John Grochowski

John Grochowski John Grochowski John Grochowski John Grochowski

A shuffle through the Gaming mailbag:

Q. I was playing a video slot with stacked wilds, and I got a stack filling the last reel.

I said to myself, more than anyone else, “I hate when that’s on the last reel.” I guess I was loud enough for others to hear, because the lady next to me said, “Really? I like it there. I always think that’s my chance at five of a kind.”

Is there anything to that? I always figured you wanted the wilds on the first reels so they could start off winning combinations. But maybe if you get more five of a kinds, that makes up for it.

A. Your instincts are correct. You will win more often and win more money if your stack of wilds is on the first or second reels, giving you a good start toward winning combinations.

No matter where the wilds are, five of a kind requires matching symbols on the same payline or paylines on the other four reels. You are no more likely to form five of a kind with a wild on the fifth reel than on the first or any other.

However, you are a lot more likely to form three of a kind winners with wilds on the first reels. Let’s say you have wilds on the first reel, then 7s on the same payline on the second and third reels. You have a three of a kind winner. However, if the wild is on the reel, it does not help form a winning combination with the 7s on the second and third.

A wild on the first, second or third reel can be part of any three-, four- or five-of-a-kind combination. A wild on the fifth reel can be part of a winner only of it’s five of a kind.

May your wilds come early, often and on the first reels.

Q. I was interested in your column on sic bo and it being offered on those electronic tables with more than one game.

I always thought sic bo was closer to an even game. A long time ago, I thought it looked interesting when I first saw a table. The dealer knew he had new players so he was explaining how he was paying a winner for every losing bet he was taking. He made it look like an even bet, even though I knew it couldn’t be.

Can you tell me what the flaw is?

A. If I understand you correctly, the scenario would have been something like this:

The dealer puts chips on the single-number bets 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6. He then puts down three dice, showing 1, 2 and 3.

“I pay 1, 2 and 3, and I take away 4, 5 and 6,” he says. “What could be fairer than that?”

Wherever there are sic bo tables, there have been demonstrations like that. I witnessed such a demon in the 1990s. John Scarne wrote about it in the 1970s.

Problem is, the dice don’t always come up on three different numbers. Let’s say they landed on 2-2-3 instead of 1-2-3. Then the chip wagered on 2 would have paid 2-1 and the chip on three would have paid even money for a total of three chips in payouts,. The dealer would have taken away four chips — one more than paid out.

If they landed on 2-2-2, the wager on 2 would have paid 3-1 – again, a three-chip payout. But the dealer would have collected five losers.

The demo showing this as an even, fair bet is misleading. The house edge on single number bets is 7.9 percent, and sic bo is nowhere near an even game.