John Grochowski, Casino Answer Man

Q. On machines with different coin values, or with different games to choose from, does each game and each value have its own random number generator? Or can different games share the same RNG?

A. It's possible for different games and different coin denominations to share the same RNG, provided they can work with the same number set.

All the RNG does is generate random numbers. The set of random numbers needed is the same for Jacks or Better, Double Bonus Poker, Deuces Wild or any other 52-card video poker game. The same RNG can generate a hand of 2-2-2-2-Ace in any one of those games. That the hand is worth 125 coins for a five-coin wager in Jacks or Better, 800 coins in Double Bonus Poker and 1,000 coins in Deuces Wild is beyond the scope of the RNG. That's up to other software. The RNG's role starts and stops with the random numbers.

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It's the same deal if two slot games can work with the same set of random numbers. If you need 256 numbers for each reel for Slot Game 1, and 256 numbers for each reel on Slot Game 2, they can share the same RNG. It doesn't matter if the symbols and payoffs attached to those symbols differ between games. That's outside the RNG's scope.

If the number set needed is different, then you need different RNGs. Jacks or Better probably would need a different RNG than a 53-card Joker's Wild game, although you could make them both work with a large number set divisible by both 53 and 52.

And just because different games and denominations can work with the same RNG doesn't mean they have to. It's possible for a manufacturer to attach a separate RNG to each game and each denomination on a multigame machine. But they don't have to.

Q. I was playing Hold'Em, and the dealer was given a fresh deck of cards. The supervisor made a joke about them being just out of the wash, and the dealer laughed a little. But that set me to wondering. Do casinos clean the cards? Does that apply to all games?

A. Poker cards get a lot of wear, with fresh shuffles for every hand and players handling the cards. That's not the case in the most popular table game, blackjack. Even in increasingly rare single-deck games, there are several hands between shuffles, and in multideck games players aren't allowed to touch the cards.

Casinos found long ago that poker demands sturdier cards, so most card rooms use plastic cards. And yes, those cards are washed and re-used. Plastic cards are more expensive than paper cards, but more cost effective for poker since they last longer.

In blackjack and other games on the main casino floor, paper cards are used. When decks are taken out of play, they are not re-used. When I first started playing, you used to be able to ask for decks of used cards, and pit supervisors would give them away. Nowadays, used cards sometimes are sold in casino gift shops, and many decks are given to retirement homes and other charities. Holes are punched through the middles of the cards, marking them as unusable for casino play.

Q. I used to get vouchers in the mail for $25 in cash. Now I get $25 in free slot play. I get why they do that, but just say I wanted to take something close to the $25 and buy lunch. What's the best way to cash out?

A. If you have $25 in free play, you have to make $25 in wagers before you can cash out winnings or any remainder. If what I wanted was the chance to come closest to cashing out $25, I'd play at quarter level on a low-volatility video poker game such as Jacks or Better or Bonus Poker, one that pays 2-for-1 on two pairs. Payback percentages are higher on video poker games than on slot machines and the frequency of winning hands is high at 45.45 percent on 9-6 Jacks or Better or 45.51 percent on 8-5 Bonus Poker.

There's always a chance of a cold streak that will wipe out most of the free play, but there's a strong possibility of cashing out enough for lunch.

Look for John Grochowski on Facebook (; Twitter (@GrochowskiJ) and at Casino Answer Man runs every week.

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