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The good ol' days of slots

The good ol' days of slots

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John Grochowski

John Grochowski

A shuffle through the Gaming mailbag:

Q. I was interested in the triple-zero roulette games you mentioned a few weeks ago, and how each zero increases the house edge.

Would there be a way to design a roulette game with no zeroes at all? What if a bet on black lost only to the red numbers, with no need for a 0 or 00? I assume the game would have to be tweaked. How radical a change would be needed?

A. It could be done, but it would require either reducing payoffs or charging a commission on winning bets.

All casino games give the house its edge by paying less than the true odds of winning. A couple of examples of hwo that can work are paying 9-5 on when the true odds against winning are 2-1 on place bets on 4 or 10 in craps, or it by charging a 5 percent commission on winning bets on banker in baccarat.

In roulette, the presence of the zeroes makes paying less than true odds easy. Payoffs are set so they would be at true odds if there were only 36 numbers, but there are 37 on a single-zero wheel, 38 on double-zero and so on. A single-number bet pays 35-1, but the true odds are 36-1 with one zero, 37-1 with two or 38-1 with three.

If there were no zeroes and payoffs remained the same, there would be no house edge. Casinos aren’t about to offer games that don’t give them an edge, so some tinkering would be in order.

Single-number bets would be easy. If they paid 34-1 instead of 35-1 on a 36-number wheel with no zeroes, the house edge would be 2.78 percent – not far off the 2.70 on a single-zero wheel. With a 33-1 payoff, the edge would be 5.56 percent – a little higher than the 5.26 on a double-zero wheel.

Other bets would cause difficulty, forcing casinos to make payoffs that are not in whole numbers. Instead of the easy even-money payoffs on red/black, it would take a 0.944-1 pay to get the same 2.78 percent edge as on single-number bets with a 34-1 pay. Edges would be 2.5 percent if red/black winners paid 95 cents per dollar or 3 percent at 94 cents.

That would never happen. Casinos wouldn’t want to deal in that change. Alternatively, they could charge a commission on winners.

Bur really, why bother. Using the zeroes works perfectly well and players are used to it. After all, roulette wheels with zeroes have been around since the late 1700s.

Q. I’m a slot old-timer, playing since the days when you used to drop coins to the slot, and any winnings would drop out into a tray after every spin. There were no credit meters. You had to drop coins for every play.

For a number of years after that, my favorite way to play was to get a bucket of coins and drop them in for every play. When the bucket was emptied, I’d cash out, then take the coins and start to play again.

Now you can’t do that anymore. The machines don’t have slots, and if they did, even I wouldn’t want to drop 40 coins to spin one of those penny slots.

Tell me, was there any advantage to the way I played? I felt luckier.

A. The primary advantage was that it slowed you down. You made fewer bets per hour than if you played credits off a meter, and the house edge had fewer chances to work against you. But if you enjoyed it, that’s an advantage in itself.


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