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Reason #3 why the Wizard likes Bovada: Excellent Odds
In my opinion many online casinos are too stingy when setting the odds on their games. They think they will make more money that way but I believe they are misguided, because when players lose too quickly it's not fun, and those players might not come back.
Bovada is one of the few casinos that understands this. They offer generous odds to let you play longer and get you a better chance of winning. Among their generous offerings are Full-Pay Jacks or Better returning 99.54%, five other video poker games paying over 99%, single-zero roulette, and my favorite, Double Jackpot Poker, returning 99.63%!
Kudos to Bovada for not being afraid to give their players a good gamble.
Disclaimer: Let it be known that I have served as a consultant to WagerWorks. However, this review attempts to be unbiased and mostly sticks to the game rules, odds, and strategy. While I feel comfortable there is no conflict of interest I think it is appropriate to disclose the relationship.
WagerWorks is the digital offshoot of Silicon Gaming, the US video slot machine manufacturer acquired by IGT. Their history in gaming is evidenced by very well designed games with beautiful graphics. Another Silicon Gaming carryover is a penchant for licensed brand games. WagerWorks has licensing arrangements to offer such brands as The Price is Right and Wheel of Fortune. They are also fastidious about licensing proprietary game types, like Caribbean Stud Poker, Three Card Poker and multihand video poker. In my experience, they seem to be ultra-ethical and fully-legal in every aspect of their business.
All WagerWorks games are implemented in Flash. You do not need to perform a time-consuming download to get started. In addition to traditional casino games, the company also offers an extensive line of fun and unique games. Their software allows you to review the exact outcome of all of your prior games. Additionally, WagerWorks has so far only partnered with established, well-trusted companies such as Hard Rock Casino and BSkyB.
WagerWorks, a US company, only operates casinos in fully regulated jurisdictions such as the UK and Alderney. In addition to the security of full government oversight, players benefit by having the payback for each game listed in the pay table. However, government oversight also means that bets can only be accepted from places where such bets are legal. Players in restricted countries, like the United States and Australia, can only play for fun.
Following are the games available with specific rules and comments.
Single deck. House edge on banker is 1.012% and on player is 1.286%.
Following are the blackjack rules:
- Six decks
- Dealer stands on soft 17
- Player may double on any first two cards
- Player may double after a split
- Player may not resplit
- One card to split aces
- Dealer always peeks for blackjack (U.S. rule)
Following is the basic strategy for the six-deck game, which is the same for Cryptologic and six-deck Boss Media software.
The house edge is 0.46%.
Caribbean Stud Poker
Even though WagerWorks offers a properly licensed version of Caribbean Stud Poker, their pay table is the most generous so far. The house edge is a low 4.82%. The strategy is still the same as when playing with a conventional pay table. The pays are:
Caribbean Stud Poker Main Pay Table
|Royal flush||200 to 1|
|Straight flush||50 to 1|
|Four of a kind||20 to 1|
|Full house||8 to 1|
|Flush||6 to 1|
|Straight||4 to 1|
|Three of a kind||3 to 1|
|Two pair||2 to 1|
|Pair||1 to 1|
|Ace/king||1 to 1|
Two side bet pay tables are offered; one with a static pay structure and another with a progressive jackpot.
The static pay side bet table offers a constant set of awards with only a 9.2% casino edge. Because the 25,000 top award is not as huge as most progressive awards, this pay table is able to offer much more generous awards for the lower hands which benefits more players.
Static Caribbean Stud Poker Side Bet
|Four of a kind||750|
The other side bet pay table offers a progressive jackpot. At Hard Rock Casino, they started the jackpot at £50,000 for a £1 side bet. The house edge is 49.14% less 2.92% for each additional $10,000 in the meter. The player has an advantage when the meter exceeds £218,047.37
Progressive Caribbean Stud Poker Side Bet
|Royal flush||100% of meter|
|Straight flush||10% of meter|
|Four of a kind||£500|
Three times odds is allowed. Wager Works correctly bases odds after a don't pass or don't on the win, not the bet, a rule often implemented incorrectly by their competitors.
