A shuffle through the Gaming mailbag:
Q. I was walking through the video poker area, and saw a guy playing two machines at once. He was touching the screen to hold and draw instead of using the buttons, and going back and forth so fast it made my head spin.
I said in passing, “I don’t think I could do that.” He never looked up and never stopped, but he said, “You never know which is the lucky one.”
Another guy down the row said, “Don’t let him fool you. That’s not why he does that,” but when I asked why, he just shrugged.
It looked like a grind to me, not much fun at all. Can you think of a reason he might be doing this other than to try to find a lucky game?
A. If the game was good enough, it’s possible he was trying to play as many hands per hour as he could in an attempt to maximize profit potential. I used to this a lot more when top-notch video poker pay tables were more common, but players would double up on high-paying games.
A player who could get in 800 hands an hour on one machine wouldn’t be able to play quite that fast on each of two machines. But if he could boost the total to 1,200 hands on the two combined, it meant extra opportunity on a high paying game.
Let’s say the game is quarter 10-7-5 Double Bonus Poker, where the numbers indicate 10-for-1 payoffs on full houses, 7-for-1 on flushes and 5-for-1 on straights. With expert play, the payback percentage is 100.17 percent, making it a profit opportunity for good players.
At 800 hands per hour betting $1.25 per hand on a quarter machine, the player risks $1,000 per hour. That leads to an average hourly profit of $1.70. If by playing two machines, the player can raise that to 1,200 hands per hour, the average hourly profit increases to $2.55.
There’s more that goes with it. The wagers per hour also increase player rewards such as free play and meal comps, and increase progress toward the next tier level on your rewards card.
It’s still not much of an hourly wage, if you’re not having fun at the game. And there’s danger in the approach. Video poker is a volatile game that often leads to large, fast losses. You can lose hundreds, even thousands between big paying hands such royal flushes or four Aces.
Playing too fast also leads to mistakes. I know I can’t play fast on two machines at once without slipping up. And if you start making mistakes, your edge on the game evaporates.
Of course, it’s possible the player you encountered really was just looking for a lucky machine and his playing two games at once had nothing to do with maximizing an edge. Playing multiple machines to try to find a lucky one does no good at all, but there are always a few players who will try to force a little magic.
Q. I’m going to Macau for a business meeting, and a casino trip is on the agenda. What can you tell me about the gambling?
A. Baccarat is king in Macau, bringing in more than 90 percent of casino revenue. There’s a little blackjack, and more sic bo than you would find in American casinos. I’ve never been there, but I’m told table minimum bets tend to be on the high side, even away from the big-money baccarat tables. A colleague told me he found blackjack with a minimum bet of $300 Hong Kong dollars, which as I write this on April 13 translates to $38.71 in U.S. dollars.
There are more electronic tables than you’d find in the United States. Electronic gaming devices account for less than 5 percent of casino revenue, but the biggest luxury resorts are so large that some still approach 2,000 machines. Slots are on video, and tend to be high-volatility games with the opportunity to win big and lose fast.
Good luck, and enjoy your trip.
Look for John Grochowski on Facebook (tinyurl.com/7lzdt44); Twitter (@GrochowskiJ) and at casinoanswerman.com. Casino Answer Man runs every week.