Scout paytables before playing casino games

You may recall in the Feb. 19 issue of Gaming Today, I wrote about fellow columnist Elliott Frome’s advice to “Scout out paytables before sitting to play” games in casinos. While you cannot beat the casinos, some do pay better than others. This applies to all casino games including poker. Some poker rooms have more to offer the players in the form of freebies, bonuses and prizes — ranging from the Aces-cracked bonus to the monster bad-beat jackpot.

Meanwhile, in the Feb. 12 issue of Card Player magazine, columnist Steve Schult reported on the monster winnings enjoyed by the New Jersey casinos this past year. The headline read in large caps: “NEW JERSEY CASINOS WIN $3.29 BILLION IN 2019.”

Overall, the state’s nine casinos grossed $3.29 Billion. Mind you, during that time, most of the poker players were losers — some more so than others. Meanwhile, the players — the source of all that revenue — go home losers most of the time. I estimate that 10 percent of recreational players are consistent winners. Poker celebrity Jan Fisher of CardPlayer Cruises thinks it could be 5 percent — or even less.

Poker has it’s own unique language

The rake is the main source of the casinos’ profits. With lowering the rake, the only chance a player has of winning more often and earning bigger pots is to become expert at all the key skills. Be a much better and smarter player than the “enemy.” And, in that GT column, we suggested many key skills to work on.

As it so happened, in the same Feb. 12 Card Player issue, poker pro Gavin Griffin described the high bonus (equivalent to a payback) his home casino pays regular players during selected months: $60 for every 20 hours played — and $500 for every 100 hours.

Let’s pause to analyze this. With a rake of $5 per hand, and 30 hands dealt per hour, that adds up to $150 per hour taken from the table. With nine players at the table, that averages to over $16 per player each hour of play.

Thus, on the average, the casino has raked more than $320 from each player during those 20 hours. So, it can well afford to pay back that $60, netting $260 for the casino. For 100 hours of play during that month, that amounts to $1,560 from which the casino pays back $500, leaving it a net gain of $1,060.

In the past, the casino’s rake has been periodically increased. Can we turn that around? Will the casino’s gross still translate to a good enough profit after all taxes. fees and other expenses?

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One suggestion is to encourage casinos to lower the rake in their poker games. Then, we will see more happy winners. Instead of 10 percent or fewer of them going home with a modest “profit,” let’s get it up to 30 percent with a somewhat bigger return on the player’s investment risk. Meanwhile, learning and becoming expert in the poker skills will continue to make a huge difference.

Discussing this with a few other regular players, another interesting suggestion was to take an example from industry where unions of workers often serve to best represent the members’ interests. The “players union” could negotiate an even higher pay back as a minimum for all licensed casinos. Perhaps it might urge the politicians to get such a measure on the ballot in each state — or even convince President Trump to push it on a national level.

But that’s hardly likely. Why would the casinos even consider such a change?

This made me ponder: Whatever happened to the Poker Players’ Alliance? It started in late 2005 to serve the needs of poker players; but, apparently, received little financial support from the players. So, in 2018, it became the Pokier Alliance (PA) with new leadership and its goal became to “expand the spirting world of poker, improving the players’ safety — while (apparently) bringing more profits to the casinos.

That too seems to have gone by the wayside.  Maybe it’s time to take another shot at it? One thing’s for sure: The players deserve a better chance to go home winners. Can it be done?

About the Author

George Epstein

A retired engineer, George Epstein is the author of “The Greatest Book of Poker for Winners!” and “Hold’em or Fold’em? – An Algorithm for Making the Key Decision.” He teaches poker courses and conducts a unique Poker Lab at the Claude Pepper Senior Center under the auspices of the City of Los Angeles Dept. of Recreation and Parks and at West Los Angeles College.

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