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Best of John Grochowski
Where are the good machines located?30 November 2014
ANSWER: I’m afraid I’m not going to be much help here. I don’t receive lists of which slots are installed at which casinos. Major slot manufacturers such as IGT, WMS, Bally and Aristocrat all have popular titles that are certain to claim floor space in most casinos anywhere in the country.
The slotmakers also make niche games, designed to appeal to smaller, but potentially loyal, audiences. It’s part of the casino slot director’s art to choose which niche games will appeal to his players. Slots with skill elements are niche games. The niche shows great promise for growth, but for now, these are not games that shout “must have” to every slot director.
Not only that. There are jurisdictions that have not yet legalized slots with skill-based elements, and I don’t have a list of states where the skill games are legal. I’ve seen Blood Life Legends in several Nevada casinos, and it’s a game that offers a choice between a skill-based bonus and a free-spins bonus. Readers have told me of seeing the game in New Jersey and Illinois, but I don’t have a list of specific casinos, nor have I seen them to know for sure the skill-based element is active in those places.
Understand that the presence of skill-based elements does not make these beatable games where the player can get a mathematical advantage. In Nevada, the standard is that no more than 4 percent of a game’s overall payback can come from skill elements. If you’re playing a penny slot with an overall payback of less than 90 percent, no amount of skill is going to make up the difference between that return and the break-even point.
QUESTION: A long time ago, there used to be a video poker game where you could designate your own royal. Instead of the 4,000-coin jackpot on Ace-King-Queen-Jack-10 of the same suit, you could mix it up and designate something like 5 of hearts, 9 of clubs, 7 of diamonds, 3 of spades, 2 of diamonds as your jackpot hand.
It was kind of cool, because it made a big winner out of a throwaway hand. I got a royal on it once on what would otherwise have been a “yuck” hand.
Do you know why the game disappeared? Seems like a fun idea.
ANSWER: I vaguely remember the game, and I even recall playing it once at Texas Station in the northern part of Las Vegas, but I forget important details.
Were you allowed to designate just one royal, or could you designate four? That’s important, because on other video poker games, you get four royals – A-K-Q-J-10 in each suit. So to have as many royal possibilities in your game as in others, you’d have needed to designate four rank and suit combinations.
Even if you were allowed to designate four royal combos, some strategy considerations would have led to fewer royals in your game. You might hold a lone Jack because of the possibility of pairing it up for paying hand, and occasionally draw a royal. But if your big-pay hand is 9-7-5-3-2, you won’t hold any of those cards on their own, because pairing them up does not give you a winner.
Without remembering all the details, I’m confident that the game you describe would have a lower overall return than others with regular royals that otherwise have identical pay tables. That’s the most likely reason the game disappeared – players discovered they weren’t winning as much as on other games.
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Best of John Grochowski