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Best of John Grochowski

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Skill-based slots

22 November 2018

QUESTION: Some of the new machines are so far away from what I’m used to seeing that I wonder if they still should be called slot machines. If there are no spinning reels at all, even on a video screen, is it really a slot?

ANSWER: I’m going to guess that you’ve seen some of the new skill-based slots that seem more like something you’d have on your PlayStation than casino games.

GameCo’s Danger Arena, for example, is a first-person shooter in which you’re asked to gun down robots as you navigate the aisles and obstacles in a warehouse. Your payback depends on the number of robots you shoot.

Most skill-based slots at this point leave the skill elements to bonus events, as in Konami’s Frogger or IGT’s Tulley’s Treasure hunt.

But GameCo and other companies breaking into the slot industry are eliminating reel play altogether and making the skill portion the main game.

Is that a slot machine? It is as long as players embrace the games and terminology.

In at least one sense, virtually no games are really slot machines anymore. They don’t have coin heads. There is no slot to drop in coins to activate machines.

The term “slot machine” has been around since the 1880s. It originally referred to any coin-operated device. If you dropped coins into a machine and got a chocolate bar, you were buying your candy from a slot machine.

That changed in the 1900s, and slot machine came to mean specifically coin-operated gambling devices. The term has persisted through the elimination of coin slots, and I expect it will persist through the change in the games on those gambling devices.


QUESTION: I’ve heard that some video poker games deal royal flushes more often than others. Isn’t that an indication that the games are not random? If the games are dealt from a random deck of cards, shouldn’t you get the same hands in the same numbers in every game, with the only difference being what the hands pay?

ANSWER: Changes in player strategy affect the proportions of hands in video poker games.

We can see this clearly by comparing 9/7/5 Double Bonus Poker, where royals occur once per 48,035 hands given expert play, and 9/6 Jacks or Better, with royals once per 40,391 hands.

Imagine you’re dealt queen, 10 and 4 of hearts along with a 9 of clubs and a 5 of spades. What do you do with the hand?

In 9/7/5 Double Bonus Poker, the 7-for-1 payback on flushes leads us to hold three cards of the same suit a lot more often than in games where flushes pay less.

In this case, the best play is to hold Q-10-4 of hearts. The average return for that play is 2.32 coins per five wagered. If you hold just the queen and 10 to leave open a long-shot chance at a royal flush, your average return declines to 2.24 coins.

In 9/6 Jacks or Better, flushes pay 6-for-1 and three parts of a flush are less valuable than in 9/7/5 DB. Not only that, two pairs in JB pay 2-for-1 instead of the 1-for-1 in DB, and that increases the value of holding fewer cards and leaving more shots at two pairs.

So in 9/6 JB, holding suited Queen-10 brings an average return of 2.36 coins, and that’s better than the 2.23 on Q-10-4.

Random results will bring more royals in Jacks or Better not because of any difference in the way cards are dealt, but because optimal strategy leads players to leave open the possibility of royals more often.
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