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Best of John Grochowski

Gaming Guru

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The Casino Answer Man

25 April 2001

Q. Whenever I play Let It Ride or Caribbean Stud, I notice that the cards are dealt from an automatic shuffler. Cards are not dealt in sequence around the table, one at a time, as in a card game where a human shuffles. Instead, the machine spits out all the cards for one player at a time, then moves to the next player.

I get the feeling that maybe the shufflers are set up to program the games to pay out a specific percentage, like on the slots. Do strategies for these games really make any difference if the shufflers are programmed like that?

Sam

A. The machines are giving you a random shuffle, as random as you'll get from any human shuffler.

One way to convince yourself of that is to watch the dealer's procedure before putting the cards in the shuffler. If it's a new deck of cards, at most casinos the dealer will spread all the cards out on the table and give them a good mix before putting them in the shuffler. If the deck has already been in use, most casinos will have the dealer shuffle once and cut before the cards go back in the machine.

When procedures such as that are followed, there's no way for the shuffler to "know" the order of the cards going into the machine. And if it doesn't know the order of the cards going in, it can't know the order of the cards coming out.

One more thing. Note that when a Caribbean Stud table is not full, the machine will keep dealing individual hands until the dealer pushes a button to have it release all the remaining cards. The dealer's hand could be anywhere from the second to the eighth hand dealt, and the shuffler doesn't know which. It's not possible to program the results of a game when you don't know which hands will go to players and which will go to the dealer.

The house edge is high enough on games such as Caribbean Stud and Let It Ride that the casino doesn't need to take even more away from players with non-random shuffles. The odds of the games will take care of themselves.

Q. I like to play roulette, and I like to play the slots. Which do you think is a better game?

Gert

A. Which do you have more fun playing? That's the better game for you.

If you're asking which game gives the player a better shot to win, that's a different matter. Both have fairly high house edges. In roulette, the house edge on most bets on a double-zero wheel is 5.26 percent. (The exception is the five-number bet on 0, 00, 1, 2 and 3. It has a house edge of 7.89 percent). What that means is that in the long run, you'll lose $5.26 of every $100 you wager.

On slot machines, the house edge varies widely. In the Chicago area, quarter slots return about 91 or 92 percent while dollars pay about 94 or 95 percent. That translates to a house edge of 8 or 9 percent on quarter slots and 5 percent or 6 percent on dollar games.

That's not much different than the house edge on roulette, but keep in mind that we play slots much faster than we play roulette. A casino marketer once told me that before bill validators, when players had to drop coins in the slot for every spin of the reels, they figured a steady player for about 230 spins per hour. Nowadays, it's more like 500 spins per hour, and a really dedicated speed demon can play 800 or more. A player who bets three quarters per game bets about as much per hour as a roulette player who bets $10 per spin of the wheel.

At either game, losing sessions will outnumber the winners. It's up to you to decide which game offers more in the way of entertainment value to make the times you don't win more enjoyable.

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