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Best of John G. Brokopp

Gaming Guru

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The Economics of Slot Play Wield Big Impact

6 December 2006

In spite of the fact that there is no strategy for winning at slots, it shouldn't deter gamblers from becoming the smartest and most well-informed slot players they can possibly be.

It doesn't make sense to sit in front of a machine, slip your hard-earned money in the bill acceptor and start playing when you really aren't aware of what it's costing you to play.

There's a lot more to playing slots than gambling your money and hoping for a jackpot. Becoming aware of the economics of slot play and the power of the house advantage is crucial to a complete understanding of exactly what you're up against.

For example, penny and nickel games are often the choice of thrifty gamblers on a budget. In reality, the differences in theoretical cost among the various denominations illustrate that low-denomination games are no bargains.

Allow me to explain:

If the average "hold" (casino win) on the one-cent slot machines in place on any given casino floor is 10.55 percent, this means that 10.55 cents of every dollar played on the machines is retained by the owner as revenue while 89.45 cents of every dollar played is returned to gamblers as a collective group in the form of winnings.

If you sat down at one of the machines and wagered $1.50 per spin (a conservative figure in light of the max coin capabilities of many of the penny games) and initiated one play every five seconds, in one hour you will have made 720 plays and invested $1,080. Regardless of whether you won or lost, the theoretical cost to you for that session was $113.94.

You may have hit the jackpot and won hundreds of dollars, or you may have lost your shirt, but the indisputable economic fact is that based upon that penny machine's average hold the playing session cost you $113.94.

What about nickel machines? Let's say you bet $1.35 (another conservative example) on every play and you make one play every five seconds. After an hour you will have gambled $972. Based on an average hold of 10.67 percent, your play (theoretically) will have cost you $103.71.

Again, this is theoretical when applied to any one individual during any given window of playing time. In practicality, you could win, you could lose or could break even. But for players as a collective group, that's what it costs to play.

Now assume you were playing a twenty-five cent machine with the average hold set at 6.50 percent. Making a play every five seconds on a three-coin game (75 cents) means you'll gamble $540 in an hour with the theoretical cost to you standing at $35.10.

You can conclude from the above scenarios that playing penny and nickel slots can prove much more costly than playing quarter games. You're betting half as much on quarters per hour as you do on pennies and subjecting yourself to more than two-thirds less in average hold.

If you opt for a two-coin dollar slot and wager $2 a spin every five seconds, you will have churned $1,440 through the machine in an hour. With the average hold standing at 5.30 percent, it would have cost you $76.32.

Or going the high roller route, how about a $5 machine? Betting five bucks a spin every five seconds for an hour costs $3,600. An average hold of 3.82 percent boils down to a cost of $137.52.

It's easy to see that the size of your bankroll ultimately dictates the machine denomination you select, but it's wise to always be aware of the house advantage and the fact that every single slot machine is a computer-driven gaming device guaranteed to win money for its owner.

CASINO NEWS: Self-serve kiosks for ticket redemption and bill breaking, a customer convenience that has been available in casinos nationwide, including Northwest Indiana, for a good number of years now, were conspicuous by their absence in Illinois.

That's all changed thanks to the Illinois Gaming Board finally getting around to giving the technology its blessing at the monthly board meeting in October.

Argosy's Empress Hotel & Casino in Joliet has four Automated Exchange Kiosks up and running with plans to bring in more next year, while Harrah's Joliet Hotel & Casino recently installed 13 units throughout its facility. Hollywood Casino Aurora is finalizing plans to have eight self-serve kiosks in operation on the casino floor starting December 1.

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