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Best of John Robison

Gaming Guru

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Casino Promotions and Comps, Video Keno RNG

6 November 2003

Can you (or anyone) explain the bass-ackwardness of the casino [comp] mailings? In short, the ones I receive in the mail shortly after gaming in a casino want to give me free rooms, free food, chits for cash, etc. If I don't avail myself of them or show up on property, then the next [monthly] mailing, should there be one, would be only for a "discount" room, no cash and maybe 1/2 off a meal.

I am a self-employed business person. That means I work when I have it. I can't always travel monthly to my favorite casinos (plus they are at least a nine-hour drive one-way). If I were doing the mailings to my customers, ones I haven't heard from or seen in a while, my advertising ploy would be steadily INCREASE my offer to bring back my customers, not to decrease or stop the offers altogether.

Does that make sense to you? I know it does to other players I meet in the casinos.

Have you ever interviewed the promotions folks in the casino industry to assess their logic in this regard? If so, I'd be awfully curious to hear what you have learned as it pertains to the diminishing of--rather than the increasing of--offers to come back to the property. If it matters, my wife and I gamble in Biloxi, mostly.

As an aside, my wife and her girlfriend used to make an annual trek to the Sands in Vegas for a few days of heavy slot action. Even after it was torn down, both ladies got an annual mailing from some casino offering them a free room night (maybe more than one night, can't say with certainty) good anytime of the year. (I'll surmise that there may have been a set of blockout dates, but the point is that the offer is/was good for an entire year, not just the following month). At least one casino promotions deptartment has a brain that, IMHO, is wired correctly.

Comments?

There are many things that could be going on here.

First, as you pointed out, the Las Vegas-based casino was much more flexible with its offer. The difference here is a casino that depends on tourism and a casino that depends mainly on local traffic. The bottom line is that casinos around the country get most of their business from people who live within about a 200-mile radius, so most of their marketing is similar to the marketing of the locals casinos in Las Vegas. Most of the offers have short terms and may require multiple or return visits in a short period of time.

Second, something that may explain why your offers went down is a change of season. I live near Atlantic City and the offers get much worse in the summer, when everyone is going down to the shore anyway. The offers get much better in the winter, when visitorship is down.

It's well known in marketing that it is much easier to convert a former customer into a current customer than to convert a non-customer into a current customer. So why do casinos run all these promotions to get new people to sign up for their players cards and ignore the inactive customers?

One reason could be that casinos think that the success of a marketing campaign is measured in the number of new signups they get--never mind the quality of these new customers.

Other businesses measure the success of marketing programs by looking at the incremental revenue generated by the program. There's not a lot of controversy in selling more cars or washing machines.

I suppose, though, that it's not politically correct for a casino to say that they've influenced a quarter slot player to become a dollar slot player or a table games player to increase his average wager or a customer to visit twice a month instead of once a month. Yet, I think this is the true measure of success. They don't call the department Player Development for nothing.

On the other hand, encouraging signups just gets people into the casino. Whatever they bet is whatever they bet. And a program that generates thousands of new signups may be considered a great success, even if the new players just walk out with their free T-Shirts.

One reason marketing plans may not have been so sophisticated in the past is that sophisticated plans take time to design and significant resources to implement. As much as we may have disliked previous incarnations of Harrah's Total Gold/Total Rewards programs, Harrah's has dedicated a significant amount of thought and resources to their programs. Harrah's system will try to figure out exactly what they have to offer you to get you to come back, and that's what they'll offer, no more and no less. If they want you to come back and the free buffet offer didn't work, you might get a comp to a restaurant next time instead.

One final thing to keep in mind is that the casino will tie your offers to their perceived value of you as a player. Your offer won't exceed the maximum offer they'll send to players on your level, no matter how long it's been since your last visit.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


How are the pay tables in Video Poker at Casino Windsor? What are the best Video Poker games and denominations to play at Casino Windsor?

