A shuffle through the Gaming mailbag:
Q. I was thinking about slot odds and something you wrote about how they can make a video slot reel as long as they want since it doesn’t take up space inside the game cabinet.
Some of those video reels seem really long, so there could be 100 symbols, right? If there’s only one jackpot symbol per reel, and there are five reels like most video slots, then the odds of a top jackpot are 1 in 100 to the fifth power, or 1 in 10,000,000,000. If I count my zeroes right, that’s 1 in 10 billion.
Why would I want to play a game where I have a 1 in 10 billion chance of winning?
A. Who says there’s only one jackpot symbol per 100? That’s a situation you’ve made up and not a realistic situation.
One problem with your scenario is that video slots have more than one payline. Even if a game really included only one jackpot symbol per 100 on each of five reels, a 40-line game would give you 40 chances to line up those symbols on each spin, not just one.
In addition, game designers and programmers can include jackpot symbols in any proportion necessary to achieve the desired odds. They could cut the jackpot odds by including two jackpot symbols per reel, or five on the first reel, four each on the second and third, three on the fourth and two on the fifth, or any other combination that would take them to realistic jackpot odds.
The designers and programmers also can work with more or fewer than 100 symbols per reel if they so desire. If the numbers that yield the desired odds include 640 symbols per reel with variable numbers of jackpot symbols per reel, they can do that.
One further thing: in asking why you’d want to play a game with a 1 in 10 billion chance of winning, you’ve defined “winning” as “winning the top jackpot.” That disregards all the smaller pays on the main screen as well as any bonus events, and it’s the bonus events that keep players coming back to video slots.
Frequency of top jackpots on video slots varies from game to game. Video slots usually concentrate less of their overall return in top jackpots and more in bonus events, so the top jackpot on the reel portion of a video game usually occurs less often than on your basic three-reel Blazing 7s or Double Diamond game. But it’s not as extreme as the 1 in 10 billion strawman you set up.
Q. I ran into a video poker promotion where one day a week royal flushes paid double. The best game was 8-5 Bonus Poker. Assuming I know optimal play, what does it do to the payback percentage if royals pay 8,000 credits instead of 4,000?
A. With expert play, 8-5 Bonus Poker with the usual royal payout of 4,000 credits for a five-credit bet returns 99.2 percent to players. Doubling that royal to 8,000 coins takes the payback percentage into positive territory at 101.4 percent.
Expert play changes when royals get more valuable. One example: if dealt 10-Jack-Ace of clubs, a Jack of hearts and a 7 of spades in 8-5 Bonus Poker, the usual expert play is to hold the pair of Jacks. But on the double royal days, it’s a better play to hold the three high clubs.
Also keep in mind that on a quarter machine, the double royal payoff of $2,000 takes you past the $1,200 threshold at which you must sign a tax form W2-G to get paid.