Gambling City

We are Cash Back

A Follow-Up to Two Recent Questions

Author: Mark Pilarski

Dear Mark: Some of the 9-6 video poker machines at the Greektown Casino now pay 250 coins for each coin in the machine but without the 4000 coin bonus for playing five coins. Instead you receive 1250. As someone who plays one coin, I like this option. Thoughts? Bob H.

As you are well aware, Bob, your typical royal flush payline looks like this with one through four coins inserted: 250, 500, 750, 1000, then for one more coin, kaboom, 4000. So the question beckons, by missing the jump in payout when the fifth coin is inserted, what are you giving up to the house?

On the front end, you are right by being in the hunt for full-pay (9/6) jacks-or-better machines, and hopefully you employ basic strategy, which gives you an expected payback of 99.544 percent. But you must take into account that those high returns are based on your hitting the royal flush. The royal flush is so dominant in the casino payout calculations for video poker that it is going to cost you 12% over the long run while you burn through your bankroll waiting for a suited Ten, Jack, Queen, King and Ace to arrive on the scene.

The time and anxiety between royals is long and byzantine, so plan on playing video poker an average of 60 hours, with rapid play, before hitting a royal flush. Even a straight flush can be expected only once every six hours, and four-of-a-kind hands occur just once an hour. Those hands are significant because they represent another five percent of a player's return. What this all means to you, Bob, is that the casino has a sizable advantage over your play while you’re on tenterhooks waiting for a bonanza.

The number that should be of interest to you, if you do not play the maximum number of coins, is your theoretical return. Playing that fifth coin for the royal bonus on a full pay (9/6) jacks-or-better machine accounts for 1.981 percent of your total return, which is not necessarily that bad, being that the long term theoretical return is only reduced from 99.544% to 98.05%. Now compare that, to the reduced pay tables of an 8/5 game, which is 97.3%, and a 7/5 machine that returns only 96.2% with five coins inserted. In view of that, Bob, playing light will still get you a reasonable return compared to other bets the house offers, that is, as long as you get your fair share of royals.

Dear Mark: In your response last week to Lew’s question on craps and the Don’t bet, you mentioned “laying odds.” Could you please give a fuller explanation of “laying” versus “taking” odds? Eric G.

The Free Odds bet works differently when betting the Pass Line instead of the Don't Pass.

A bettor who is “taking odds,” as with a Pass bet, is wagering an amount that is less than the bettor will receive on a win, and on the Don't side it's the opposite: What “laying odds” means is that some odds are so high in favor of the likely winner, that winning wagers are paid an amount less than the amount wagered.

For instance, on a point of 10, instead of betting $5 worth of odds to win $10 as you would on a Come wager, you “lay” $10 to win $5 on the Don’t. Either bet is paid at true odds and carries no house edge, but it's just made and paid in reverse.

The reason for betting more, to get less, as would happen if you are “laying odds,” is because once the point of 10 has been established, you are the favorite to win, since a 7 is twice as likely to be rolled as is a 10.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: “Every casino gambler has a strategy. Even those who don’t think they have strategies really do.” --Alan Krigman, Winning Ways