A shuffle through the Gaming mailbag:
Q. I saw something happen at Three Card Poker and I wondered if you agreed with the player.
He was betting only on ante-play, and the rest of us were betting both ante-play and Pair Plus. Naturally, he was the won who got a straight flush. Any of the rest of us would have had a big win at 40-1. He got a 5-1 ante bonus besides winning even money on his ante and bet.
The dealer said, “I guess you wish you were on the Pair Plus now.” The player said, “No, I’m happy with my win. I know that can happen when I make my bets.”
None of the rest of us could believe there wasn’t at least a little regret there. It was a $5 minimum table, so even at the smallest bet he’d have won $200.
A. I’m with the player on that one. Whenever you choose not to make a bet, you are choosing not to give yourself a shot at the best the game has to offer as well as avoiding the game’s worst features.
If I’m playing craps and don’t bet on 12, I’m choosing not to be eligible for a 30-1 payoff that’s the highest the game has to offer. I’m also choosing not to spot the house a 13.89 percent edge.
Similarly, if I don’t make a Pair Plus bet, I’m choosing not to be eligible for the 40-1 payoff on a straight flush or 30-1 on three of a kind. I’m also choosing to avoid the 7.28 percent house edge on the most common version of Pair Plus.
You have to be prepared not to get the big payoff. Tell yourself the cost of chasing that jackpot hand is too high, that the losses usually will outweigh the potential win.
When the big hand does appear, you have to be able to shrug if off and tell yourself you had reason to skip the jackpot game. For you, ante-play’s 2.01 percent house edge on total action seemed a better deal than the occasional big payoff.
Q. You’ve written many times that slot machine payback percentages are higher when the coin denominations are higher. Is that also true of other electronic games, like video poker, video blackjack, video keno and video roulette?
A. Not necessarily. On slot machines, frequency of winning spins and balance of small and large winners can be altered without there being an obvious difference in the display.
In video poker, roulette and keno, payback percentages are altered by changing pay tables and you can see the difference.
Games with higher pay tables are higher paying games, regardless of the coin denomination. In video poker, 9-6 Jacks or Better with a standard pay table returns 99.5 percent with expert play and 8-5 Jacks or Better 97.3 percent regardless of the coin denomination.
Bally’s single-player roulette game had variable payoffs ranging from 32-for-1 to 36-for-1 on single-number bets. The payoffs, not the coin denomination, determined payback percentage. Likewise, video keno has multiple pay tables that determine the overall return.
In video blackjack, the percentage change comes through blackjack’s set of optional rules. One big one is the return on blackjacks. Some machines pay only 2-for-1 – which is the same as even money, or 1-to-1. That increases the house edge, no matter what your coin value.
Some casinos put the higher pay tables or better rules on higher denomination games, but not all. I’ve seen top video poker pay tables on quarter or even nickel games at casinos that reduced pays on dollar games. It’s up to players to shop around.