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Best of John Grochowski

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Penny slots and combination betting

26 March 2015

QUESTION: My question has to do with the lack of single-line, 25-cent reel slot machines in many of the casinos I look to play at in Atlantic City and Las Vegas. They’re tough to find, the once popular Red White Blue, Wild Cherry and Double Diamond slots ... while rows and rows of various penny slots sit idle.

My personal thoughts are that players stood a better chance at winning on the reel type machines than they do on many of the penny slots, so the RWB, Double Diamond, Wild Cherry, 25-cent single-line machines have been gradually removed from many casino floors. Your comments please?

One other observation I have noted is the virtual disappearance of hand-paid jackpots. What used to be fairly commonplace is now a very rare occurrence.

ANSWER: Video slots, especially pennies, have taken over casino floors because when given a choice, that’s what the customers play. If players had shown a marked preference for reel-spinners during video slots’ rise, then the reel-spinners would have continued to dominate slot floors. Casinos want the games that will get you to play.

When penny slots sit idle, it doesn’t mean another type of game would be bringing in the players. Casinos are still feeling the effects of the economic downturn of the last decade, and are dealing with heightened competition, too. New competitors in Pennsylvania and Delaware have made a big impact on Atlantic City, and even Las Vegas feels a pinch from huge new tribal casinos in California as well as the national proliferation of legalized gambling.

All that being said, 25-cent, three-reel games do bring players higher payback percentages than the penny slots. With variation by region and by individual casinos, we see paybacks on quarter slots ranging from about 90 to 94 percent, while pennies are at about 85 to 88 percent.

Also, three-reel slots put a greater percentage of their return into the top jackpot than video slots do. With video slots, you're getting much more frequent small paybacks, designed to give you extended play and entertainment value. Three-reel slots had fewer small hits and you could go broke faster, but you also had a greater chance at a large jackpot.

That's part of the reason you see fewer hand pays now. The other part is that some big hits that used to be paid by hand are now just added to the credit meter. Jackpots of $1,200 or more have to be paid by hand because of IRS regulations, but hits of $1,000 or so that used to be paid by hand now just go on the meter.

But yes, you had both larger payback percentages and a better chance at a hand-paid jackpot on quarter three-reel games than you do on penny video slots. The trade-off is that the video slots have more frequent small hits, bring extended play and use video and audio effects to entertain.


QUESTION: In craps and roulette, where there are so many different bets, is there any combination the casino won’t let you make because it’s too powerful?

ANSWER: No. There’s no combination that can overcome the house edge. In any combination you can put together, the resulting house edge is a weighted average of the house edge on all the individual components.

Look at it this way: The house is perfectly willing to accept bets from different players on each piece of your combination. What difference does it make to the casino if all those bets are being made by the same player? Operators are comfortable knowing they have the mathematical edge.
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:

Winning Tips for Casino Games

> 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