A shuffle through the Gaming mailbag:
Q. I saw an article online that said scratch off tickets in the Illinois lottery were being left on sale for months after all the top prizes had been won.
That’s the kind of thing that worries me about slot machines. If a jackpot has already been won, that’s a jackpot that’s not available anymore, and I have no way of knowing that’s happened.
A. Lottery tickets don’t work like slot machines with random number generators. If a jackpot has been won on a slot machine, it does not decrease the chances of those who play later.
Lottery scratch-off cards typically have a fixed number of cards with top payoffs. If a game is set up so 10 cards have million-dollar prizes. When all 10 big-paying cards are gone, later players have no chance at the jackpot. That dramatically changes the odds of the game for those who buy the remaining tickets.
Odds of winning on scratch-off cards are constantly changing. Eliminating losing tickets increases the concentration of winners among remaining tickets, while eliminating winning tickets increases the concentration of losers.
On slot machines, there is no fixed number of winners and losers. Every result is available on every play. If the previous player has just won a jackpot, it does not eliminate jackpot numbers from the set available to the random number generator.
Your odds on a slot machine are the same on every spin of the reels, and in time those odds will lead the game to pay out something very close to an expected amount. There is no need for players to worry that others have used up the jackpot spins.
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Q. I’m a recreational blackjack player on a budget. I play for fun and limit myself to $5 and $10 bets.
The casino where I play just converted its limited number of $5 tables to 6-5 payoffs on blackjack. I have a decision to make. Do I go to a $15 table, where I can still get 3-2? That’s a little out of my comfort zone. Do I suck it up and accept the higher edge to stay within my limits? Do I stop playing all together?
The games are the same except for the 6-5 and 3-2. The dealer hits soft 17, six decks, double on any first two cards, double after splits, resplit any pair except Aces up to three times, split Aces only once.
A. I can’t tell you what to do. That’s between you and your bankroll, and I advise players to NEVER bet more than they can afford to lose.
I can lay out what the 6-5 payoffs do to the game in dollars and cents, in your price range.
If you play basic strategy, the game you describe has a house edge of 0.62 percent if blackjack pay 3-2 and 1.98 percent if blackjacks pay 6-5.
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The house edge is more than three times as high on the 6-5 version.
If you play 100 hands — nearly two hours at a full seven-player table — and wager $5 a hand, you risk $500. With 6-5 blackjacks, your average loss is $9.90. If you bet $10 a hand, you can double that to a $1,000 risk and a $19.80 average loss.
If you bet $15 a hand but blackjacks pay 3-2, your risk increases to $750, but your average loss for 500 hand decreases to $4.65.
To me, there’s no comparison. If I can afford to play the 3-2 game, I play, and if I can’t, I find something else to do.