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Best of John Robison

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Ask the Slot Expert: Video poker with and without slot club rewards

15 January 2014

I play video poker at Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut. About a year ago they took many of their VP machines, about 15 to 20 percent at the bars and the casino floor, and stopped awarding points on them. However they increased the payback percentage on them. For example, Double/Double Bonus went from 8/5 to 9/5 and sometimes 9/6.

My question is: Am I better off playing the machines that award points, or should I play the machines with the higher payback amount?

Your letter makes me nostalgic for the time when I got started going to casinos, the mid-1990s. Mirage Resorts was still around and it still owned Treasure Island. TI had plenty of 9/6 Jacks machines, albeit at the dollar and up level. Slot clubs were new and you usually got the same credit for playing a dollar through a high-paying video poker machine as through a lower-paying slot machine. Back then, you could play $750 a day through a near-breakeven video poker machine and qualify for the casino rate at TI.

Today video poker players have to play more than their slot-playing compatriots to earn the same comps. But at least they usually have high-paying machines to play.

I'm not sure which Double Double Bonus paytables are at Mohegan Sun, but we can estimate that the long-term paybacks on the machines are as follows (rounding up): 9/6 is about 99 percent, 9/5 is 98 percent and 8/5 is 97 percent.

Which game should you play? The strictly mathematical answer is to play the game with rewards only if its long-term payback plus the percentage of your action you earn as cashback and comps is greater than the long-term payback you can get from a game that doesn't have rewards. You rarely get 1 percent of your action back in comps, let alone 2 percent, so your best bet the long run is the 9/6 machine.

One thing to consider is that your slot club returns are guaranteed and you'll earn them just for playing. The extra percentage points in long-term payback are subject to randomness and, in the short run, luck has a greater effect on your results than payback percentage. It might take hundreds of thousands of hands for your results to be better playing the 9/5 machine than the 8/5.

It bugs me to not play the highest-paying video poker available in a casino for which I know the strategy and it bugs me to not earn slot club points when I play with a house edge. I think it's a close call between the 8/5 and the 9/5 and I think I would ignore the bad taste it leaves in my mouth and play the 8/5 machine.

I have my own question. I can see not giving rewards for positive expectation video poker paytables, but the paytables you have available are far from positive. I presume Mohegan Sun still comps craps players, who are facing a house edge similar to that of the 9/6 paytable. And I presume it's still comping basic strategy blackjack players, who face a lower house edge.

Why stop rewarding some video poker players?

John


John Robison

John Robison is an expert on slot machines and how to play them. John is a slot and video poker columnist and has written for many of gaming’s leading publications. He holds a master's degree in computer science from the prestigious Stevens Institute of Technology.

You may hear John give his slot and video poker tips live on The Good Times Show, hosted by Rudi Schiffer and Mike Schiffer, which is broadcast from Memphis on KXIQ 1180AM Friday afternoon from from 2PM to 5PM Central Time. John is on the show from 4:30 to 5. You can listen to archives of the show on the web anytime.

Books by John Robison:

The Slot Expert's Guide to Playing Slots
John Robison
John Robison is an expert on slot machines and how to play them. John is a slot and video poker columnist and has written for many of gaming’s leading publications. He holds a master's degree in computer science from the prestigious Stevens Institute of Technology.

You may hear John give his slot and video poker tips live on The Good Times Show, hosted by Rudi Schiffer and Mike Schiffer, which is broadcast from Memphis on KXIQ 1180AM Friday afternoon from from 2PM to 5PM Central Time. John is on the show from 4:30 to 5. You can listen to archives of the show on the web anytime.

Books by John Robison:

The Slot Expert's Guide to Playing Slots