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Best of John Robison

Gaming Guru

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Should I Play Video Poker Progressives?

1 August 2005

I read you told someone at the Tropicana you could get your cash back the same day. In February we were at the Trop and we couldn't get our cash back. They told us we had to wait until next trip.

JoAnne

* * *

I just heard through a very reliable grapevine that the Trop is converting to bounce-back cash only in the near future. Those of us who live quite a distance from the casino and can only go 3-4 times a year are going to be very unhappy. That was one of the reasons I started with the Trop, because bounce-back cash is of no use to me with its usually short expiration date.

I just can't win with the Trop's club. And I can't win with "reliable" sources.

Last year, when I wrote that "reliable" sources had told me that the Trop had converted to bounce-back cashback, many people wrote to say that the Trop still had same-day cashback. Now it looks like my "reliable" sources were right, just a little premature.

Many of the casinos in Atlantic City still view themselves as "locals" casinos, using the local versus tourist distinctions in Las Vegas casinos. The tourist casino assumes most of its patrons visit for a few days once or twice a year. As a result, it doesn't have many promotions that are long-term. The locals casino, on the other hand, assumes most of its patrons visit for a few hours once or twice a month. It will have many long-term promotions.

I think it will be tough to grow the Atlantic City market beyond day-trippers and overnighters with most casinos offering bounce-back cashback with relatively short expirations. Still, there aren't enough hotel rooms to house the overnighters, so maybe we'll have to wait for more hotel rooms to see more tourist-friendly slot club rules.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


Dear John,

You recently published a question in which a group of Canadians were going to Atlantic City and wanted information on slot payouts.

I would have told them to keep their play in Canada, for one simple reason - under Canadian law, gambling winnings are NOT taxable! So, if they do happen to hit the jackpot, there's no automatic withholding, and in fact no tax liability whatsoever. That $1 million jackpot really pays $1 million (of course, it's $1 million Canadian, which comes out to roughly $800,000 US, but that's still better than the 25-30% automatic withholding that US casinos will take from you for that same advertised jackpot).

I'm sure you already knew about the advantages of Canadian casinos, but I'm guessing many of your readers do not. It might be nice to pass this on to your readers.

Thanks,
AK

Dear AK,

We have a complicated situation here, foreigners winnning in casinos.

U.S. citizens will not have anything withheld from a slot win of $1200 or more if they can provide a valid Social Security Number. There might be other requirements. I don't know for sure, but I've never had anything withheld.

I believe foreigners will have some percentage withheld, but they can file a return to get some or all of the amount withheld back.

What about a foreigner winning in a Canadian casino? I don't know what happens. In some of my dealings with the Canadian government, it has been very aggressive in trying to increase its tax revenue. Still, it's a piece of cake to get one of its taxes (GST?) refunded.

I think the same advice for limiting taxes on lottery winnings also applies to casino winnings. You generally get the best tax treatment when you win on your home turf. As a New Jersey resident, for example, there are no state taxes due on winnings from the New Jersey lottery (I should be so lucky!), but winnings from other lotteries are taxed.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


Hello,

I play video poker, but am stymied at some of the abbreviations.

What does NSU Deuces stand for?

Thank you.

NSU stands for "Not So Ugly."

The history of the nickname is murky, but here's my version of it. Somehow, deuces picked up the nickname "ducks," probably from a typo.

There are a bezillion Deuces Wild paytables available and they're all very similar to a non-expert eye. My head spins trying to recognize the good ones from the bad ones. I haven't been able to do much with Deuces Wild because Atlantic City has yet to have a decent Deuces Wild paytable. In any case, there was one low-paying paytable that came to be known as "Ugly Ducks."

Then, the legend goes, a very similar paytable to Ugly Ducks showed up on the slot floor, but the payback on this paytable was -- Surprise! -- 99.7%. That's not so ugly, so the paytable came to be known as Not So Ugly Ducks.

The paytable on NSUD is: Royal 300/4000; 4 Deuces 200; Wild Royal 25, 5-of-a-kind 16; Straight Flush 10; 4-of-a-kind 4; Full House 4; Flush 3; Straight 2; 3-of-a-kind 1.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


Hi,

We know the higher the denomination played, the greater percentage of payback in slots. How does this work in multi-denomination machines? When I switch to nickels or quarters, does the chip in the computer then reset a different payback schedule when I move up or down in denomination? Or is a different chip used depending on which amount is chosen?

Thanks,
Randy

Dear Randy,

We can't tell for sure that the payback on a slot game increases when you increase denomination on a multi-denomination machine, but we can tell that the payback increases for video poker paytables. We can assume -- and I think it's a safe assumption -- that the paybacks increase for slot games too, but as I said we can't tell for sure.

The different virtual reel layouts and video poker paytables are probably all stored in one chip, but the implementation is irrelevant. The only thing that matters is that the payback increases.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


My wife and I are going to Las Vegas and I would like to know if it is better to play the progressive video poker machines where the jackpot can vary or the regular poker machines with a fixed jackpot. I always play the maxium coins.

Thank you,
Paul

Dear Paul,

The mathematical answer is whichever game has the higher long-term payback.

The practical answer depends on how much study you're willing to put into the game.

All things being equal, you might as well play the progressive. But all things are usually not equal and progressives usually have lower-paying base paytables than non-progressives. You should only play the progressive when its long-term payback exceeds that of the non-progressive paytable, and then you should also adjust your strategy to reflect the value of the progressive. As the value of the royal increases, for example, combinations consisting of partial royals become more valuable.

Playing progressives can be profitable, especially if you play only when their long-term paybacks are above 100%. Most players don't analyze their options so completely.

So, practically speaking, if you're not going to do the math, you can play the progressive and take a chance at a nice payoff, but keep in mind that royals are few and far between and you run the risk of having less playing time and larger losses when you play the progressive.

I rarely play progressives, but there's always an exception to the rule. The largest payoff I've ever won for a royal was on a progressive at Bellagio the day it opened. The paytable was not very good and I didn't know the best strategy to play for the base paytable, let alone the progressicve. But I was going to play only a few hands, so it really didn't matter what strategy I used -- luck was going to have a much bigger effect on my results than strategy. And I was lucky enough to be dealt a flush that contained a 4-card royal and then draw to the royal.

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. Because of the volume of mail I receive, I regret that I can't send a reply to every question. Also be advised that it may take several months for your question to appear in my column.

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