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How many coins are enough?

Nov 30, 2004 5:56 AM

Occasionally, I receive a letter from a reader who seems confused about how many coins to play. For the most part, we advocate maximum coin play. But like most rules, this is not an absolute. In almost all cases, maximum coin play results in a higher payback for the player. It does not, however, guarantee a lower loss rate.

Payback is measured in terms of coins returned divided by coins played. Loss rate, however, is generally measured in terms of Amoney lost per hour. If you play one quarter per hand for an hour (600 hands per hour) on a full pay jacks or better, you’ll be playing a game that has a payback of about 98 percent and you can expect to lose $3 per hour.

On the other hand, if you play maximum coins, you’ll be playing a game with a payback of about 99.5 percent and you can expect to lose about $3.75 per hour. This is because you will play five times the amount of money in the same amount of time.

If you’ll lose less money playing one coin, why would we ever advocate playing maximum coins on a machine with a payback of less than 100 percent? Well, if the only goal is to lose as little money as possible, we’d advocate not to gamble at all! You’ll lose, on average, zero dollars if you don’t play any coins.

The goal, however, is to maximize your expected value, which is really a compromise between minimizing your losses and maximizing your chances for winning. Playing five coins at 99.5 percent may cause you to lose more money, but it greatly increases your chances to win money, and to win significantly more money than if you were to play one coin.

So, when does it pay to play only a single coin? For the most part, two situations come to mind. The first is when you are just starting out and your expertise level is still below where it should be. This would be a good time to advocate that you go back and practice some more, but, if you find yourself compelled to play in a casino, play a single coin until you’re sure you’re playing with at least 99 percent accuracy.

The second scenario that would warrant playing a single coin is if you are not adequately bankrolled for maximum coin play. For a less volatile game like full pay jacks or better, an 80-bet bankroll ($100 for quarters) should be sufficient for a three- or four-hour session.

Games more volatile, like Double Double Bonus will require larger bankrolls. If you do not have the proper size bankroll, the likelihood of running out of money in a downswing increases. Once you are out of money, there is no coming back on the next upswing!

One last point about maximum coin play should be mentioned. Historically, maximum coin play generally meant five coins per hand. At this level, the royal flush payout increases from 250 credits per coin to 800 credits per coin.

Nowadays, some machines accept more than five coins. On these machines, the royal flush payout still increases at the five-coin level. Make sure to check the machine you are playing very carefully to make sure this is the case. On machines such as these, no additional benefit is gained by playing more than five coins, if the machine’s payback is below 100 percent.