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# A shuffle through the gaming mailbag

9 August 2012

Q. I regularly go to three casinos. Two of them have started to do some interesting things with comps. One has designated certain slot machines so you get two, three or four times points every day. They're not big themed games or anything, just regular video slots. Is it worth playing for the extra points, or do these games pay less?

At the other casino, they've added some good video poker games, like 9/6 Jacks or Better and 9/6 Double Bonus Poker. Thing is, on those machines, it takes \$80 in play to get a rewards point, and it only takes \$8 on other video poker machines and \$4 on the slots. Each 100 points gets you \$1 in free play. Complicating that is they have this deal if you get 10 points in one day, you get a free buffet that usually costs \$9.99.

What's the best deal?

A. Let's take the second one first, since you provided more information. At that casino, it means your free play is worth 0.25% of all your wagers if you play slots, 0.125% if you play most video poker machines, and only 0.0125% if you play high-paying video poker.

I don't know how much the slots pay at that casino, but a 0.25% rewards boost would increase an 87% game -- normal enough for a penny slot -- to 87.25%, or a 95% dollar game to 95.25%. In video poker, an 8/5 Jacks or Better game would rise from 97.30 to 97.425%. And a 9/6 Jacks or Better game would rise from 99.54% to a fraction over 99.55%.

None of those rewards will push you over the top to where the game is a money-maker.

The buffet deal is another matter. Playing long enough to earn 10 points on a slot game means \$40 in play. Average losses on an 87% penny game would be \$5.20, and on a 95% dollar game they'd be \$2. Most video poker games would give 10 points for \$80 in play, and the average loss on an 8/5 Jacks or Better game would be \$2.16. It would take \$800 in play at 9/6 Jacks or Better, and the average loss would be \$3.68.

Those are just average losses. On a volatile dollar slot machine, it's possible to lose the full \$40 in earning 10 points, and on the 9/6 Jacks or Better game you could lose a couple of hundred during \$800 in play.

If my goal was just to play long enough to earn the buffet, my choice would be the 8/5 Jacks or Better game, which is less volatile than the dollar slot and less risky than betting 10 times as much on the better video poker game. But if I'm going to play long enough that I'm going earn the point no matter what, then I want to be on the highest-paying game, and will choose 9/6 Jacks or Better.

As for the casino with multiple points on some slot machines, there's no way to know what the payback percentages are on any one machine. If I was going to play video slots in that casino, I'd give the special games a try. But even at 4x points, the rewards can't make up the entire house edge, so I'd feel no qualms about moving if the machine wasn't paying or if it just wasn't keeping me entertained.

Q. When you write about craps, I see the house edge goes down the more free odds you get. I mean your pass bet gets a lower house edge with single odds, lower still with double odds, lower with 5x odds and so on. If they gave you enough odds, would the house edge ever disappear entirely? Have you ever seen a craps bet where the house gets no edge?

A. Pass with odds is really two bets in one. The odds portion of the bet has no house edge, but there is a house edge on the pass bet. That house edge on pass is always there. Putting bigger portions of your bet into the odds dilutes the effect of that house edge, but it can never eliminate it entirely.

I have seen one craps opportunity with no house edge at all. For a short time, in the 1990s, a Midwestern casino offered a field wager that paid 3-1 when the roll was either 2 or 12. The field pays even money if the roll is 3, 4, 9, 10 or 11. It also pays on 2 or 12, with some casinos paying 2-1 on either of those numbers, for a 5.56% house edge, and some pay 2-1 on 2 but 3-1 on 12, for a 2.78% edge.

When this casino decided to pay 3-1 on both 2 and 12, it created a wager with zero house edge.

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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.

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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.