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Best of John G. Brokopp

Gaming Guru

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Shopping for Best Slots Using Theoretical Payback

24 November 2004

Factoring in theoretical slot machine payback percentages to assist you in deciding where to play yields little or no advantage to recreational casino enthusiasts who go out on occasional gambling outings, especially to Illinois casinos in the Chicago area.

The fraction of a percentage differences among the casinos has little impact, good or bad, on the bankrolls of players who choose small windows of opportunity to play slots when compared to the hundreds of hours of play used to calculate the percentages.

Besides, you can't judge the future performance of a casino's slot machine inventory based on how it performed in the past. The quarter games may return 93.81 percent to players one month but only 92.31 percent the next.

The biggest difference in payback percentage statewide is found at the nickel slot games. Unfortunately, there's very little difference among the Chicago-area casinos. Nickel players always get hammered with a fat house edge no matter where they play.

For example, here are the payback percentages on nickel games for the month of July 2004: Argosy's Empress Joliet – 87.83 on 342 games; Harrah's Joliet - 87.00 on 352 games; Hollywood Aurora – 87.07 on 314 games; Grand Victoria Elgin – 86.18 on 101 games.

Each of the four casinos is well below the state-wide payback percentage average of 89.34 on nickels. That's because most of the other casinos offer much better deals on their five-cent units, including the downstate Alton Belle – 92.32 on 368 games; Jumer's Casino Rock Island on the Mississippi - 92.43 on 323 games; and the Casino Queen in East St. Louis – 93.36 on 236 games.

The casinos with the better payback percentages are, of course, in smaller markets but that's little consolation for fans of the game who are subjected to the heavy hit around here and unable shop for a better price unless they are willing to travel hundreds of miles.

Theoretical payback figures can also be interpreted to calculate theoretical loss, or what it costs people to actually play the games. Let's analyze the 86.18 theoretical payback percentage on the 101 nickel games at the Grand Victoria. The 13.82 advantage this gives the casino means that people who play the games lost (at least theoretically) $13.82 from every one hundred dollars they played. Playing several hundred dollars means a loss of $41.46 every sixty minutes.

Compare that to the 93.36 theoretical payback percentage on the 236 nickel games at the Casino Queen. The 6.64 edge for the casino boils down to players losing $6.64 from every hundred dollars played at the nickels, or $19.92 per hour if you played $300. That's a huge difference when compared to the Grand Victoria and the Chicago-area market in general.

Of course, some people lose more and some people win. The figures are based on players as a collective group during the period of one month.

Video poker machines are an entirely different story. Players can figure the theoretical payback percentage of any game they play simply by looking at the pay table right in front of them. Video and reel slot players enjoy no such luxury,

Even though a great percentage of the video poker options available at Chicago-area casinos in Illinois pale in comparison to what's offered in a huge market like Las Vegas, there is definitely an advantage in shopping among the properties for the best games to avoid playing the bad ones and gravitate to the good ones.

Receiving 40 coins for a full house or 25 coins for a flush with max coins played on an 8/5 Double-Double Bonus Poker game as opposed to 45 and 30 coins, respectively, on a 9/6 game makes a giant difference to a player who invests several hours worth of playing time in the machine.

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