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Best of John Grochowski

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The Big Wheel

23 November 2014

QUESTION: When I first started going to casinos, everybody used to have one of those money wheels, with the different dollar bills in the slots. I never played it very much, just a flutter here or there, but to me, it looks like I expect a casino to look, and when I see one it gives me a casino feel.

You don’t see them that much anymore, and I was wondering why. It seems like it was a standard for a long time, and now it’s mostly gone.

ANSWER: The Big Six wheel, or money wheel, isn’t as common as it once was, though it’s still fairly easy to find in large casinos in Las Vegas and Atlantic City, along with some large tribal casinos. It never really caught on in many newer gaming states, especially those that started with games on small riverboats.

Its big strength is its look, as well as being a very easy, no strategy game to play. However, play is very slow – you can deal a couple of blackjack hands or roll the dice a few times in the time it takes the wheel to stop. The game has a very high house edge, and bankrolls disappear quickly enough to discourage players from returning.

It’s not a game that often attracts serious play. More often, it’s a low stakes diversion, and the combination of low rollers with slow play doesn’t make it a large revenue producer despite the high house edge.

How high is the edge? That depends on which bets you make. The usual configuration of the wheel has 24 spaces filled by $1 bills, 15 with $2, seven with $5, four with $10, two with $20, and two logo spaces. One logo space often is an eagle or joker, while the other is often a casino logo.

The same symbols are in front of you on the table, and you bet by putting your chips on the symbol. If you bet on the $1 space and the wheel lands on a $1 bill, you get paid at even money. A winning bet on the $2 space pays 2-1, the $5 space pays 5-1 and so on. There’s a difference between Las Vegas and Atlantic City payoffs on the special spaces. A winning bet on the eagle or on the casino logo usually pays 40-1 in Las Vegas, but 45-1 in Atlantic City.

Note that the two logo spaces are separate bets. If you bet on the eagle, you don’t win if the casino logo shows up.

Each possible wager has its own house edge, starting at 11.1 percent for $1, 16.7 percent for $2, 22.2 percent for $5, 18.5 percent for $10 and 22.2 percent for $20. On the logo spaces, the house edge is 24.1 percent in the Las Vegas configuration, or 14.8 percent on the Las Vegas version.

Compare that to house edges of half a percent or so, depending on house rules, against a blackjack basic strategy player or 1.41 percent on the pass line in craps. Even a high house edge game like roulette has a house edge of 5.26 percent that’s less than half the edge on the best bet on Big Six.


QUESTION: Do video poker machines adjust and get tougher to beat for better players? If the machine sees that you always hold a low pair instead of a high card, does it stop dealing cards that match your low pair and start dealing matching high cards, so you see you would have won with a different play? If you’re in a guessing game against a computer, you can’t win, can you?

ANSWER: There is no guessing game. Cards are determined by a random number generator, and all it does is deal the cards. It has no strategy in doing so, and it neither knows nor cares what your strategy is.

Programming the game so that it adjusts its deal to beat your strategy is illegal in every U.S. gaming jurisdiction. You’re playing against the random number generator and it’s not trying to beat you.
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