John Grochowski

John Grochowski

A shuffle through the gaming mailbag:

Q. I know side bets like Lucky Ladies, 21 + 3, Royal Match and so on have higher house edges than regular blackjack. Still, I can just play regular blackjack at those tables and not make the side bets. They don’t hurt me at all.

My question is, why don’t they have side bets at every table? Then the house could make extra money from the players who don’t know any better or who want to chase the bigger payoffs. Meanwhile, the rest of us can just play blackjack at no extra cost. Maybe if the casinos were making extra money from side bets they could go back to offering decent rules on the main game.

A. Side bets don’t come without cost to the casinos. They are proprietary games and casinos must pay licensing fees to have the bets on their tables.

In order to earn their keep, side bets must generate enough action to pay the licensing fee, as well as to make a profit for the house. Usually, the side bets generate plenty of action early in their life cycle, but the action erodes as players notice their money disappearing faster than on the base game.

The side bets with the longest life span have been those with the lowest house edges. The prime example is 21 + 3, with a 3.24 percent house edge that seems steep for a basic strategy player, but which isn’t as noticeable to an average player.

Another potential cost in side bets relates to the time it takes to make payoffs. They can slow the game down so that the house makes less money on the main game. The side bets need to generate enough revenue to make up that difference, as well as paying the licensing fee.

If and when electronic payoffs become more widely accepted, you can expect to see more side bets. Systems already exist to offer multiple side bets at the same table. Even at dealer-assisted, semi-automated tables where a human deals the cards but wagering is on an electronic betting pad, the side bets don’t slow down the game. They’re made instantly by the computerize system, and the game moves on.

Q. My wife and I were playing penny slots together, and she was playing Goldfish. It’s a games she’s liked for a long time, and she usually gets a bonus really often.

This day, not so much. She was going dozens of spins at a time with no bonus, and that game is no fun without bonuses. The lady next to her was getting bonuses all the time.

After a while the other lady left, and my wife moved onto the machine that was getting all the bonuses. Naturally, they mostly stopped. She got a few, and that was more than she was getting on her other machine, but not as many as the other lady.

My question is, did the other lady use up all the bonuses for a while? Did the machine have to recharge?

A. There is no recharge time or built-in makeup time on slot machines. Results are random and the odds are the same on every spin.

It’s only natural your wife wanted to move to machine that had been hot, but both the cold streak your wife experienced and the hot streak the other player had are part of normal probability. Whether you’ve gone 100 spins in a row without a bonus event or just had one on the last spin or had five bonuses in the last 10 plays, the odds are the same on the next spin.

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