John Grochowski

John Grochowski John Grochowski John Grochowski John Grochowski

A shuffle through the Gaming mailbag:

Q. Is there any advantage to playing two machines at once? I don’t just mean slots. I mean video poker and video keno, too.

My game is keno. I have a set of numbers I like, and it seems to me they come up more often if I’m playing two machines.

A. Your numbers do come up more often, but that doesn’t really help you. Because you are giving them twice as many chances to come up, they will come up about twice as often.

However, you also are betting twice as much money, so the increased chance for your numbers to come up brings you no advantage. The house edge remains the same, and since it’s working against you on bets twice the size of those on one machine, your average losses will be twice as large when you play two machines instead of one.

Playing two slots at a time works the same way. You can’t change the house edge by betting more money and spinning two sets of reels. Taking on bigger risk brings the potential for losing a lot more money.

Most video poker games for most players bring the same problem — doubling the risk just doubles your average losses. However, there are situations in which an expert player with sufficient bankroll gains by playing two video poker games at a time.

On a tiny proportion of games, rare even in Nevada and almost non-existent elsewhere, expert players have an edge. On those games, increased wagers bring increased average wins instead of losses.

Even on some games with expected returns of 100 percent, the returns are high enough to bring profit potential when combined with player rewards bonuses. Advantage players might play two machines to boost rewards points if the return on the game is high enough.

However, for the vast majority of players on the vast majority of games, there is no advantage to playing two machines at once.

Q. I like the Wild 70s slots. You don’t see them that much, but they’re in a few places I play.

Sometimes, when you spin video reels, this purple fog comes creeping up from the bottom and covers all the reels. Then these day-glow cards flip across, leaving wild symbols scattered around. The fog disappears and the reels finish their spin.

It’s a cool display, and I like having those extra wilds besides the wilds on the reels. My question is whether there’s a real advantage to having those extra wilds. It sure seems like that when that fog rolls in.

A. I always think of it as a purple haze rather than a purple fog, but yes, it is a cool display.

I wouldn’t say the extra wilds bring an advantage to the player in payback percentage vs. other machines. A game could be programmed with wilds occurring with the same frequency as part of the main reels, and the overall math of the game has to work to give the casino its expected percentage for a video slot.

What the haze and wilds do is build anticipation and excitement. When the haze starts rising, you know you’re going to get some wilds, but you don’t know how many or where on the reels they’ll be.

As that mystery unfolds, your anticipation heightens — especially if you find multiple wilds on the first two reels where they can begin multiple winning combinations. Finally, you see the reels and find out your return.

If the wilds were on the regular reels, your spin would be over in a flash, win or lose. Instead, the excitement builds over several seconds. That enhances the fun.

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