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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Deal Me In: Ah, those cash-comp-currency calculations

30 December 2011

Dear Mark: I have a disagreement with my spouse that we hope you can settle. My husband believes you get more in casino comps when you put cash into a slot machine than if you were to use a credit slip from another machine. His reasoning is that most players turn those credit slips in for cash, which takes them “out” of play, whereas, his money is now “in” play, which gives the casino more of an opportunity to win it. Is he correct in assuming that a player receives more comps by inserting cash? Robin D.

Every casino, Robin, has its own formula as for how it rewards slot players with comps or cash backs. It could be points per dollar played, where you would refer to a redemption schedule to determine how many points it takes to get comps or cash backs, or it could be based on a portion of the casino’s expected win. Here, your play is tracked, multiplied by the casino’s edge, thus deriving your expected loss and the casino’s expected win.

What comps are NOT, Robin, is free. Because the house edge on slot machines is substantial, you are paying for your own comps with your losses.

Whether you play your hard-earned cash or credit slips, it has no effect on your comps. Comps awarded for playing slots, are based strictly on your play, regardless of whether your credits come from currency or credit slips.

Dear Mark: I read your answer in the Detroit Free Press to a question concerning a Jacks or Better Machine, and if it is better to hold three unsuited face cards, draw two, or what. My question concerns whether or not to hold a small pair when dealt one or two unsuited face cards. Steve G.

Glad to see, Steve, that you value discarding certain cards to optimize the win potential of your hand, and realize that each hand dealt has what’s called an “expected value,” which is the average value of all the wins attainable after the discards are replaced.

The low pair (2s-10s) are always the optimum cards to hold over two high cards. The reason being, Steve, is that the frequency of hitting two pairs, three-of-a-kind, full houses, or four-of-a-kind when you hold the low pair far outweighs what two high cards offer.

The only two hands that include high cards, which are more powerful than a low pair, are a four-card straight with three high cards, and a three-card royal.

Dear Mark: I know I have played over 40,000 hands of video poker and have yet to get a royal flush. Do you mind explaining why haven’t I hit one yet? Nick F.

Although, Nick, you may have cycled through the average number of hands needed per royal flush (40,000, or 40,390 to be exact), it does not necessarily mean the probability of a royal is due at your next playing session. I must remind you, Nick, that video poker results are random.

The Poisson Distribution — which is the probability of a given number of events occurring in a fixed interval of time and/or space — states that there is only a 63.2 percent probability of at least one royal in one cycle, but that eventually balances out, Nick, by the possibility of two or more royals in another cycle.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: “No wife can endure a gambling husband, unless he is a steady winner.” —Thomas Robert Dewar
Recent Articles
Best of Mark Pilarski
Mark Pilarski

As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.
Mark Pilarski
As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.