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Best of John Grochowski

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Small bets add up fast

13 October 2016

Slot machines have long been thought of as an inexpensive way to play. A table games player is looking at minimum bets of $5 and up, and at some premium casinos at busy times, it’s tough to find an open spot even at a $25 minimum blackjack table.

Slot players can bet one quarter at a time. On a dwindling number of older video slots, they can even play a single payline for one penny at a time.

But are they really betting less money than table players? That’s one of several slot betting questions that have appeared in my e-mail inbox recently.

“On the penny slots, how much is your total bet if you play for an hour?” one reader asked. “That’s what my wife and I play, but I get the nagging feeling that it really adds up fast.”

On newer machines, it’s become common to use what the casino industry calls a “forced bet” format.

If you’re going to play these games, you have to bet on all the paylines.

On a 40-line penny machine, the minimum bet is 40 cents, and the available betting options are in 40-cent increments – 80 cents for two cents a line, $1.20 for three cents a line and so on.

That puts penny video players in a similar situation as those who play three-reel quarter games. They bet about as much per hour as a $5 a hand table player.

Imagine you’re playing a 40-line video slot at the minimum of 40 cents per line. If you’re taking your time and playing at a moderate pace, you’re making about 500 bets per hour. That’s $200.

If you’re dedicated to playing with no delays, spinning the reels right away after each play, you can get that up to 800-plus spins per hour – even accounting for non-wagering time spent on bonus events and free spins.

Compare that to a $5 blackjack player at a full table – and if the minimum bet is $5, the table is as likely as not to be full. That player is making 50 to 60 bets per hour, or between $250 and $300. That’s in the same territory as a 40-cent slot bettor.

The house edge also is higher on slots. Saying a slot machine pays 90% is the same as saying the house edge is 10%. Blackjack players who know basic strategy face house edges of less than 1%, craps players who stick to the pass line face a 1.41% edge and even double-zero roulette, one of the highest house-edge table games at 5.26%, spots the house much less than video slots.

With that in mind, average losses per hour for a penny slot player with a 40-cent bet are higher than for a $5 table player.

The trade-off is that a slot player on a really tight budget can set a limit of $20 or $40, get in some playing time and walk away when the limit is hit. For a $5 table player, a $20 limit is only four bets. I don’t know about you, but I’ve had more sessions than I care to think about where I’ve lost my first four bets. Leaving at four bets seems firmly in “why bother?” territory.

There are lots of reasons players choose slots, including entertainment value of bonus events, graphics and sound effects, as well as the shot to win a large jackpot for a small wager. But to get back to the original question, yes: Small bets do add up faster than many players realize.

Look for John Grochowski on Facebook (http://tinyurl.com/7lzdt44) and Twitter (@GrochowskiJ).
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:

The Craps Answer Book

> More Books By John Grochowski