A shuffle through the Gaming mailbag:
Q. At most places where I play, Mississippi Stud Poker has a three-card bonus bet. Is this a good bet or not?
A. The Mississippi Stud three-card bonus is the same as the Pair Plus option on Three Card Poker. The house edge depends on the pay table. If you’re getting 40-1 on straight flushes, 30-1 on three of a kind, 6-1 on straights, 3-1 on flushes and 1-1 on pairs — the most common Pair Plus pay table, the house edge is 7.28 percent, which is too high for my liking. If you have that pay table, but flushes pay 4-1 instead of 3-1, the house edge drops to 2.32 percent.
There are several other pay tables, including some that add a mini-royal at 50-1 to the top of the pay table. If you were to find a really generous casino with that offers the 2.32 percent pay table AND layers on a mini royal, the house edge is only 2.14 percent.
Q. In video poker, there are some games that allow an extra bet and you might get a multiplier on your wins. Are these good bets or not worth it? Is it better to just play a game that doesn’t have this type of bet?
A. On video poker games such as Super Times Pay and Ultimate X that give you a multiplier in exchange for an extra bet, the house edge on the multiplier is no higher than the house edge on the base game. If you’re playing a 98 percent game, then the house edge on the multiplier bet also will be no higher than 98 percent.
However, the multipliers add a lot of extra volatility to the game. If you’re going to play them, you need to understand that the potential for big wins they bring also add the potential for much faster, bigger losses.
For that reason, I take my wagers down a notch when I play the multiplier games. I have no qualms about playing Triple Play Poker or Five Play Poker for quarters, but if I’m playing Ultimate X, I look for nickel games. But you need to watch the pay tables, too. Even for nickels, I won’t settle for 6-5 Bonus Poker or 9-6-4 Double Bonus Poker.
Q. Recently having returned from Las Vegas, I have a question that hasn’t really been answered in your column that I’m aware. Does the RNG know how many coins are being played so that a different outcome would occur depending on what was bet? Or is the RNG always going to be the same for each spin regardless?
If that’s the case, wouldn’t the percentage payback that each machine is supposed to have vary due to larger paybacks for higher bets? On progressive machines, is the outcome the same if you bet one coin vs the maximum, which would be the only way you could win the progressive jackpot? Or is there a different outcome with different symbols if you bet the maximum?
A. The combinations you see on the reels are determined by a random number generator that does not know how many credits you’ve wagered. You’d see the same symbols on the reels regardless of whether you wagered one coin or the max. On most video slots, paybacks are proportionate to the number of coins wagered, so the payback percentage is the same regardless of your bet size.
However, on most three-reel games, including progressives, there’s a large jump in the top jackpot when you bet the max. When that’s the case, the payback percentage is higher when you bet the max than when you bet less.
That’s why conventional wisdom always used to be that to get the maximum payback percentage, you needed to bet the max. I’ve long advised players to stay within their bankrolls. Don’t overbet, but if your bankroll won’t handle max bets, don’t play progressives.
The parameters change on video slots. You still need to see what you need to do to qualify for the progressive, but that often means a side bet on the jackpot, instead of max-coins wagers.
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