Mark

Dear Mark,

The video poker at Casino Windsor is nothing to get excited about. If they're still there, the dollar Pick 'Em games are a good bet. The Pick 'Em machines in halves and quarters were downgraded to the short-pay schedule. Double-check the paytables on the dollar machines to ensure that they're still the full-pay paytables.

The rest of the machines pay back about 98% or less.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


Hi, John,

I really enjoy your column. Lots of great tips and always a good read.

I like to play Deuces Wild on Game King. It's the only one available in most racetrack slot locations in Ontario, Canada. The payout for full house is 3; 4 of a kind is 4; straight flush is 10, and 5 of a kind is 15. (I have seen it the other way around before).

I always keep deuces (duh...) but sometimes I get a little confused when, say, three deuces come up as part of a straight flush. Do I take the 10 coins and lose the chance for 4 Deuces, which is the object of the game along with the natural Royal, or go for the 200X payout for 4 Deuces?

The second question would be when (if ever) do you throw out a deuce to keep four parts of a natural Royal? I have seen some strategies on full pay Deuces Wild, but I don't know if they pertain to 4-3 Game King.

Best of luck to you and the staff at the Scoblete network.

Thanks,
Stu

Dear Stu,

Thanks for the kind words about my column.

If the changes you listed are the only changes as compared with the Full-Pay Deuces Wild paytable, this is a truly terrible game. It pays back only 94.8%.

As a general rule, when you have three deuces, the only pat hands you hold are 5-of-a-kind and a wild royal flush. Otherwise, you hold just the three deuces and hope for the fourth. This strategy holds true for this paytable, too.

As for your second question, you always hold the pat wild royal with one deuce. The wild royal is worth 125 coins and the 4-card royal is worth only 95 coins, on average.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


With regards to multi-line machines (i.e., the ones you can play up to 9 lines, say), if one wants to play for a longer time, I suspect you would recommend playing a combination of lines and coin amount that would be within the amount you're willing to lose? I hope I made sense on that question.

Richard

Dear Richard,

As you point out, one way to ensure that your money will last as long as you want to play is to make sure you have enough money to fund the number of spins you plan to play. First, figure out how long you want to play and then estimate how quickly you play (number of spins per hour). Multiply the two and that's the number of spins you want to play.

Now, you have two different ways in which to proceed. You could take your bankroll for the session and divide it by the number of spins. The result gives you the maximum you can bet per spin.

The other way is to say you want to wager, say, 50 cents per spin. Multiply your wager by the number of spins and you have the bankroll needed to guarantee that many spins.

These methods give you a 100% guarantee of having your money last as long as you want it to. They ignore re-playing any amounts you win. You can accept a little bit of risk in having your money run out by lowering your bankroll requirement by, say, 10-25%, or more.

If you stay away from the progressives, almost all multi-line/multi-coin slots are straight multipliers. That means there's no mathematical reason to bet more than one coin per line--and that's a great way to stretch your bankroll.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


Dear John,

My question concerns comps playing blackjack versus comps playing the slots.

I used to play the slots (and lose, I may add!) and received pretty good comps. I have since switched to $5 and $10 blackjack (and winning, I may add!), but my comps aren't near as good.

My wife and I usually go to the casinos four times a year for a long weekend. Her comps seem to be as good or better than mine, even though she doesn't play half as long as I do. I present my players card every time and the last two nights I played, I sat at the tables for seven consecutive hours one night and 13 consecutive hours the next!

Can you please explain why there is a difference?

Thanks,
Bill

Dear Bill,

The difference in comps is due to theoretical win.

Let's say your wife is a dollar slot player who varies her bets between $1 and $3 per spin, with an average of $2 per spin. A slot player can easily play 500 spins per hour. That's $1000 of action every hour. Assuming a house advantage of 2%, the casino expects to win $20 per hour from your wife.

