Poker leads slot revolt

Jul 3, 2007 2:54 AM

When I sit down at my keyboard to write my column, some weeks I struggle with what topic to write. There’s no shortage of topics, but that doesn’t mean that a good idea on how to present the topic pops into my head.

When it comes to the July 4th week, however, it just doesn’t get any easier than this. My father, Lenny Frome, really hated slot machines. There is an element of luck in all casino games, especially in the short run. Many, however, at least have an element of skill that rewards the knowledgeable player for playing properly.

Slots, however, have absolutely NO element of skill whatsoever. To make matters worse, I can’t think of another casino game in which the player does not know what the overall payback is! Give me the paytable for any table game or for any video poker machine and I can tell you what the payback is. Maybe it will be 99.5% like it is for a full-pay jacks or better machine. Maybe it will be a 97% table game. Maybe it will even be a sucker sidebet paying 70%. Many of these sidebets have no skill involved either, but at least the payback is known and/or can be calculated so you can make an informed decision.

It just seems un-American to ask people to put their money into a machine and have no clue what to expect in terms of payback.

Of course, if slot machines had paybacks like video poker machines, do you think the casinos would keep the paybacks hidden? Of course, then the secrets would be there for everyone to see. Imagine a bank of slot machines is sitting on the floor, each looking identical to the one next to it.

Yet, one says 96% payback, the next one says 97% and the next one says 97.5%. Why is there a difference? The paytables look identical. Why would the paybacks be different?

Because, with slots, what you see is NOT what you get! There may appear to be 20 or 30 stops on a reel, but that doesn’t mean that each symbol comes up 1/20th or 1/30th of the time.

So, when video poker machines were invented, my father saw them as the true American alternative to slot machines (even though, I presume slot machines were invented here also).

Video poker machines are honest and true (in most locales). Every card has the same likelihood of being dealt as any other card.

By looking at the paytable, the overall payback can be determined down to the tiniest fraction. You don’t have to wonder what the payback of the machine is.

Lastly, even the worst video poker machine generally has a better payback than most slot machines. Because, there is no strategy with slot machines, the casinos can’t give the better players an advantage over the lesser players.

With video poker, the machine may have a 99.5% payback based on the paytable, but many people who play it will play using inferior strategies and will easily make the game a 95% paytable. The expert player is able to use this to his advantage. With slots, Einstein would have no advantage over even a caveman (for you Geico fans!)

So, on this July 4th, declare your independence from slots. To help you along the way, we’ll make both of our red, white and blue books available at a discount to GamingToday readers. Just mention the Independence day special. Video Poker: America’s National Game of Chance, containing dozens of Lenny Frome’s best articles, puzzles and anecdotes is just $7.95 (list price is $19.95). Winning Strategies for Video Poker containing more than 60 strategy tables for some of the most popular video poker machines in America is just $12.95 (list price is $15.95). Order them both for $20. Send a check or money order to Compu-Flyers, P.O. Box 132, Bogota, NJ 07603.