A shuffle through the Gaming mailbag:
Q. Do you think video poker pay tables are misleading? I look at the bottom line and the payoff on a pair of Jacks is 1 if you bet one coin, two if you bet two, and so on to five if you bet five.
But when the payoff comes, it keeps your bet. Bet $1 and get a pair of Jacks, and the machine keeps your bet and you just get $1 back. You didn't win anything. You just get your money back.
If I bet $1 in blackjack and win a 1-1 payoff, I keep my bet and get another $1. There I've won something, even though the payoffs are $1 in each.
A. Video poker pays odds-for-1, while blackjack and most other games pay odds-to-1. With odds-for-1 , your payoff is en exchange for your bet when you win. With odds-to-1, you keep your bet if you win and you're paid at odds on top of that.
Some craps tables pay odds-for-1 on proposition bets, so video poker is not alone. Most craps tables pay 30-to-1 when you win on 12. You keep your $1 and get $30 in winnings for a total of $31. But if you see a table pays 30-for-1, then if your winner will leave you with a total of $30.
Slot machines and video keno also use the "for-1" method. If a pay table tells you a slot combination pays 20 credits, it's not paying 20 credits in addition to giving back your bet. Your bet has already been taken by the machine, and the 20 credits are what you get back.
I've heard from many players over the years who say the "for-1" method makes them feel like the bottom of the pay table isn't really a win. If you bet five credits, get a pair of Jacks and get paid five credits, you haven't added any credits. You've just gotten your bet back.
It's best to think of such bottom-of-the-pay table returns as pushes, just as ties in blackjack and baccarat (unless you're betting on ties) are pushes. They're not wins, but they leave your bankroll intact for another hand, extend your play and help make the game playable.
Q. One of the hold-and-respin slot games you wrote about, Cash Falls Huo Zho, sounded interesting. It doesn't just use the hold-and-respin for bonuses, it uses it as part of the main reel spins.
Do you know of any other instances where something designed as a bonus became part of the main game? It seems to me that things like pick-a-prize bonuses and wheel spins line in Wheel of Fortune have a lot of variations, but never became part of the main game.
A. One I can think of is the suitcase bonus in Deal or No Deal slots from Atronic. Based on the TV game show Deal or No Deal was the biggest slot hit Atronic had before the company was absorbed into GTech, Spielo and eventually IGT.
Naturally, Atronic wanted to capitalize on its biggest hit, so it produced a number of games in the Deal or No Deal family, all featuring round in which the player tries to pick the suitcase with the biggest prize. One version focused on the suitcase in the main game, leaving you to make bets and picks from the beginning.
I don't know of wheel spins as the main game in the electronic games era, but the thought reminds me of early mechanical color wheel games in the 1800s. You'd bet on a color and win if the wheel stopped on your chosen hue.