Now, you're at the blackjack table and let's say you always bet $10 per hand. Figuring 60 hands per hour, you put only $600 in action per hour. Most casinos assume they have about a 2% advantage against the average blackjack player, so they expect to win $12 per hour from you. Since you vary your bet, the casino's theoretical win is even less.

The casino returns a portion of its theoretical win from a player in comps, so your wife will get more in comps because the casino's theoretical win from her is higher.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


Dear John,

We live in Alabama, which prohibted playing games such as Fruit Bonus 2000 and Cherry Masters. Now we are looking for states close by that have legal game rooms with these machines inside them.

Thank you,
Jennifer & Chad

Dear Jennifer and Chad,

I did a quick search on the Internet and it looks like Georgia is the nearest state that would have these machines.

I suggest you search the Internet for one of the companies that distributes these machines and give them a call to find out which states allow these machines.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


Can you help answer this question?

I say a video keno machine knows what numbers you play and when the chip is ready to pay, it will get a hit on your five, six, seven, etc. numbers. My husband says it is just a random number chip and it is just luck that your numbers come up.

Who is right?

Bonnie

Sorry, Bonnie, but your husband is right. The computer program running the video keno machine uses the RNG (Random Number Generator) in the program to select the numbers for that draw. The program then checks to see how many of the numbers drawn match the numbers you selected and pays off accordingly.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


John,

I go to the casinos and like to play a video slot called Gone Fishing. I was wondering, since they have other video slots in the home game version, is this one available yet?

Steve

Sorry, Steve. This game is not in any of the three packages of casino slot machines available for home computers.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


Hi, John,

I really don't have a question. I do enjoy reading your column every day, but some of the questions people ask you really crack me up.

To win at slots and video poker, all it takes is to be at the right machine at the right time, and to play the max coins. Pretty simple. In fact, if a machine isn't simple to me then I don't play it!

I won $10,500 in Reno on a slam dunk with a bus coupon, no mulla. Now that's the way to do it!!!!

Happy plays.

I'd add one thing: In addition to a little luck, one needs to know the right strategies to use on video poker machines to be a winner in the long run.

Congratulations on your big win!

John


When my husband and I were on vacation this summer, we went to 14 casinos in Mississippi (Tunica County and Vicksburg) and one in Elizabeth, Indiana on the way back home.

It was nice to go to several casinos where they were close together and gave you more play time. And the comps were nice--reduced hotel rates, free meals or cash back.

We had fun even though we did not return home with winnings exceeding the amount be had put aside to play with. Our theory was if we went to an amusement park, we would have spent what we did in the casino and when your age begins to bring you indoors for a cooler entertainment, it was worth the money.

I had a problem with some of the paper slots not accepting the tickets and had to start with the "seed" money once again or stand in a long line to cash in the ticket. I liked the ticket slots though for the convenience and so did my husband and your hands stay cleaner.

I know this is not a question. Just some input on our travels. If you ever go to those areas check out the casinos.

And last, but not least, I enjoy your column and learned much from it. Most of all to have fun and pace yourself to extend the fun.

Cordially,
Bev

Dear Bev,

Thanks for the kind words about my column.

I'm very familiar with the Tunica casinos. I do a radio show for the Tunica area every Saturday.

The installation rate of ticket systems is astonishing. A few years ago, casino operators were not sure that players would accept the systems and give up handling coins. Many players said the sound of coins hitting the tray and the sight of a tray full of coins outweighed the hassles of dealing with the coins. But even some of the most adamant coin supporters I know became ticket converts once they actually used the system. Today, every major casino operator is converting machines from hoppers to tickets and the rate at which casinos are installing ticket machines is faster than the rate at which casinos installed machines with bill acceptors a decade or so ago.

I think you've found the secrets to winning at the casino: Only bet money from your amusement/entertainment budget and stretch your bankroll to make sure it lasts as long as you want to play. You'll still lose most of the time, but you will have had a fun time in the casino.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


Send your slot and video poker questions to John Robison, Slot Expert, at slotexpert@comcast.net.

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