A shuffle through the Gaming mailbag:
Q. I’ve played some of those 243 ways to win slots, and I’m never exactly sure how I’ve won. Sometimes I’ve won and I don’t really see how the symbols connect. Are these the same as scatter pays? Do the paylines look different than on regular slots?
A. On 243 ways to win slots, which were introduced by Aristocrat Technologies as “Reel Power” games, any path across the screen that includes symbols on adjacent reels can form the equivalent of a payline.
If you have a K at the bottom of the first reel, another at the top of the second, in the middle of the third and fourth and back to the top of the fifth, that is a five of a kind combination.
They don’t find any kind of straight line, Z, chevron or any of the other paths that form traditional paylines. But as long as like symbols fall on adjacent reels from left to right, they can form a winning combination.
That is not the same as a scatter pay. Scatter pay symbols do not have to fall on adjacent reels. You could have scatter symbols on the second, third and fifth reels in no discernable line and still win.
Not so with 243 ways to win games. While symbols don’t have to form any coherent line, they must be on adjacent reels, and they must start on the first reel. A three of a kind pay requires matching symbols on the first three reels — second, third and fifth won’t do it unless the symbols are designated as scatters.
Q. This is more a probability question than gambling, I guess, though sports bettors might be interested.
Late in the baseball season, the St. Louis Cardinals were trying to catch the Colorado Rockies for a wild card berth. The baseball site Fangraphs.com listed the Cardinals with a 4 percent chance of making the playoffs. The next three days brought three Cardinal wins against the Reds and three Rockies losses against the Giants and Padres. The Cardinals playoff chance jumped to 22 percent.
Isn’t that awfully volatile? The Cardinals were still behind in the race after that, and none of the results were that big a surprise. Why would their chances increase by five times?
A. Cutting three games off the deficit late in the season is a big change. And the combination of the six results represented a low probability event.
In any group of six games, there are 64 possible outcome combinations. With two possible outcomes for each game and six games, you calculate the total number of combos by raising 2 to the sixth power.
Only one of those 64 combos is Cardinals W-W-W and Rockies L-L-L. With the 50/50 assumption, the actual combination of results had a 1 in 64 chance of occurring, or 1.56 percent.
Both were playing teams with losing record, so what if we assume the Cardinals actually had a 60 percent chance of winning each game and the Rockies a 40 percent chance of losing?
Then we can calculate the probability of W-W-W, L-L-L by multiplying 0.6 cubed by 0.4 cubed, then multiplying by 100 to convert to percent. That would make the probability 1.38 percent.
Fangraphs’ calculations are more complex, including projected performance by players currently on the rosters, home games vs. road, remaining schedules and more.