A shuffle through the Gaming mailbag:
Q. On our last casino trip, it was impossible to find a $5 table. What we did notice was that most of the tables at $10-plus were empty. I found this at my preferred casino. So I checked the table at least daily for a week and rarely saw more than one person at the tables, often none. In contrast, at the only casino we found with $5 tables, the tables were packed. How is it better for the bottom line to pay someone to man an empty table? Wouldn’t you make more with six people playing $5 a hand than zero to two playing $10? What gives?
A. When higher minimum tables are in use, even with fewer players, they can make a lot more money for the house than busier low-minimum tables.
That’s because games move much faster with fewer players. Casino managers have to balance the need to give players the game they want vs. reserving tables for bigger bettors when they come.
I’m going to use a blackjack example here, but this applies to Mississippi Stud, Three Card Poker or any other table game. Fewer players bring faster play. and it’s to the casino’s advantage to make sure they have space for players who bet big.
Average hands per hour are affected by factors including the number of decks and whether the game is hand shuffled or machine shuffled, but in all cases fewer players bring a faster game. Jim Kilby’s “Casino Operations Management” lists an average of 52 hands per hour at a full seven-player table vs. 209 for a single player going head-to-head with the dealer.
Seven players at the same table average 364 bets per hour. At $5 a hand, that’s $1,820. A single player at a $25 table makes 209 bets and risks $5,225 per hour.
Note that one player betting the minimum at a $25 table risks almost three times as much money as seven players betting the minimum at a $5 table.
What about a $5 table with six players vs. a $10 table with two players, as you specified? Six players average 60 hands per hour each, or 360 hands, to risk $1,800. Two $10 players average 139 hands per hour each, for 278 hands, to risk $2,780.
To use an extreme example, a single player at a $100 table would risk $20,900 per hour. It could sit vacant for 10 hours and have one player in the 11th hour, and make more money for the casino than a full table of $5 tables.
Not every player is going to make minimum bets on every hand, but that goes for higher-limit as well as lower-limit tables.
Casinos track how busy their tables are. They know whether a $5 table or $10 table makes more money. They know the break-even points that make it worthwhile or not to let a higher-limit table sit vacant for hours at a time. In calculating all that, speed of play is a very important factor.
Q. I’m a craps newcomer, indoctrinated by my girlfriend, and I’m sure I’m missing something obvious, but why are most box numbers in numerals while “six” and “nine” are spelled out? Is that just tradition?
A. It seems this question pops up every few years as more players try craps. It’s not just tradition. Six and nine are spelled out because players are positioned all around the table. A numeral will look like 6 on one side of the table and 9 on the other. They’re spelled out to avoid confusion.