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# Maximum coins in = maximum advantage out

21 April 2006

Dear Mr. Pilarski,
Time and again, even from such esteemed sources as Visiting Vegas type shows on The Travel Channel, and perhaps even your feature (I don’t recall), I continually hear the advice to play the maximum coins (usually five) in the slot machines. Why is that? My question is prompted because everyone seems to push playing maximum coins. E. W.

For almost all multiple-pay and multiple-play machines, the maximum coin line tends to yield a better percentage payback. Note on the pay table the proportional difference in the size of your payoff. Example: One coin inserted pays 500 coins; two coins: 1,000 coins; three coins: 4,000 returned. You clean up when that third coin is played. Play fewer coins, E. W., and the casino advantage rockets north. That is why esteemed sources, and myself in the past (love that! Good company...), suggest playing the maximum coins allowed to yield a better payback percentage. If playing the maximum amount happens to be a budget buster, those same esteemed sources and Yours Truly will also recommend switching to a lower denomination machine. Can’t hack playing \$3 a yank? ...Play 75¢ instead.

There are, however, a few machines that do return 500 for one coin inserted, 1,000 for two coins, and 1,500 for three coins. If you happen to come across this sort of proportional pay table, you wouldn’t need to play the maximum amount of coins to get full value from this machine.

Dear Mark,
Everything I’ve seen about the vigorish on video poker includes maximum coin play with a royal flush. If the royal is excluded from the computation, what is the vigorish on a 9/6 machine? Mike H
.

For inquiring minds, what Mike meant by a “9/6 machine” is that it’s a Jacks or Better machine paying 9 for a full house, 6 for a flush, with one coin inserted.

Jacks or Better video poker with maximum coin play has a house edge of 0.5%. Excluding the royal flush, the casino’s advantage would be approximately 2.5%. Here’s a barnyard math way of viewing it. If, for instance, you were to play 600 hands per hour on a \$1 Jacks or Better 9/6 machine, you can expect to lose about \$75 per hour, on average, for each hour you play without hitting that phantom royal flush.

Dear Mark,
I need an alternative to my recent losing ways in the casino. I have recently discovered mini-baccarat. Is there any secret to this game, such as betting on the tie? Sally D.

The secret to baccarat, Sally, is that there is no secret, so long as you stick to the Banker or Player wagers. You will not break your “lose everything, win nothing” track record by betting on a high vigorish proposition bet such as the tie wager, when the two other, far less punishing, alternatives are available.
As for that tie bet, it is the only proposition wager on the table, and a lousy one to boot.

Statistically, a tie appears every 10.5 hands, but the casino is willing to pay you only 8:1, which gives the house a 14.4% edge on a tie wager.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: “Why keep betting more when you are losing? Only idiots do that and there are plenty of them around.”—Mike Goodman, “How To Win”

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Mark Pilarski

As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.
Mark Pilarski
As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.