Stay informed with the
Recent Articles
Best of John Grochowski

# One coin or full coin? That is the question!

18 September 2016

QUESTION: You answered a question about playing one coin on \$1 video poker instead of five coins on a quarter game. What about slot machines? Dollar slots have higher paybacks than quarter games or penny games, right? Should I play one coin on a dollar game instead of three quarters or, say, 80 pennies?

ANSWER: There’s more than one way look at that question. First, what do you want out of the game? Most dollar and quarter games are three-reel games, while most pennies are video slots. If what you want for your entertainment dollar is the fun of bonus events, free spins, animation, video and sound effects, then your decision is made. Understand that payback percentages are lower on penny slots, but if you’re willing to take the tradeoff in entertainment, that’s up to you.

However, if the decision is to be made strictly in terms of average loss, let’s try to plot it out.

I’ll use some typical slot payback percentages. These vary – sometimes widely – from casino to casino, but 86% on pennies, 91% on quarters and 94% on dollars are reasonable estimates.

Assuming 1,000 spins, then your risk is \$1,000 betting \$1 at a time on the dollar game, \$750 betting three quarters, and \$800 betting 80 pennies.

At 86%, the penny machine pays \$640 and the casino keeps \$160. At 91%, the quarter machine pays \$682.50 and the casino keeps \$67.50.

If the dollar machine paid 94% regardless of how many coins you wagered, then for your \$1,000 you would get \$940 back and the casino would keep \$60. But it’s not that simple.

On three-reel slots, the top jackpot pays disproportionately more when you pay maximum coins. A jackpot worth \$1,000 on a one-coin bet and \$2,000 on a two-coin bet might jump to \$5,000 on a three-coin bet.

That makes the payback percentage higher when you bet maximum coins.

To calculate a payback percentage for a one-coin bet, we would need to know how frequently the jackpot combination occurs. The casinos and manufacturers don’t let us in on that secret.

I could play around with some arithmetic and devise scenarios where the one-coin bet takes the payback down to only 93.5%, making the dollar game the best bet even with short-coin play and a higher risk. I could also devise scenarios in the case of progressives where the jackpot is such a big percentage of the overall payout that take the one-coin return slides all the way to 85%. That would make the dollar game the worst bet.

Most of the time, the real-life situation will be something in between, and the combination of the lower risk and uncertainty over the one-coin dollar return will make betting the max on a quarter game the better bet.

QUESTION: Three Card Poker, ante-play, why can your play bet only be equal to your ante? Caribbean Stud allows two times the ante.

ANSWER: They’re different games, with different math. Caribbean Stud requires the bet to be twice the ante because that’s what it takes to get the house edge to a playable level of 5.2% of the ante or 2.6% of total action. Three Card Poker sets the bet at equal to the ante because that’s what it takes to get the house edge to a playable level of 3.4% of the ante or 2% of the total action.

With no other rules changes, setting the bet at twice the ante would give players an edge in Three Card Poker. No such game could survive.
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.

#### 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.