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Best of John Grochowski

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Why are casinos more generous to slot players than video poker players?

20 December 2011

Whether comps come in the form of meals, hotel stays, cash back, free play or anything else, players who are the most valuable to the casino have always been given the most incentive to return.

Along with wagering totals, the house edge is taken into account. Given equal bets, a roulette player is worth more to the casino than a blackjack player, and those who make the really bad bets at craps are worth more than either.

So it goes on electronic games, and that brings me to a question from a reader named Jack, who asked via e-mail, "Can you tell me why they now penalize video poker players by awarding us less points than slot players?"

Video poker players do get fewer points per dollar than slot players. In one system, slot players get a point for every $4 wagered, while video poker players get a point per $8. It then takes 100 points to redeem for a dollar in free play, so the slot players are getting 0.25% of their wagers returned as free play, while video poker players are getting 0.125%.

Let's do a comparison, using $800 in wagers to make the arithmetic easy. Say you're playing a penny slot that returns 87%. Per $800 wagered, the house expects to keep $104. In the rewards system detailed above, you'd get back $2 in free play.

What if you played 8/5 Jacks or Better video poker instead? Jack told me that was the caliber of game most available to him, with 9/6/5 Double Bonus Poker and 8/5 Double Double Bonus Poker also available to him on quarter games. Given expert play, the game returns 97.3%, meaning an average of $21.60 in losses per $800 wagered. Even if you don't play that well and spot the house an extra 2%, the losses per $800 of $37.60 are still well short of the slot player's average deficit. You get only $1 in free play, but your overall bottom line is still better than if you'd played the penny slot.

It gets better for video poker players if you live in a market with better video poker. If you're playing 9/6 Jacks or Better instead, where full houses play 9-for-1 and flushes 6-for-1, the return with expert play rises to 99.5%. Now instead of averaging $21.60 in losses per $800 wagered, you're spotting the house only $4. Even if you're getting only $1 in free play, additional comps and perks sent via direct mail or online offers can make up the difference between your return and 100% in a hurry.

And if you're in a real video poker Mecca, such as some of the locals-oriented casinos in Las Vegas, you might find a game such as full-pay Deuces Wild (100.8% with expert play) or 10/7/5 Double Bonus Poker (100.2%) that are better than break-even without worrying about the comps.

That chance to get all the way up to 100% is rare for a slot player. With some variation by jurisdiction, dollar three-reel slots tend to pay from 93% on up to about 96%. But even with double the free play and double the comps video poker players can expect, they don't get you to break-even territory.

Slot players are more valuable to the house than video poker players. That's why casinos expend more player rewards resources to keep them coming back.

WHAT ABOUT TABLES? Player rewards systems can track every dollar wagered at an electronic game. Most casinos don't have that capability at the tables. The pit tracks your buy-ins, time of play, personnel do their best to record an average bet size, and check to see how much you take away from the table, but information isn't as precise as on the slots.

They use that information to calculate your average worth to the casino. If you average a $10 bet per hand at a full blackjack table estimated to be dealing 60 hands an hour, and you play for two hours, that leads to the assumption you've wagered $1,200. The house edge at blackjack is pegged at about 1% — basic strategy players can do better, while some players are worse. Your expected loss for that two-hour session is $12. The house kicks back a percentage of that in the form of comps. Just what that percentage is varies from casino to casino.

If you're playing double-zero roulette, where the house edge is 5.26% on most bets, then your expected loss per $1,000 in wagers is $52.60. and the house will comp you on that basis. Given the same amount of wagers, the roulette player is worth more to the house than the blackjack player, and so gets more comps.

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:

The Craps Answer Book

> 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