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Casino Answer Book
by John Grochowski
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Subtitled 'How to Overcome the House Advantage When You Play Blackjack, Video Poker and Roulette,' this book provides the basics of the three games in question/answer and multiple choice quiz formats. It includes the author's own 'Spin' roulette approach that has proven to be very popular; bets and percentages; basic blackjack, and card counting strategies. Grochowski is a gaming columnist who writes with an easy-to-read style geared to beginning and intermediate players. You could use this book in an entertaining educational way by asking the questions of a partner to check his or her knowledge of casino games.
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How Much Will An Hour On A Slot Machine Cost You?

If time is money at casino table games, it's doubly so on slot machines and video poker, where we play much faster.

How much faster? A blackjack player at a full table plays about 50 handsJohn GrochowskiJohn Grochowski is the author of six gaming books including the "Answer Book" series -- The Casino Answer Book, The Video Poker Answer Book, The Craps Answer Book and a revised edition of The Slot Machine Answer Book. His articles cover blackjack, slots and video poker strategy  as well as casino etiquette and getting the most bang for your buck in Vegas.  John's website is www.casinoanswerman.com  an hour. On reel slots and video poker, I usually figure 500 hands as an easy steady pace at reel slots and video poker, and video slots with bonus rounds at about 300 spins an hour. Many play faster, and you certainly can slow the games down, but let's use those figures as averages.

Just as we did with table games, let's take an hour of play at average speed and factor in the house edge to rank the games by average loss per hour. It'd take a whole book to list all the video poker variations, so I'll just use a couple of pay tables on basic Jacks or Better as examples.

Quarter 9/6 Jacks or Better video poker, one coin: $2. With expert play, 9-6 Jacks returns 99.5 percent to the player, assuming a maximum coins, five-coin bet. With fewer than five coins wagered, that return drops to 98.4 percent. At 500 hands an hour, the $125 is wagered, with the average loss being 1.6 percent of that.

Quarter 9-6 Jacks or Better video poker, five coins: $3.125. OK, that's a little too precise, but we can be precise in video poker. At 500 hands an hour we risk $625. Note that even though we risk five times as much money as when we bet only one coin, the cost is only a little more than 1.5 times as high. That's because the overall house edge with expert play drops to 0.5 percent.

Quarter 8-5 Jacks or Better video poker, one coin: $4.88. In the "8-5" version, full houses pay only 8-for-1, flushes pay 5-for-1, and we lose about 2 percent of our payback compared with the 9-6 game. Risk is $125, and we lose about 3.9 percent of that.

Dollar 9-6 Jacks or Better video poker, one coin: $8. Unlike slots, video poker payoffs do not vary with coin denomination. Instead, they vary according to the pay table. The cost on a dollar video poker game is four times that of the same pay table played with quarters.

Penny video slot machine, 20 lines, one coin per line: $9. Each spin of the reels costs only 20 cents, and at 300 spins an hour, you're putting $60 an hour on the line. In most casinos, the lowest coin denominations also bring the lowest percentage payoffs. Here, we'll use an 85-percent return for pennies. Some casino will offer higher payback percentages, some lower, but pennies do tend to pay less than 90 percent.

Quarter reel-spinning slot, one coin: $11.25 At 500 spins an hour, average risk becomes $125. The house keeps somewhere from 6 to 9 percent on quarter slots. If you bet only one coin, you'll get a somewhat lower percentage because the payoff on the top jackpot awards a higher percentage to max-coins bettors. There's room for much variation depending on the math of the individual machine, but let's assume a 93 percent payback with max coins played that drops to a 91 percent return with fewer coins wagered.

Dollar 9-6 Jacks or Better, five coins: $12.50. Four times the wager, four times the cost as the quarter version.

Nickel video slot machine, 9 lines, one coin per line: $13.50. Same 300 spins per hour as on penny video slots, fewer paylines, but a higher bet coin denomination puts the average wagers per hour at $135. Figure on about 10 percent as the cost of play -- a little more at some casinos, a little less at others.

Quarter 8-5 Jacks or Better video poker, five coins: $16.88: With expert play, we lose 2.7 percent of our wagers.

Dollar 8-5 Jacks or Better video poker, one coin: $19.50. Four times the cost of quarter 8-5 Jacks or Better.

Quarter reel-spinning slot, three coins: $26.75. Note that this is a better payback percentage than quarter games with one coin played, but it's still a higher cost per hour with total wagers of $375. That's something to keep in mind when budgeting your day at the casino.

Dollar reel-spinning slot, one coin: $35. Risk is $500 at a dollar for each of 500 spins. We'll assume an overall payback of 95 percent with max coins played, but only 93 percent with one coin wagered.

Dollar 8-5 Jacks or Better video poker, five coins: $67.50. The risk is $2,500 an hour. At At 97.3 percent, we get a better payback percentage than on dollar slots, but a five-coin maximum bet instead of three coins on the reel-spinners leaves the cost per hour nearly as high.

Dollar reel-spinning slot, three coins: $75. Casinos regard dollar slot players as some of their most valuable customers. With $1,500 an hour in play at games that return about 95 percent, dollar slot players usually are well-comped -- and deservedly so.

Now we've put a cost-per-hour on machines as well as on table games. Next week we'll put the lists together.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Beat the Odds" tips Saturdays at 6:20 a.m., 2:50 p.m. and 7:41 p.m. and Sundays at 8:20 a.m., 2:50 p.m. and 10:42 p.m. on WBBM-AM, News Radio 780 in Chicago, streaming online at www.wbbm780.com

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