Another WagerWorks advantage is the fact that they round down winnings to the nearest cent (or pence) so rounding penalties are as low as possible.
The combined house edge is 0.47% on the pass and come and 0.34% on the don't pass and don't come. Buy and lay bets are allowed and like a terrestrial casino, the 5% commission is charged on the wager when it is placed. Warning: you can remove a buy or lay bet at any time, but if you do so after the dice have been rolled, your pre-paid commission will not be refunded.
The one area that WagerWorks has strayed from land-based casino practice is by offering "Place to Lose" wagers. These are similar to standard Place bets, except you win if a 7 is thrown before the number you bet on. Their "Place to Lose" bets have comparable house advantages to their standard Place bets (which they call "Place to Win".)
- Place to Win on 4,10: 6.67%
- Place to Win on 5,9: 4.00%
- Place to Win on 6,8: 1.52%
- Place to Lose on 4,10: 6.67%
- Place to Lose on 5,9: 4.00%
- Place to Lose on 6,8: 1.82%
A popular gambling format in England, WagerWorks offers two styles of Hi Lo games where the player is rewarded for predicting whether the next number is higher or lower than the current number.
Hi Lo Odds
This is a simple game where the payout is based on the odds of correctly guessing. Numbers range from 1 to 49 and ties are not possible. For example, if the current number is 30, there are 19 higher numbers and 29 lower numbers. Since a lower number is more likely, a correct "lower" prediction in this case will pay 1.6x. On the other hand, a correct "higher" prediction, which occurs less often, will pay 2.44x.
In general, whether you bet with the odds or against them, your payback is around 96.92%. However, if the current number is 2 or 48, by going with the odds, your payback will improve to 98.90%. Note that your awards are subject to rounding to the nearest cent / pence. The higher the wager, the smaller the chance of there being any rounding effect.
After a correct prediction, you have the choice to parlay your win into a new prediction or collect your award and start with a new proposition with a new challenge number. If your play strategy is to successfully parlay a certain number of correct predictions in a row by always guessing with the odds, you may want to collect when the challenge number is near the middle number of 25. If your play strategy is to parlay until you achieve a certain award relative to your staring bet, you will achieve a better return by betting against the odds if the potential award is not significantly higher than your target.
Hi Lo 5 of 6
This is an extension of Hi Lo Odds whereby you get a large pay for making 6 correct predictions on a row. In this game, you always want to predict with the odds. If the current number is less than 25, guess high. If the current number is greater than 25, guess low. If the current is 25, your chances are the same whether you predict high or low.
There are a couple of additional interesting factors in this game. If you correctly predict 5 of 6 numbers on a row, it is a push. However, make at least 5 correct predictions and you will get to play the next row, which is advantageous to you. The higher the row, the higher the award multiplier for getting 6 correct values.
Hi Lo 5 of 6 Award Structure
|Row #||Row Pay|
Upon correctly making 5 or 6 guesses on any lower row, you are given the option to cash out or continue on to the next row. To obtain the optimal payback of 97.59%, you should always play to the top row. Therefore, you never want to collect, else you may be giving up a significantly amount of potential return. For example, the marginal payback of the 4th row is 129.3% which is significantly profitable for the player. More importantly, were you to always collect after your first 6 of 6 win, you increase the house edge edge by over 10%.
Of course, always trying to play to the top row leads to a more volatile game. You may want select your starting denomination accordingly to assure a sufficiently deep bankroll.
WagerWorks has ported the popular US casino video game, Krazy Keno Superball, to their online software suite. This offers a bonus feature for max credit play whereby a specially marked bonus ball will double an earned award if it lands on one of the spots you've chosen. Warning: the house advantages are much larger than those listed below if you do not wager 4 credits on every play.
