Table games

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Not as much disparity as you expect

I’ve spent the month of July continuing my father’s campaign for Independence – from slots, that is. Through the years, he pushed for people to give up their slot habit and join the video poker revolution. Personally, I’m a bit more lenient than my father. I agree 100% that people should give up slots, but I’m okay with them taking up table games, too. In my father’s day there were far more limited choices for table games. In 2010, the choices are far greater and far better for many players.

I think one of the things that keeps players away from table games is that the wager for a single game is much higher than for video poker. It is pretty easy to find nickel video poker machines – although you may not find full-pay machines until you move up to quarter machines – and even though you have to bet 5 of them to get the true full-pay, this is still only $1.25 for the quarter machine.

Compare that to even a $5 table that may also offer side-bets and require more than a single wager in order to not fold, and a player may easily be risking $20 or $25 on a single hand. For places on the East Coast where the table minimum might be $10 or $15, this could easily mean a $50-$75 wager on a single hand!

While losing that much money on a single hand can be rather shocking to those who aren’t ready for it, players would be much more prudent to take a step back and look at the larger picture. You rarely go into a casino to play only a single hand.

As though a losing streak while playing these larger wagers can be very devastating (and very quickly) to your bankroll, the total amount wagered over a period of time can be a better measure of just how much risk a player is taking.

For a table game, most games deal at about 30-35 hands per hour. This will vary depending on the specific game, how many players at the table and how social the table is.

So, a $5 blackjack table (which averages about $5.65 of wager per hand) playing at 35 hands per hour means a player is wagering just under $200 per hour.

A $5 Three Card Poker table playing 35 hands per hour will leave a player risking about $475, assuming he plays both Ante/Play and Pair Plus.

An Ultimate Texas Hold’em Player wagers about $900 in an hour.

Video poker players can play 600 hands per hour. Of course, unlike a table game, each player is completely in control over how fast (or slow) to play. So, a player can choose to ‘slow play’ in order to slow down how much he is wagering per hour.

But, using the average of 600 hands per hour, a max-coin quarter player will wager $750 per hour. This is above the level of most table games. So, while there are still many good reasons to play video poker over table games, the dollar amount put at risk should not be one of them.

Table game paybacks are, generally speaking, below that of readily available video poker games. So, from this aspect, video poker is still preferable. When we take into account the true loss rate (the house advantage multiplied by the total wager per hour), even a fast video poker player is likely to lose less than most table players.

There are, however, some table games whose paybacks are very comparable to video poker. Blackjack’s payback is about the same as full-pay jacks or better. Ultimate Texas Hold’em has a payback in the low 99% range.

Games like Three Card Poker and Let It Ride have paybacks akin to slightly short-pay video poker – high 97% to low 98%.

Unlike video poker, which requires a similar degree of effort to learn the strategy regardless of the payback, table games that have simpler strategies tend to have slightly lower paybacks. These strategies are not just ‘a little’ simpler, but can frequently be memorized in a matter of minutes – or put onto an index card that the casino will likely have no problem with you having handy.

Table games also provide a more social setting to play. Video poker tends to be a relatively solitary game. You can chat a bit with the person at the machine next to you, but since video poker requires a fair amount of focus to play correctly, this isn’t always a good idea.

Table games, even those with tougher strategies, generally allow for socializing without losing focus (unless you’re trying to count cards!).

The bottom line is – BREAK THE SLOT HABIT! Do it with video poker. Do it with table games. Just do it!

For the past month, we’ve been running a video poker book special and now for August we’re going to keep the ball rolling with a table games book special. If you are ready to break the slot habit and want to learn how to play the most popular games in the casino, this special is for you. You can get ALL SIX Expert Strategy books (Three Card Poker, Four Card Poker, Let It Ride, Caribbean Stud, Spanish 21 and Mississippi Stud) which normally sell for over $30 for just $20 which includes postage and handling. Send a check or money order to Compu-Flyers, P.O. Box 132, Bogota, NJ 07603 and BREAK THE SLOT HABIT today!

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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