John Grochowski

John Grochowski

A shuffle through the Gaming mailbag:

Q. I was wondering about wild symbols on video slots. They usually can take the place of any symbol in a winning combination, but they can’t replace the bonus symbols.

If I need three special symbols to get a bonus, they have to be those exact symbols, not two of them and a wild or whatever.

Why not? Why can’t they make the wild symbols really wild so they can bring bonuses, too?

A. Games could be programmed in that way. It would require adjustments in the math, but it’s possible.

That doesn’t mean it would be desirable. There are several issues game designers would face.

Games are designed to hold player interest with frequency of wins, size of wins and frequency of bonus events. If wild symbols could launch bonuses, game makers would have to work with the math to keep those elements intact. You wouldn’t get more frequent bonus events if wilds could launch them. Other elements of the game would be adjusted to account for wild symbols’ added function,

The frequency of wild symbols probably would be reduced if they also served as bonus triggers. Wild symbols are there in part to create extra winning combinations, including some big winners, to keep you involved in the games between bonus events.

But if wild symbols could launch a bonus event, they’d have to be rarer, and that would interfere with their main function in increasing win frequency.

Designers could compensate by decreasing the frequency of special bonus symbols and increasing the frequency of wins without wilds.

But the wilds are attractive elements that increase anticipation of wins to come, and bonus symbols are attractive elements that increase anticipation of bonus events. Each has its own function in creating games that are fun to play.

Q. Three Card Poker, Pair Plus, I’m dealt Ace-King-Queen of clubs. That’s a straight flush, and I’m paid 40-1, so for my $10 bet I win $400.

I’m happy with my win, but I think longingly of Caribbean Stud, where a royal flush is a progressive jackpot that can be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

I get that three-card royals happen a lot more often than five-card royals, but is the difference really so great that one game pays $400 for a $10 bet and the other pays a fortune for a $1 side bet?

A. Yes, the difference really is that great.

In five-card stud poker games, there are 2,598,560 possible five-card hands in which card order doesn’t matter. Four of those are royal flushes, leaving your chances of being dealt a royal at 1 in 649,740.

In Three Card Poker, there are 22,100 possible three-card hands in which card order doesn’t matter. Four of those are Ace-King-Queen of the same suit, leaving your chances of being dealt a three-card royal at 1 in 5,255.

A three-card royal is 124 times more likely than a five-card royal. If 50 hands per hour are dealt, you’ll see a mini-royal about once per 261 hours, while you’ll see a five-card royal only once per 12,995 hours.

I don’t know about you, but my life doesn’t have room for 12,995 hours of Caribbean Stud.

On most Three Card Poker tables, the mini-royals are lumped in with other straight flushes for a 40-1payoff. Overall, straight flushes come up about once per 460 hands.

Some tables have a mini-royal at the top of the pay table. They usually pay 50-1, while other straight flushes stay at 40-1. Your reward isn’t a fortune, but you have a much better chance at any reward at all.