There are two different sets of pay tables. The higher volatility pay table with a 10,000x award offers a 96.00% return to player for 10 spots play. The higher hit frequency pay table with a 1,000x top award offers a 94.01% for 9 spot play. Though the return to player is listed in each WagerWorks game pay table, there is no indication on the game launch screen as to the minimum denomination needed to get the better pay table. You'll need to check for yourself, probably starting at denominations larger than 10 pence.
This is a scratcher-type game with a few unique twists. Under each spot on the card is either an award value or one of two symbols. For example, in the game "Goal!", the symbols are two different colored soccer balls.
You pick spots until you reveal three matching spots. If the matching spots are an award value, that is how much you are paid. If the matching spots are symbols, like soccer balls of the same color, the symbol is added to the cash ladder. If the symbol is the same as the last matched symbol, you advance one step up the cash ladder, else the new symbol starts at the bottom of the ladder.
Once you work your way to the pay portion of the cash ladder, you have the option to collect your ladder award or risk it to move higher up the ladder. For optimal payback, you should collect when you get to the 25x step on the ladder.
Every card contains multiple possible wins. There are always 3 high award spots, 3 medium award spots and 8 small award spots. High award values range from 8 to 50, medium from 4 to 7 and small from 1 to 3. Occasionally the high award is a Mystery award. If you match three Mystery spots, you will be randomly awarded a value, usually between 25 and 500 but potentially as high as 10,000 or 500,000.
This is a blackjack variation in which the player can split any 15 or 16, and is offered a second chance when doubling on 9 to 11. With correct strategy the house edge is a low 0.23%. For all the rules and strategy of the game please visit my Power Blackjack section.
Three Card Poker
This is a fully licensed version of Three Card Poker. WagerWorks offers a full-pay Ante Bonus pay table (Straight Flush pays 5 to 1 and Three of a Kind pays 4 to 1) with a house edge of 3.37%. They offer at least two different Pairplus pay tables. The pay table with the 35 to 1 pay is the same as found in terrestrial casinos in England.
WagerWorks Table 1 — 2.32% House Edge
|Straight flush||40 to 1|
|Three of a kind||30 to 1|
|Straight||6 to 1|
|Flush||4 to 1|
|Pair||1 to 1|
WagerWorks Table 2 — 2.70% House Edge
|Straight flush||35 to 1|
|Three of a kind||33 to 1|
|Straight||6 to 1|
|Flush||4 to 1|
|Pair||1 to 1|
Three Reel Hold-up
This is world's first skill based slot game. It plays somewhat like multi-hand video poker and is actually licensed from Action Gaming. Wagers are placed on three separate sets of reels. At the start of the game, the lowest reels spin and then stop, each displaying a symbol. There are no blanks. By holding symbols you wish to keep, this symbol is copied to the corresponding reels on the other reel sets. Finally, all unheld reels spin again and each set of reels is evaluated for winning outcomes.
The following play strategy was published by SkyBetVegas. Without knowing the actual symbol frequencies on each reel, I cannot verify whether or not this strategy is optimal. The difference between max credit play and non-max credit play is the value of the bonus round. In a max credit bonus round, the top award is 50x while in a non-max credit bonus round, it is only 25x.
Another reader wrote to me that Wager Works casinos may configure the return of their slots. This may cause the strategy to change, if a casino does not use the SkyBetVegas setting.
Max Coin Three Reel Hold Up StrategyIf initial outcome has one or more WILD symbols:
- If you have two WILD symbols, only hold the third symbol if it is a Bonus or an OrangeBag or higher.
- If you have a single WILD and a pair of Bonus or a pair of Plums or better, hold all three symbols, else throw away the low pair.
- If you have an ANY award comprised of one Wild and two different Thug symbols, hold the Wild and the highest value Thug.
- If you have an ANY award comprised of one Wild and two different Bag symbols, hold the Wild and the highest value Bag.
