I’ve been writing for Gaming Today for over 17 years. In all honesty, I have no idea how many people have actually read my columns over the years. I would take thousands, if not tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands. Roughly speaking, I’ve written more than 800 columns so this doesn’t seem like a stretch.
A recurring theme in almost every column is how a casino decision should be based on math rather than emotion. We’re not sticking to a hard 16 and looking at a 6 because we believe the next card will be a 10 and we don’t want to go broke. If the dealer got a 4 below that, you’re a dead duck anyway.
We don’t stay because there are more 10 than 5 in the deck, although this is part of it. We stay because, mathematically speaking, we are more likely to make more money by staying in this situation than by any other action.
We don’t know what’s going to happen on that hand specifically. We just know that this hand appears repeatedly over time and we better do it if we stick than hit. Guessing is just a guess and it’s no use to us at the casino.
Similarly, we hold a 4-card flush over a low pair and a low pair over a 4-card straight, not because we think the next card will help the flush, but because we will make more money over time to earn. We have nine chances of making that flush with 6 and only eight chances of making that straight with four.
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Perhaps the next two cards would have been the other two of that pair range if we’d gone for that flush. We will never know It doesn’t matter either. We are playing the math and not trying to guess the random number generator.
Math should also help us determine which games to play. In video poker, we want to look for fully paid paytables, blackjack tables that pay 3 to 2 for blackjack, and fewer zeros on our roulette wheel. We want to play video poker with max coin as the payout for the Royal is increased which also maximizes our payback.
Even so, there is one concept that we cannot ignore while playing. We still need to remember to have fun.
Financially, we’re better off playing a Deuces Wild machine that pays over 100% versus a Jacks, or better just 99.5%. But if you’re not having fun playing the Jacks or better, are you really better off overall?
For most people, winning is more fun than losing, but everyone has their own tastes. If you just don’t want to spend a lot of energy in the casino, video poker, blackjack, and ultimate Texas Hold’em may not be for you. Perhaps Pai Gow Poker, Baccarat, or Three Card Poker are better for your needs?
This is undoubtedly going to lead someone out there to decide what to say: if you want to play slots with 92% payback, go for it. Not completely. I’m not going to tell you to definitely not play it if you think this is fun.
But I think you should go into it with your eyes open. You need to understand that 92% is the average payout from slots in Las Vegas (roughly) and you have no idea whether your computer is paying 92% or 82%. Personally, I think if you want a relatively pointless game you can find something else.
In the end, you have to make your own decision. Let the math guide you, but always make sure to have fun!