John Grochowski

John Grochowski

A shuffle through the Gaming mailbag:

Q. Two friends and I leave our husbands alone for a while once every couple of weeks and go play slots together. This last time got to talking about how long some of those games have been there and how short the stays have been for others.

Something like Double Diamond or the three-reel Wheel of Fortune, we’ve been playing those for a good 20 years. We play video slots too, like everybody else, and those seem more fly by night. We played Fortune Cookie pretty much for a year or two, but I don’t remember the last time I saw it. Even something like Monopoly, where there have been a lot of versions, comes and goes.

Why is that? Why can I play the same reel slots I did 20 years ago when popular video slots are gone within a couple of years and less popular ones are gone even faster?

A. Part of it is in the nature of the games. There are reel slots with bonus events, but the older, long-lasting games put almost all their emphasis on wins, losses and the chance at a big jackpot.

Video slots put more of a premium on entertainment value. Wins and losses are important, but so are bonus events that keep you involved in the game. Graphics and special effects are important, too.

That leads to a continual game of “can you top this?” among slot manufacturers. Hundreds of new games are brought to market every year, each with new bonuses and entertainment features vying to lure players away from established games.

Once a player has seen the features on one game, it’s only natural that they’d cross the aisle to take a look at a shiny new game to see if it might be more fun than a rerun of an old favorite.

Video slots are the most played games in modern casinos, while three-reel games hold onto a smaller niche. Most of the research and development dollars budgeted by game makers go toward developing video slots.

There are many more new video slots than new reel slots. Combined with player curiosity about features on the new video games, there’s a strong tendency toward faster turnover on video than on reels.

Q. In baccarat and roulette, casinos mostly don’t care if you track past results or even write them down. Some even offer scorecards, especially at big baccarat tables.

But if you tried to write down the results at blackjack, they’d go bananas, maybe even throw you out. Shouldn’t there be some kind of equal treatment among players at different games?

A. You probably already know the answer to the question you’re asking.

Tracking blackjack results is not an equivalent situation to tracking roulette or baccarat. Knowing past outcomes at roulette does not give you any indication of future results.

Baccarat isn’t as purely random as roulette, but the late Peter Griffin calculated that getting an edge via counting cards would entail sitting out all but three hands per eight hours.

No one’s going to give you table space for eight hours while you play only three hands. For any practical purpose, tracking cards at baccarat is no big help.

Blackjack is different. Odds constantly change as cards are dealt and removed from play until the next shuffle. Card counters can and do get a mathematical edge.

Casinos can’t stop players from keeping a mental count of cards, but allowing players to write down the cards on each hand and have an accurate record to base their play is asking too much.