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Best of John Grochowski

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Why do slot players get better comps than video poker players?

10 November 2009

Carrie has been playing slots machines for longer than she cares to remember.

"There was no video then, just the three-reel games," she told me one day when she phoned to talk about slots and comps. "Blazing 7s, that was the one I liked to play. I still do, although most of the time I play penny video games now. I like all the free spins and the bonus games.

"But sometimes there's nothing like good old Blazing 7s. I play the pennies more, but I hit more good-sized jackpots on Blazing 7s, usually quarters."

That's in the way the games are designed. Video slots are designed to take your money a little at a time, giving more frequent small payoffs and extending your play through bonus events. Three-reel slots are designed to yield more frequent large jackpots, at the cost of more frequent long losing streaks.

On Carrie's old favorite, Blazing 7s are designed with modest top jackpots, starting around $250 on a quarter machine and $1,000 on a dollar game, which hit more often than the top jackpots on higher-paying games.

"That's what I've noticed," she said. "I've hit the triple Blazing 7s way more than I've hit Triple Diamonds of anything else. But what I really wanted to talk about was comps and player's cards."

What about them?

"Well, my husband isn't a slot fanatic like me. He plays video poker. We go to the casino together once a week, and we gamble about the same amount. But when we go to see if we have any cash back or to get buffet comps, I always have more than he does. I get more offers in the mail, too."

Are you sure you're playing the same amount?

"If anything, I'm playing a little bit less. He bets five quarters at a time at video poker, so $1.25 a hand. I suppose I bet about the same on pennies. I cover all the lines, and how much I bet per line depends on how I'm doing. Sometimes I'll bet 2 cents a line, sometimes 10, but it probably averages about 5. On a 25-line game, that's $1.25, just like Bill's video poker.

"But when I switch over to quarter Blazing 7s, then I'm betting three quarters at a time, 75 cents. So on the whole, I probably bet a little less."

I suggested we assume Carrie and Bill wager the same amount per day. Then Carrie would get more in comps because most casinos nowadays rate slot play higher than video poker play. One of my regular haunts give $1 in cash back per 100 points earned. Slot players get one point per $4 in play, but for video poker players, it's one point per $8 played.

"Why is that?"

Because slot play is more valuable to the casino than video poker play. Some video poker games return 99% or more with expert play, and even an average player will get back 95% or so. A penny slot player is looking at returns of to 85 to 90%.

Even on the quarter Blazing 7s games Carrie likes, she's a more valuable player to the house than Bill is, if he plays video poker well. Depending on jurisdiction and individual casino, quarter games usually return about 90 to 93%. Let's say Bill and Carrie each made 500 wagers per hour. That would mean Carrie, betting three quarters on Blazing 7s, wagered $375, and Bill, betting five quarters on video poker, bet $625.

If Carrie was getting a 93% payback — toward the high end for quarter slots — her average hourly loss would be $26.25. If Bill recognizes the good games and plays well enough to get a 99% return, his average hourly loss is only $6.25. If he plays at a below average level and gets back only 96%, his $25 hourly loss is still less than Carrie's.

"Bill's pretty good, I think," Carrie said. "He pores over video poker books and practices on the computer, so he's probably at the good end. But what about the average return on a penny game?"

With an average bet of $1.25 and an hourly wager of $625, a penny game returning 88% would eat into your bankroll at about $75 an hour. Even if you bet only 1 cent for each of 25 lines, for an average bet of $125 an hour, your average loss comes to $15 — more than double the average loss of a good video poker player on a 99% game.

Even if you play the same amount, the casino expects to keep more money from you than from Bill. So they'll spend more to keep you coming back.

"And that's why I get more cash back and comps than Bill does," Carrie said. "I get it now. Bill won't like it, but I guess he'll just have to keep eating on my 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:

Winning Tips for Casino Games

> 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