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Best of John Grochowski

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Slots and video poker payouts

7 September 2014

QUESTION: My mom showed me something you wrote that said video poker games that have the same pay tables have the same odds, regardless of whether they’re quarters, dollars or anything else. Does the same go for slot machines? I get that you can’t tell exactly what the payback is, but if you look at how much each winning combination pays, and it’s the same on two machines that take different coin values, are the percentages the same?

ANSWER: Not necessarily, no. It’s a pretty solid rule to assume that dollar slots pay a higher percentage than quarters, which pay more than nickels, which pay more than pennies. It’s almost always the case that higher-denomination slot machines offer higher payback percentages.

On video poker, we can do the math and calculate theoretical payback percentages given expert strategy for each pay table variation. That’s because Nevada regulations require games that use representations of playing cards to offer true odds, and other states have followed Nevada’s lead. The odds of any given card being dealt in video poker or video blackjack are the same as if a physical deck of cards was in use.

That regulation does not apply to slot games. Game programmers don’t have to offer the same odds of a given symbol landing on the payline on a dollar machine as on a quarter machine, or on a nickel slot vs. a penny slot. To make up a simple one-reel example, if a reel on a dollar machine is programmed so two of 100 stops is a red 7, and an identical-looking quarter machine is programmed so only one of 100 stops is a red 7, then you’ll see the red 7 twice as often on the dollar machines, leading to more winning 7s combinations.

There are other ways to achieve a higher payback percentage on the higher denomination machine. If the pay tables are identical, but Machine A has more frequent winners or triggers the bonus more often, or has bigger pays within the bonus event, then it will be a higher payer than Machine B.

That win frequency or bonus frequency is a secret not revealed to the betting public. You can’t tell from the outside which machine is the higher payer. The best you can do is play for fun and let your bankroll be your guide – don’t bet money you can’t afford to lose.


QUESTION: I got a coupon in the mail for $100 in free play. That’s pretty good for me. I play pretty much, mostly on the slots, and I lose a little but not too much. I usually get $20 or $25 in free play, so this was pretty exciting.

I talked with my husband about how to play it. You have to bet it through once, so I have to make $100 worth of bets before I can cash out what’s left. What do you think is the best way to go about it?

ANSWER: My preference is to look for way to turn as much of the free play into cash as possible. Then you can decide what to do with the cash – go jackpot chasing, take it home, go out to dinner, or whatever you want. To accomplish that goal, I would find the best low-volatility video poker game in the casino. I’d want the best pay table on either Jacks or Better or Bonus Poker, the games that pay 2-for-1 on two pairs.

But you’re a slot player, and you’d probably be bored by my way. If you want to go the lowest volatility route, to make sure there’s a substantial portion of the $100 left after the required wagers, that probably means covering all paylines on slots with pick’em bonuses, rather than free spin games.

Alternate method: Just use the free play instead of $100 you’d normally bring to the casino, and play the games you like at the wager level in your comfort zone.
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