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Best of John G. Brokopp

Gaming Guru

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Best Games Are What's Best for You

28 May 2002

One of the most frequently asked questions I field from readers of this column goes along these lines: "When I go to a casino, what should I play?"

If I were to always answer that question "according to the book", the games I would suggest in order of preference would be:

  • Blackjack using basic strategy
  • Video poker using optimum strategy
  • Making the best bets at craps
  • Baccarat because of the low house edge
  • Single zero roulette (if available)
  • Three Card Poker/Let it Ride
  • Caribbean Stud
  • Slots

The fact of the matter is I don’t always answer the question based on what the book says. Surely, mathematics dictates that over the long haul, the best bets in any casino are the ones at the top of my list. Blackjack, video poker, and craps, to a somewhat lesser degree, should be the games of choice for gamblers who make frequent casino visits and wager substantial amounts of money over the course of a year.

But if you are recreational player who goes on a casino outing once in a while, maybe even only once or twice a year, or you are a novice gambler who just goes on occasion with friends, giving advice on what to play based strictly on the percentages isn’t fair.

The abbreviated windows of opportunity during which most of us choose to play casino games have little bearing on the virtues or drawbacks of the best games to play based upon thousands of decisions over an extended period of time.

To deny yourself the fun and excitement of shooting for a slot jackpot with a twenty-dollar investment because people have told you slots are the worst games to play just isn’t right. A big part of the fun of going to a casino is the chance you’ll hit a jackpot. You simply can’t do that "grinding" out a small profit at the blackjack table making five-dollar bets.

Casino marketing professionals appeal to our desire for big winnings with their advertising and promotional campaigns. Over the long run you simply cannot get lured into this trap, but for a 20-minute adventure into "maybe-just-maybe land" who’s to say "no?"

The main drawback to playing slots is not based purely on the "house edge." Many slot games have a payback percentage that’s higher than 0-00 roulette and Caribbean Stud. The drawback is based on how many decisions that a player is involved in during a given period of time. The more decisions you subject your money to, the more money the casino grinds out of you.

Let me explain: A slot machine that is programmed to pay back 95 percent of the money it takes in has a theoretical "hold" of five percent. If you make a play every five seconds, that’s 12 plays a minute or 720 plays an hour. If you’re playing two dollars a spin, the theoretical house win against you is building at the rate of ten cents a spin. That means in an hour’s time you are subjecting yourself to a $72 playing liability.

There are far fewer decisions per hour playing blackjack. Roulette’s 5.25 percent house edge is similar to many slot games, but the reason roulette is more advisable to play is because your money is in jeopardy far less time than it is playing the slots.

As I’ve often said, don’t be afraid to try to win a jackpot now and then. Just don’t CHASE jackpots all the time.

John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp
John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp