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Best of John Grochowski

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Royal flushes and handles on slot machines

30 June 2013

QUESTION: I have a couple of questions about royal flushes. How much do they contribute to the payback percentages you give on video poker games? I rarely get a royal flush, so what can I really expect to get back when I play?

While we’re on the subject, how much difference does a progressive jackpot mean in video poker? Can a good-sized progressive on the royal increase the payback percentage by very much?

ANSWER: Royal flushes account for about 2 percent of video poker paybacks, give or take a few tenths of a percent depending on the game. In 9/6 Jacks or Better, to use an easy example, the overall game returns 99.54 percent with expert play, with 1.98 percent coming from royal flushes. So in sessions during which we don’t get a royal -- and that’s the vast majority of them -- our average return is roughly 97.5 percent, again assuming expert play.

One fact of video poker life is that most sessions are losing sessions. Even video poker pros who play only 100-percent plus games such as full-pay Deuces Wild or 10-7 Double Bonus Poker have more losers than winners. But when we get the rare hands, those royals that show up only once in 40,000 hands or so, then we get 2 percent of our payback all in one shot, making up for a bunch of past losses.

As for progressives, each 2,000 coins added to the royal flush jackpot increases the payback percentage by about 1 percent. On 9/6 Jacks or Better, a royal paying 6,000 coins instead of the standard 4,000 coins increases the overall payback percentage to 100.65 percent with expert play -- adding 1.11 percent to the usual return.

Of course, what we consider “expert play” changes as we add more money to the jackpot, just as it does for any pay table change. For example, dealt ace-10 of diamonds, 3 of hearts, 5 of spades, 8 of clubs, with a 6,000-coin royal we hold both the ace and the 10, but with a 4,000-coin royal we hold just the ace. We do more royal-chasing with the higher jackpots.

QUESTION: I’ve been playing slots a long time. I used to love the three-reel games like Double Jackpot and Magnificent 7s, but now I play mostly video, just like everybody else.

One thing I miss is pulling the handle. I guess they aren’t even “one-armed bandits” anymore, but I used to have my strategy. If I had five losing spins in a row pulling the handle, I’d switch to pushing the button. If I was losing on the buttons, I’d go back to the handle.

That probably didn’t make any difference, but I do miss the handles.

ANSWER: You’re right in that it didn’t really make any difference. Once slots went electronic and the buttons were installed, pulling the handle just tripped the same relay as pushing the button. Handles were there as window dressing, a comfort factor for those used to them. Nowadays, on those few games that have handles, they’re a retro look.

I often hear from players who miss aspects of the old days on the slots, whether it’s the handles, coins clattering into the trays, coin cups or even change carts where you’d buy coins to drop into the slots. But modern slots are the casinos’ main gaming profit centers nowadays. They’ve moved on from the coin-dropping, handle-pulling days and aren’t going back.
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