Don’t sweat the small stuff

May 8, 2007 3:40 AM

I’m not sure at what point that someone decided that expert strategy meant that you should ONLY play positive games. It’s a nice idea, but rather unrealistic. While there are some positive games still left out there, they are getting harder and harder to find.

Even more comical is the notion that playing a game at 100.01% is great and playing a game at 99.99% would be a huge violation of the strategy. I suppose if I saw two identical style games sitting side by side and one had a payback of 100.01% and the other had a payback of 99.99%, I’d probably sit at the one paying the higher amount.

That made me wonder what the paytable difference would have to be for a 0.02% difference. About all that I could come up with would be that the royal on the lower paying machine would have to pay about eight units less (792 vs. 800 per coin). If the machines were of different versions (i.e. Double Double vs. Joker Wild), I’d pick the version that I prefer to play and be quite willing to risk my 0.02%.

How much would I be risking? Well, if I were a dollar player playing max-coin, it would take 250 hours of playing 800 hands/hour to play a total of $1 million. That 0.02% difference will cost me about $200 in that time or less than $1/hour.

If you’re only a quarter player, then it will take 1000 hours, and you’ll be losing 20 cents per hour. Let’s not forget that 1000 hours is six months of full-time work. If you’re a recreational player, you’re probably talking about several years’ worth of play.

Sure, I’d love to have the $200 in my pocket instead of the casino’s pocket But, will you really decide that one game is worth playing and the other is worth skipping over? I don’t think so.

This is where the worst distortion of expert strategy happens. Because I’ve now stated that 0.02% in payback is simply not enough to sweat over, that gets mistranslated into the idea that it’s okay to play obviously poor playing machines.

Whereas in my example, the royal payout is cut by eight units, others will say it is okay to play games where the Full House is cut by a unit. After all, if eight is okay, then one unit must be okay!?

Nothing could be further from the truth. The impact of a payout cut is the amount of the cut multiplied by the frequency of the hand. Full Houses occur a little more often than 1% of the time. This means a 1 unit decrease in the payout has a little more than a 1% impact to the overall payback.

So, while a full-pay (9-6) jacks or better machine pays 99.5%, a short-pay (8-6) jacks or better machine pays about 98.4%. This is more than 50 times the impact of the earlier example.

This means that it will take only five hours of playing max-coin $1 to cost you that $200, or 20 hours playing max-coin quarters.

This results in a $40/hour loss rate for dollars and a $5/hour loss rate for quarters. It probably won’t bankrupt you, but it will eat away at your bankroll and a much faster pace.

The same is true for a 1-unit decrease in the flush or the straight payouts. They all occur about 1% of the time. So, when you’re playing an 8-5 short-pay game, you can double the numbers from above. Instead of looking at a few years to cost yourself $200, you’re talking about a night playing dollars or maybe one trip to Las Vegas while playing quarters.

So that we can end all the misconceptions, the first leg of expert strategy is to know which machines to play. While we certainly won’t rule out playing positive games, it is not mandatory. The goal is to avoid the short-paying machines and to try and find the best paying machines in the locale that you’re playing.