A shuffle through the Gaming mailbag:
Q. I play at home on Facebook apps more than I play in casinos. Some of it is slots, but I play a lot of video poker, pretty close to every day at home and six or eight times a year in casinos.
I seem to get royal flushes a lot at home, but I never get them in casinos. It’s exciting on an app, but all I’m getting is points, not $1,000 like in a casino.
Am I using up all my royals playing at home? Maybe I’m getting a normal share, but I’ve already hit my quota by the time I get to the casino.
A. It’s only natural that you’re seeing a lot more royal flushes at home than in casinos. You’re playing a lot more at home. More opportunity will bring more big hands.
There is no need to worry whether those at-home royals will limit your casino royals. At-home play has no effect on your casino play. Every hand is an independent trial, and the odds are the same no matter what has happened on previous hands at home or in the casino.
The chances of drawing a royal flush are roughly 1 in 40,000 — a little more or a little less depending on your strategy in playing specific games. If you drew five royals yesterday at home, then your chances of drawing a royal on your next hand in a casino are still 1 in 40,000. If your last 100 hands at home were all royals, then when you go to the casino the chances are still 1 in 40,000 on each hand.
If you’ve gone 40,000 hands without a royal, then your chances on the next hand are still 1 in 40,000. Previous results do not affect future outcomes.
Q. Why do lower-denomination slot machines have lower paybacks? Everybody I’ve read says this, and you’ve used gaming board statistics to demonstrate it, but I don’t really get why. The penny machines are the most popular now. Shouldn’t the casinos be catering to the penny players?
A. The main reason casinos pay lower percentages on low-denomination games is because they can. Low payback percentages do not deter players from crowding the games, so there is little incentive for casinos to raise the payouts on low-denom games.
When three-reel games with one payline ruled the floor, there was additional reason in machine cost vs. profitability. It cost as much to purchase a quarter machine as a dollar machine, but the dollar games produced more revenue per play. Putting a lower payback percentage on quarter games closed the gap a bit.
Probably more important was that the higher payback percentage on dollar games was a marketing tool. Some player would step up to dollar play to get the higher percentage. Of course, their risk and average loss was higher because of the increased bet size, but there always was a player segment attracted by the payback increase.
Today, with multiple paylines, you can bet as much on a penny video slot as on a dollar three-reel slot, but the payback percentage remains higher on the dollar game.
In part, that’s because most penny players don’t really bet the max. On a 40-line game, most players are betting either 40 cents or 80 cents, so casino profit per spin is still higher on the dollar three-reel game, despite the payback percentage difference.
But the main reason is that players embrace the games as they are. Players find value in the animation, video, bonus events and everything that goes into video slots to play them in preference to higher-paying high-denomination slots.