Speed of play counts in all gambling

Last week, I discussed the loss rate of many common table games. Somewhere in there I mentioned a variable that I did not take into account in my analysis in order to keep things simple.

This is speed of play. Most people probably go to the casino with the notion of playing for a certain amount of time, unless they run out of bankroll or perhaps hit a big win that makes you realize it’s a good time to quit. I don’t know too many people who count the number of hands that they are going to play.

There is definitely some variation in the number of hands per hour between games. Casino War plays at probably 50 hands or more per hour. Blackjack probably plays at 30 to 40 hands per hour. Ultimate Texas Hold’em is probably capped at about 30 hands per hour.

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But, there is another factor that impacts all of this. This is the number of players at the table. Ironically, while casinos lament only being able to have three players at a table, it probably does not mean they are only dealing a total of half the hands (relative to six players). They are probably seeing an increase in hands per hour of 20 to 30 percent at least. So, if a UTH game deals 30 hands per hour with six players for 180, it now deals 35 to 40 hands with three players or 105 to 120 hands. A drop, for sure, but perhaps only a 33 percent drop instead of a 50 percent drop.

How many hands the casinos deal is immaterial to you as the player. You care about how much you wager in total. As I said last week, Ultimate has an average wager per hand of 4.21 units. If you are playing at a $5 table, you are wagering about $21 per hand. If you play 30 hands per hour, you are wagering $630. If you play 40 hands per hour, you are wagering $840. At a house advantage of about 0.7 percent that extra $210 wagered will cost you about $15 per hour.

I bring all this up because there is a bit of a misconception that table game players put so much more on the line than do video poker players. As I just pointed out, even a low stake $5 game really means $21 per hand. If you’re a quarter video poker player, you are risking just $1.25 at max coin. But, a proficient video poker player can easily play 600 hands per hour. The total wager over that time is $750. This puts our video poker player in the same category as our Ultimate Texas Hold’em player. A $5 blackjack player will only wager less than $300 per hour even if the game is going at 50 hands per hour with just two or three players.

Blackjack and jacks or better video poker have similar paybacks at 99.5 percent. But, if you are wagering $750 per hour, you can expect to lose $3.75 at video poker and about $1.50 at blackjack. The good news is that neither is a high cost for an hour’s worth of entertainment. But make no mistake. If one spouse is playing tables and the other video poker, it may not be so clear which one is really risking more.

About the Author

Elliot Frome

Elliot Frome’s roots run deep into gaming theory and analysis. His father, Lenny, was a pioneer in developing video poker strategy in the 1980s and is credited with raising its popularity to dizzying heights. Elliot is a second generation gaming author and analyst with nearly 20 years of programming experience.

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