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Best of John Grochowski

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Spin a little dream with me

17 March 2013

QUESTION: I’ve noticed on a lot of video slot games that if I hit the button a second time while the reels are spinning, they stop right away. I was wondering if I could use this to my advantage. If I see the bonus triggers or the jackpot symbols at the top, should I quick, hit the button again and try to stop the reels?

ANSWER: This has become one of the slot questions I’m asked most often. That’s only natural. Players are always looking for ways to beat the games, and stopping the reels where they want to would be a slot player’s dream.

Alas, it doesn’t work that way. In nearly all slot games that allow you to stop the reels, there is no skill involved. The random number generator already has determined your outcome when you hit the button to spin the reels, and you’re going to get the same result regardless of whether you stop the reels early or let them halt in their own time.

There are rare exceptions. When I’ve answered similar questions in the past, I’ve mentioned IGT’s Reel Edge games. In their original incarnation, Reel Life games enabled players to touch and stop the reels one at a time. There was actual skill involved. Your timing in stopping the reels determined the outcome. Reels spun very, very fast, so it was going take a keen eye and sharp reflexes to get better than random results, but it was possible.

I don’t know if any of the first generation of Reel Edge games remain on casino floors. They were never widespread, and I don’t get lists from casinos or manufacturers telling me what games are available in any given casino. And the new generation of Reel Edge puts the skill-based portions of the games in the bonus events.

In the original three-reel Blood Life, you could stop each reel to determine your outcome. You can’t do that in the updated video version, Blood Life Legends. But in the bonus event, you can test your skill with a joystick to guide a bat through the ups, downs, twists and turns of a cave as you try to collect gems for bonuses.

Such games are exceptions. Even in most bonus events, you’re getting an illusion of skill rather than actual skill. And when it comes to stopping the reels, it’s the random number generator, not your reflexes, that determines the results.


QUESTION: I’m getting a phobia about 16 in blackjack, and I think I need a pep talk. No matter what I do, it goes bad. If I stand on 16, the dealer makes a hand and I lose. If I hit 16, I bust and I lose. What am I supposed to do?

ANSWER: No doubt about it, hard 16 is a lousy hand. You’re going to lose more often than not no matter what you do. If the dealer is showing a 7 or higher, basic strategy demands that you hit the 16. Only five of the 13 card denominations will help your hand. The other eight -- 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, jack, queen and king -- will bust you. You’re going to lose 61.5% of the time, even though you’re making the proper play.

And what if the dealer’s face up card is a 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6? Then basic strategy says you should stand. But the dealer is going to make a 17 or better more than half the time even with the so-called “bust cards” face up. You’re going to lose 65% of the time if the dealer has a 2 up, 63% against a 3, 60% against a 4, 57% against a 5 and 58% against a 6.

No matter what you do, you’re going to lose more often than not.

So what does following basic strategy get us? We lose less often when we hit 16 vs. a 7 and up than if we stand, and we lose less often when we stand on 16 vs. 2 through 6 than if we hit. We still lose more than we win, but we lose less than if we make the opposite play.

Some blackjack hands are just so bad we can’t turn them into winners in the long run. All we can do is minimize the damage. That’s what we’re doing when we follow basic strategy for hitting or standing on 16. Enjoy the wins when they come, accept that losses will be more frequent, and move on to the next hand.
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