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# Real meaning of percentages

22 November 2015

QUESTION: What is the real monetary difference between playing basic strategy blackjack and just playing for fun? You always give percentages, like a half percent with basic strategy and 1.5 or 2% for an average player. What does that mean in dollars and cents? Plain English, please.

ANSWER: That depends on how much you’re betting and how fast you’re playing. More hands per hour are dealt at tables with fewer players, and that affects your average loss per hour. Also, the quality of play from average players seems to be evolving. When I started writing about gambling more than 20 years ago, it was estimated that average players faced a house edge of 2 to 2.5%. Now, even though the average games are tougher than they were then, a longtime casino executive friend tells me it’s more like 1.5 to 2%.

So to answer your question, let’s apply the percentages to a couple of different bet sizes and a few game speeds. Assume you’re betting \$10 per hand at a full seven-player table, playing about 50 hands per hour. Your risk is \$500 per hour. If the house rules yield a half-percent edge against a basic strategy player, that player’s losses average \$2.50 per hour. A player whose strategy spots the house a 1.5% edge loses \$7.50 per hour, and the player facing a 2% edge loses \$10 per hour.

Increase the bets to \$25 per hand, and average losses are \$6.25 for the basic strategy player, \$18.75 for the 1.5% player and \$25 for the 2% player.

Now assume you’re playing at a less busy time, with three players at the table averaging 100 hands per hour. The \$10 players risk \$1,000 per hour. Average losses are \$5 for the basic strategy player, \$15 for the 1.5 percenter and \$20 for the 2 percenter. If the bets are \$25 a hand, then average losses are \$12.50 with basic strategy, \$37.50 at 1.5% and \$50 at 2%.

Playing head-to-head with the dealer, the game moves in excess of 200 hands an hour. At 200 hands, the \$10 bettor risks \$2,000, and losses average \$10 with basic strategy, \$30 at 1.5% and \$40 at 2%. At \$25 a hand, it’s \$25 with basic strategy, \$75 at 1.5% and \$100 at 2%.

The bigger the bets and the faster the game, the bigger the dollars-and-cents difference between a basic strategy player and an average player.

QUESTION: I was playing in a casino that had 8/5 Bonus Poker on some machines, 7/5 Bonus Poker on others, and if you played one of the machines away from the main video poker area out mixed on the slot floor, it was 6/5 Bonus Poker. I saw people playing all those games. Is there ever a reason to choose the lower-paying game?

ANSWER: If a lower paying game has a high enough progressive jackpot, that could make it more attractive than the better pay table. Alternatively, if the games are of different denominations, it’s important to stay within your bankroll. If you’re budgeted for quarter play, and the better pay tables are on dollar machines, you need to bite the bullet and stay with the games you can afford.

But if the games don’t have progressive jackpots and are of the same denomination, there’s no reason to choose the lower payers.

For those wondering about the numbers, 8/5 Bonus Poker returns 99.2% with expert play. That drops to 98.0% at 7/5 and 96.9% at 7/5.
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.

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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.