RSSCasino Scene By John Brokopp
Gaming and casino expert, John Brokopp has advice on beating the odds and how to play the game each week.
Whenever you go on a casino gambling venture, you should bring along more than money. You should arm yourself with the proper know-how, self-control, and the ability to play the games intelligently. If you don't do it, the casinos are not going to do it for you.
Sure, casinos teach you the rules, but it's up to the players to take it upon themselves to read all they can about the games, pick up strategy, and separate the good bets from the bad bets. You should be aware of exactly what you're up against when you risk your money, because casinos give some information but not all of it.
For example, casinos love to make a big deal about the average return on slot machines. You see the figures 94 and 95 percent tossed around. It seems like a lot, and it is, but the figures DON'T mean you'll win 94 or 95 percent of the time you play those machines, nor do they mean you will get 94 or 95 percent of your money back when you play them. They represent the average amount of the money they pay back to patrons over the LONG HAUL, not the short term.
The late Lenny Frome was the father of modern video poker strategy. He was an unabashed devotee of video poker as the game of choice in casinos across the country and mentor to many of today's popular writers on the subject. Lenny's constant admonition to players was: "Learn video poker strategy and you'll kiss those reel slots goodbye!".
I recently received a question from a reader of this column. He has become enamored with nickel 50-Play video poker. He bets maximum coins on each play, an investment of $12.50 even on a nickel machine (50 hands at 25 cents a hand). Recently he encountered a couple of situations which got him questioning his own sense of strategy:
"I would like to go over three questions with you regarding some playing situations I encountered.
In spite of the fact casinos and race tracks are related through gambling, slot machine manufacturers have been unsuccessful in developing a game that incorporates the excitement of horse racing.
That looked like it was going to change a few years ago when one of the world's leading gaming companies, Aristocrat Technologies, Inc., joined forces with historic Churchill Downs to create the first Kentucky Derby-themed slot machine.
The company unveiled the product at the Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas. The game was launched in casinos just prior to the 136th running of the Kentucky Derby.
A number of years ago a 25-year-old software programmer from Los Angeles lined up the Megabucks jackpot symbols on a machine in the Excalibur Casino & Hotel on the Las Vegas Strip and won a world record slot jackpot of $39,713,982.25.
Prior to leaving on his trip, his uncle told him about the Megabucks jackpot and suggested he give it a try.
It's a good thing he listened to his uncle's advice. The winner said he had played around $100 in the machine. He turned his head away for an instant while the reels were spinning, then looked up to see he had lined up the winning symbols.
During a recent gambling outing I received a little casino "wake-up" call that I'd like to share with you. Here's what happened:
On this particular weekday evening the game was a $10 minimum blackjack table. I was about $50 ahead after playing for half an hour or so. After winning my previous hand, I put a $15 bet in the circle (a hefty wager for me). I pulled to 19 while the dealer had a 10 card showing. Besides myself, there was only one other player at the table and he had 20. We both had good hands, but a dealer's 10 is always scary.
The dealer proceeded to play out her hand. She had a five in the hole for a 15, then drew a seven to "bust" with a 22. All right! But then, much to my amazement, she scooped up the other player's chips and then started to scoop up mine! I said: "Whoa, there, what do you have?" She looked down, realized sheepishly she had in fact busted, then summoned a supervisor over to explain things. The supervisor confirmed that both of us had indeed won our bets. After the bets were returned along with our winnings, the dealer said she was sorry. Play continued.
Every slot player is aware of the little sticker that’s on every slot and video poker machine in every casino in the country: “Machine malfunction voids all pays and plays”.
For all practical purposes, this means that if the casino determines there are any irregularities in the normal function of the machine that would compromise any winnings or a jackpot payoff, the casino reserves the right to deny payment.
Since all electronic gaming devices are governed by an internal computer program, it is easy for casino owners to check that everything’s on the up and up. In fact, whenever a jackpot is hit, the machine locks down to allow attendants to key in codes and information to verify the payout before the machine is activated again.
Being a fiscal conservative when it comes to playing casino games has always served me well, but there are rare occasions when it can backfire.
Here's what being a conservative player means to me: If I buy into a table game with $100, my first goal is to win $50. If I pass that hurdle, I'll play with my $50 profit and push my original investment aside. If I lose my $50 profit, I'll play with $50 of my original investment. If that money vanishes, I will leave the table with half of my playing money still intact and call it a day.
My ultimate goal is to double my money. If I manage to do that, I will preserve my original investment and play with only a portion of my winnings in an attempt to reach the next plateau. My philosophy is that if I'm fortunate enough to double my money, I want to leave the casino with something to show for it.
When the game of Triple Play Draw Poker was introduced, it took the casino industry by storm to such an extent that people who have never played video poker before find themselves attracted to them.
The unusual twist that the Triple Play concept brought to video poker is that it allows a player to play three hands at once by dealing three rows of five cards. The first two rows are dealt face down while the third (bottom row) is dealt face up. The player chooses the cards they wish to hold from the bottom hand, after which those cards automatically appear in the corresponding spaces in the top two hands. After hitting the "draw" button, the player then gets three different draws from three different decks.
The beauty of the game is this: Say that you are dealt the ace, king, queen, and jack of spades on your bottom hand. You are one card away from a royal flush. On a conventional draw poker machine, you hold the four cards and have one chance to draw the 10 of spades to complete your royal. On a Triple Play machine you have THREE chances...three opportunities from three different decks to draw that 10 of spades!
People will always go to casinos primarily to gamble, but the opportunity to enjoy a fine dining experience or take in a show plays a prominent role as well.
In Las Vegas, Broadway plays are taking the place of glitzy production shows, while upscale restaurants are drawing attention away from the bargain buffets.
Gaming jurisdictions across the country are emphasizing hospitality related non-gaming amenities.
They're never going to hold a "tag day" for casinos, even in today's battered economy. Even though the revenues are down for many properties across the country, it doesn't mean they're not making money. They're just making less than they did when times were good.
Response from the individual properties in the different markets around the country has varied, but the priority has been on evaluating their inventory of games and making the adjustments necessary to weather the storm.
The primary focus, of course, has been on slot machines in penny denominations. Casinos derive tremendous revenues from this product. What's more, casinogoers just love to play them.
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