John Grochowski

John Grochowski John Grochowski John Grochowski John Grochowski

A shuffle through the Gaming mailbag:

Q. I noticed that video slot machines have more different symbols per reel than three-reel slots. On three-reel games, I figure a normal one has something like cherries, single bars, double bars, triple bars, 7s and a jackpot symbol. That’s only six different symbols.

On video slots, you might see five or more symbols based on the game theme, plus A-K-Q-J-10. On one game, I counted 14 different symbols.

Does that make any difference in how often you win?

A. If the only factor in a slot machine’s hit frFind assetsequency was the number of unique symbols, then a game with fewer symbols would yield more frequent wins.

But the situation is more complex than that. Symbols are not programmed to land on a payline with equal frequency. Low-paying symbols occur more often than once per seven spins on a three-reel game or once per 14 on a video slot, and that can increase overall hit frequency.

Also, the presence of more paylines on a video slot means there are dozens of chances for each potential winner to line up. A combination might line up on a specific payline only once per 200 spins, but if a game has 40 paylines you’re seeing it more line up once per five spins.

Despite the greater number of unique symbols on video slots, the other factors mean the video slots usually have greater hit frequency than three-reel slots.

Q. Have we reached a point where non-advantage players should think about making craps or video poker their first game? I’ve seen so much 6-5 blackjack it frustrates the hell out of me.

Even when it’s not 6-5, the rules are just so bad. Last week, I was in a casino where the basic game was eight decks, hit soft 17, double only on hard 9 or 10, split pairs once, no double after split, late surrender. That’s just so bad. Craps plus odds gets you a better deal.

A. Blackjack has been getting tougher, no doubt about it. Basic strategy players often will find themselves in a casino where they can get a lower house edge on craps plus double odds or more than on blackjack. In the case of the game you found, even craps with single odds would get you there.

However, players don’t choose games solely on the house edge. They choose games they like to play, and blackjack and craps are very different experiences.

I do my best to steer people away from 6-5 blackjack, but the game you describe, 0.91 percent against a basic strategy player, creates a conundrum. Ten years ago I’d have suggested you find a different casino and a different game. Nowadays, the most common six-deck tables have hit soft 17 games and house edges near 0.7 percent.

I’d like to say that if we all avoided such games, casinos would respond with better rules. But I don’t really believe that. I think they’d respond with fewer blackjack tables.

Q. Why can’t I find five-card draw in casino poker rooms? That’s the game I grew up playing with my dad at home, and I’d like to play.

A. I’m no poker pro, but one reason is there are more rounds of betting in stud games.

In five-card draw, you ante, bet after seeing your cards, and bet once more after the draw. In Hold’em, you start with the blinds, bet after seeing your two cards, then again after the three-card flop, as well as after the one-card turn and the one-card river.

Serious players see Hold’em as more of a skill game than draw, and that’s what they prefer.

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