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# A shuffle through the gaming mailbag

28 July 2011

Q. I thoroughly enjoyed your description of the "The Hangover" machine. It sounds more like a video game than a slot machine. I have a question though. Why does it sound like you had any control over the outcome of your winnings when you "touched a sword and revealed a 160-credit award"? In previous articles, you said the random-number generator (RNG) determined your fate the instant you pushed the button to start the game. If that's the case, wouldn't the 160-credit have come up no matter what icon you touched?

A. In bonus events, the RNG sets the possibilities, but your choices make a difference. If Symbol A hides a 160 credit pay, Symbol B hides 80 credits, and Symbol C hides a multiplier, then if you touch the sword you'll get 160, if you touch the mirror you'll get 80 and if you touch the umbrella you'll get the multiplier.

Your choices make a difference, just not in any predictable sort of way. There's no way of telling what bonus is where.

The programmer assumes that if he's offering you five choices, for example, in the long run players will choose the best option one-fifth of the time, the worst option one-fifth of the time, and each of the others one-fifth of the time. That yields an average reward value that can be used for calculating the expected payback percentage on the game.

The game remains random, your results remain random. It's just that in a bonus event, randomness is achieved by having the RNG randomly distribute possible outcomes rather than by randomly selecting a fixed bonus.

Q. I learned to play poker by playing five-card draw around my parents' kitchen table. It wasn't for money. We'd use chips. Maybe sometimes at the end of the night the winner would get an extra scoop of ice cream. Come to think of it, that was usually my dad.

I learned to play Hold'em and seven-card stud and other stud games in college, but sometimes I get the urge to settle back into good old five-card draw. But I've never found a poker room that has it. It's all Hold'em, with some seven-card stud, maybe a little Omaha. Why don't they have room for one draw table?

A. From an operator's perspective, five-card draw doesn't have enough rounds of betting. The house makes its money on poker from the rake, from taking a percentage of the pot. Five-card draw has only two rounds of betting — after the deal, and after the draw. Texas Hold'em has betting after the deal, the flop, the turn and the river. There are more opportunities to build a bigger pot, and a bigger rake for the house.

Still, operators would offer the game if player demand was high enough. It's not. Players, too, have a strong preference for stud games with more rounds of betting. Pros have long regarded stud games, and especially Hold'em, as greater tests of skill. Hold'em is the game the poker pros chose as the lone game in the first World Series of Poker, where the champion was decided on participants voting on who had played the best. (It was Johnny Moss, who also won the second World Series.)

Where casino interests in higher-betting games coincide with greater player interest in Hold'em and other stud games, that's what you're going to get.

Q. I saw something odd happen, and was wondering if you'd ever seen this. The player to my right had an 11, and the dealer had a 5. The player said, "Double for less," only the stack he pushed out was BIGGER than his bet. He put it right next to his bet, and the dealer didn't seem to notice. To be honest, she'd been acting pretty bored all along, moaning about when her break was coming, and I don't think she was noticing much of anything. When he said he was doubling for less, I guess she was expecting to see two different stacks, and it never dawned on her that the bigger stack came last.

He won the hand, and the dealer paid him on both the original bet and the double for "less." He left a few hands later. I guess the casino would have been pretty upset had they caught it, huh?

A. Oh, they'd have been upset all right. Adding something extra to a double down bet is cheating just as surely as past posting in roulette — putting down a wager after the winning number is known — or trying to add chips to your main blackjack bet after seeing your cards. Casino personnel from the dealer to the surveillance room are trained to look for scams like that.

Had the dealer been alert, she'd probably just have told him that was too much, to adjust his bet. And had security caught the move, maybe all they'd have done is demand he return the overage. However, he could have been barred from the casino, blacklisted, even arrested. It's not a move I'd attempt to make.

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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.

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Winning Tips for Casino Games
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.