A shuffle through the Gaming mailbag:
Q. I saw one of those new triple-zero roulette tables, and I was glad to have read about the house edge increase.
I’m wondering how far casinos could take this. Could they have four zeroes? Five? More? How far could they go in adding zeroes and increasing their edge?
A. The main limiting factor would be player acceptance. A proportion of players would know that extra zeroes increase the house edge. Other players would eventually notice their money disappearing faster at the extra-zero tables.
No doubt some players would just shrug it off, or even welcome the opportunity to bet on quadruple zero. The question is whether there would be enough such players to make it more profitable to offer a four-zero game than wheels with fewer zeroes.
My best guess is “probably not.” We’ve seen some casinos invest in equipment for triple-zero games, but there hasn’t been a mad rush to replace double-zero wheels. The double-zero wheels are where most of the players are, and it takes players to make a game profitable, no matter what the house edge.
Until recently, the only places I’d seen triple-zero wheels were charity events. Players who knew they were getting a high house edge game could console themselves that at least their losses were going to a worthy cause.
Acquaintances have told me of seeing the equivalent of four-zero wheels at street fairs in the southwest. I can’t vouch for this first-hand, but I’m told some “zeroes” were cacti and other special symbols. Payoff odds remained the same as on wheels with fewer zeroes, but the true odds were longer because there were more symbols on the wheel.
Winning single-number bets are paid at 35-1 odds. But with a single zero, there are 37 numbers, so true odds are 36-1. True odds are 37-1 with two zeroes, 38-1 with three and 39-1 with four.
House edges increase from 2.7 percent with one zero to 5.26 with two, 7.69 with three and 10 percent with four zeroes.
The best plan of attack for a four-zero wheel would be the same as it is with three zeroes: Play a different game.
Even at two zeroes, I’ll play only for a short, change of pace diversion with small bets. Three or more zeroes? Forget it.
Q. I saw a Double Bonus Poker game with a weird pay table. For a five-coin bet, straight flushes and four of a kind with 5s through Kings paid 239 coins instead of the usual 250.
What was really weird was these paid the usual 50 with a one-coin bet, 100 for two, 150 for three and 200 for four. But then they shorted you on five coins. Why cheap out there? Isn’t that a disincentive to bet the max. (I know, the 4,000 on the royal is the incentive, but still.)
A. I’ve seen that pay table in a couple of situations, both with good reason.
The primary reason it exists is for $5 games. A 239-coin payoff at $5 level comes to $1,195, below the $1,200 threshold at which the casino must have you sign and IRS W2-G before paying you. The full 250-coin payback would be $1,250, triggering the tax requirement.
For a number of years, Jumer’s Casino in Rock Island, Illinois, used the pay table on quarter games. Instead of tax considerations, Jumer’s had to deal with state regulations that prohibit games that return in excess of 100 percent.
Full-pay 10-7-5 Double Bonus returns a 100.17 percent with expert play. Using the 239-coin pays lowers the return to 99.79 percent, within the Illinois limit.