A shuffle through the Gaming mailbag:
Q. Please explain why casinos charge a commission on winning banker bets in baccarat and mini-baccarat, but don't charge a commission when you bet on player? That doesn't seem fair. Is it to drive people away from banker and get them to bet more on player?
A. No, the casinos aren't trying to push you toward betting on player. Charging the commission is what they need to do to make a profit on banker bets.
The banker hand wins more often than it loses. In an eight-deck game, banker will win an average of 45.86 percent of the time, player wins 44.62 percent, and 9.52 percent are ties.
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On ties, banker and player bets are pushes, meaning bettors get to keep their money. There is a decision on those bets only if banker or player wins. So if we throw out ties, then banker wins about 50.7 percent of decisions and player wins 49.3 percent.
If there was no commission and winning bets paid even money, banker bettors would make a profit. Per $1,000 wagered, they would collect $507 in winnings and keep their $507 in wagers on the winners. That total of $1,014 represents a profit of $14 per $1,000 wagered.
Casinos can't offer no-skill bets that give players an edge. If they did, they'd go broke. So they charge a commission on winning banker bets in order to give the house its edge.
There is no need to charge a commission on player bets, because they lose more often than they win and the house already has an edge.
Q. Whatever happened to those slot machines where a symbol that appeared just above or below a payline would click up or click down? I had some nice three-7 winners on those games, and I miss them.
A. That format was known as a "nudge" feature and was mainly available on IGT three-reel slots. One popular game was Double Diamond Deluxe, and I seem to recall a game called Jurassic Jackpots with dinosaur graphics that used the nudge feature.
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Some symbols had an arrow or other pointer on top or bottom. A symbol with the pointer on the bottom would click down if it appeared above the payline, and with with the pointer on top would click up from below the line.
These games still exist in some casinos, and there was an effort by IGT to revive the nudge feature a few years ago. But nudges really work best on single-payline slots. Trying to use a nudge on a 40-line video slot would be pointless since every symbol in every position is on some paylines.
Even most newer three-reel games today have multiple paylines. That leaves nudges as a blast from the past, found mainly in casinos that still have a quantity of older three-reel, single-line machines.
Q. You're in a casino, having a tough day, and you're down to your last $5 with time for one more bet before you go home. What do you do?
A. I leave and keep the $5 in case I need it for something on the way home.
But if I'm to play along with your hypothetical and bet the $5, I might just try to double the money with a $5 bet on blackjack, the pass line at craps or the player bet at baccarat.
Alternatively, I might take a chance on winning many times my bet while having a reasonable chance of at least getting my $5 back. Then the choice would be a $5 max bet on a dollar video poker machine.
But really, I'd probably just buy an iced tea for the road.