactly balance that gross income and leave zero net income is because the casino pays winners at less than true odds.
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