John Grochowski

John Grochowski John Grochowski John Grochowski John Grochowski

A shuffle through the Gaming mailbag:

Q. I’m interested in the idea of win goals and loss limits to decide when to leave a game. You set a win goal, and if you reach it, you leave. You also set a limit on losses, and if you lose that much, you leave.

Is that how you manage your money? Does it change if you have an edge, like a blackjack card counter?

A. For games in which the casino has an edge — nearly all of them, against the vast majority of players, I’ve suggested a modified system of floating win goals and loss limits.

I don’t think a hard win goal is realistic. If you walk into a casino with $100 and set a win goal of $20, you could reach it by winning your first four $5 blackjack hands. Are you going to walk out at that point? You’d be in a very small minority if you can honestly answer “yes.”

Instead, I suggest players let goals and limits float. If you set a $50 loss limit, by all means, leave that as a hard floor. But if your win goal is $20 and you reach it, then increase your win goal to $40 and also raise your floor to $30. Now, with the early win, you can keep playing and still guarantee you won’t lose as much as your original limit.

The situation is much different with advantage players. There is no point in limiting wins if you have an edge on the game. Advantage players leave because fatigue is setting in, or to keep sessions short to avoid detection, or simply because they have other things to do. Blackjack players might move because the count is at a point they’re at a disadvantage. Otherwise, when you have an edge, you want to let it keep working for you.

Regardless of whether you or the house has the edge. neither win goals, loss limits nor any other money management scheme affects that edge one bit.

Q. My wife and I were talking about this the other day because she likes the video slots and I like the three-reels. If she plays a penny game, 30 paylines, 10 credit per line max bet, she has a max of $3. If I play a dollar game, one payline, taking up to three coins, it’s also a $3 max.

If we each make 1,000 bets, so $3,000 apiece, which of us has more money at the end?

A. The percentages vary from state to state and casino to casino, but common practice is for games with higher base denominations to have higher payback percentages.

To illustrate, let’s look at figures from the Illinois Gaming Board monthly report from April. We could use other states and get a similar story, but Illinois calculates percentages on its report, so I can be a little lazy and not take the time to do the arithmetic from the raw numbers.

In March, penny slots at Illinois casinos paid 88.16 percent, while dollar slots paid 92.29 percent.

Per $3,000 in wagers, average losses for a penny player would have been about $355, while average losses for the dollar player would have been about $219.

On a per hour basis, the difference would be a little narrower. That’s because video slots have frequent bonus events and most three-reel games don’t. During bonuses, you make no additional wagers, so you make fewer bets per hour on video slots.

Bonus payouts are included in the overall payback percentage, though, so the point remains that paybacks are higher on higher denomination machines.

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