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# Playing Money Won

16 October 2022

QUESTION: My son and I were talking about politician, years ago, who was accused of embezzling government funds. It was claimed some of the money was used to play slot machines and records from one of the casinos showed more than a million dollars in bets on slots.

My son said that didn't mean he actually had a million dollars to bet on slots, but my impression at the time was of running a million through the games. How do you make a million dollars worth of bets if you don't have a million dollars?

ANSWER: I'm going to assume the politician in question was using a player rewards card, and the rewards system was keeping count of all wagers. You or any other player could get a tally of how much you've wagered from the casinos where you use cards. For most players, total wagers are much larger than they think.

That's because the wagers include money you've won but played back. Imagine you slide \$20 into a bill validator to start play and you're betting 40 cents per spin. If a spin brings a \$2 win, do you cash it out and go home? No, it's far more likely you'll leave it on the credit meter and use it to fund five more spins.

Sessions usually include many winners that are churned back through the machine for extra wagers. If you're lucky, there will be a big win or a couple of moderately big wins that enable you to leave with a winning session. Far more often, the session will bring a loss, but with bets totaling far in excess of \$20.

On a machine that returns 90 percent, average results will bring \$180 in payoffs before you lose your \$20. Betting back all those payoffs plus betting the initial buy-in brings total wagers to \$200. Dividing \$180 in payoffs by \$200 in wagers gives you the 90 percent payback.

For the politician, a million dollars in wagers at 90 percent paybacks would mean average losses would total \$100,000. With bad luck, actual money invested could be more, or with good luck, it could be less. But on average, it takes \$100,000 to make \$1 million worth of wagers on 90-percent machines.

If the play was on higher-paying games, average losses could be much smaller. Losses would average \$50,000 for \$1 million in wagers on a dollar slot paying 95 percent, or \$30,000 on a \$5 or above slot in a casino with 97-percent paybacks.

In any case, it doesn't take \$1 million to make \$1 million in wagers. The largest share of the bets are funded by winning spins.

QUESTION: I know the blackjack basic strategy cards say you should hit 12 when the dealer has a 2. How close a call is that? I don't like hitting when a 10 will bust me.

ANSWER: In a six-deck game where the dealer hits soft 17, if you have 10-2 and the dealer shows 2, your average loss is 29 cents per dollar wagered if you stand. The average loss is only 25 cents if you hit. Numbers vary slightly with composition of the player hand. If you have 7-5, it's 28 cents vs. 25, just a tad narrower difference. But in every case, the better play is to hit.

Likewise, there's only a slight variation in numbers if the dealer stands on soft 17, but it remains better to hit 12 vs. 2 by a few cents per dollar.

If you can't bring yourself to hit, that's your business. Just understand there is a small cost.
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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.