- If you have an ANY award comprised of one Wild and two different Fruit symbols, hold only the Wild.
- If you have a single WILD and two unrelated symbols, if one of these symbols is a BlueBag or higher, then hold the WILD and the highest valued symbol, else only hold the WILD.
- If you have a winning outcome, you should hold it. This includes the case when you have an ANY award (for example, an Any Fruit outcome such as two Oranges and one Plum). In this case it is best to hold all three.
- If you have an exact pair of symbols, even if only a pair of Coins, hold the pair.
- In general, if you have 3 unrelated symbols, it is best to hold the most valuable symbol if it is a Bonus symbol or a BlueBag or better.
- If you have two mixed Thug symbols and a third unrelated symbol, hold the mixed Thugs.
- If you have two mixed Bag symbols and an unrelated symbol, hold the mixed Bag symbols.
- If you have two mixed Fruit symbols, only hold them if the third symbol is less than a PurpleBag, else hold the third symbol.
For non-max credit play, the strategy is the almost the same, except you should hold a single BlueBag over a single Bonus symbol. For max credit play, you should hold a single Bonus symbol over a single Blue symbol.
WagerWorks offers the most generous traditional roulette game with a single-zero and half back on even wagers when the ball lands in green. This yields a house edge of 1.35% on even-money bets and 2.70% on all other bets.
There are a wide variety of slot machines to choose from. Here are a few tips:
3 Reel Slot: Arabian Riches
For best payback, play 3 credits on each play.
MultiCoin/MultiLine Games: 5 Reel games and 4x4 16 Reel
For optimal payback, place a bet on every pay line. There is no advantage or disadvantage to playing more than 1 coin per line. In the progressive version of Bananarama, the more coins per line wagered, the more chances you have at winning the progressive, but the overall return remains the same. This is the first game I have seen that allows different sized wagers to equally participate in a progressive award.
Skill Based Bonus Rounds
The Price Is Right — Showcase Bonus
At the start of the Showcase Bonus, to get to the award round, you must get a 55 or higher, without exceeding 100, by spinning the bonus wheel. If you get 50 or lower on your first spin, you are given the option to either try a second spin or to collect an award equal to the value of our first spin. If your second spin causes the total of the two spins to exceed 100, the bonus round ends with no award pay. However, for optimal payback, you should always respin the wheel, even if your first spin is a 50.
The Price Is Right — Plinko Bonus
You get to choose where to drop the puck. The optimal puck start position varies with the award selection, as described below:
- If the top award is a 15, drop the puck in the center.
- If the top award is a 14, drop the puck on either edge.
- If the top award is a 12, drop the puck on the left edge.
- If the top award is a 10, drop the puck on the right edge.
- If the top award is a 9, near the right side, drop the puck in the center.
- If the top award is a 9, near the left side, drop the puck on either edge.
Wheel of Fortune — Wheel Bonus
After each spin of the bonus wheel, if you don't land on a Bankrupt, you choose whether to keep what you have won so far or to risk it for another spin to add to your winnings. If you do land on a bankrupt, you forfeit your bonus winnings but do get a 10x consolation prize. If you get the consolation prize, you will have the opportunity to play a 100% payback double or nothing round up to 5 times.
When you land on an award slice, that slice and three others at the 3 o'clock, 6 o'clock and 9 o'clock positions are replaced with bankrupt slices. As soon as the Jackpot slices are no longer available, you should collect. Also, even if the jackpot slices are still available after 3 spins, it is almost always best not to attempt a fourth spin. Unlike the land-based casino version of this game, you have an equal chance of landing on any spot on the bonus wheel.
Three Card Second Chance
Three Card 2nd Chance is a poker-based game, invented by me and patent pending. The "Best Hand Bonus" side bet was the idea of WagerWorks. Three Card 2nd Chance follows the same structure as a five-card version, Five-Card Mulligan Poker, which has been available at Odds On Internet casinos since May 2007. The thrust of the game is that if the player doesn't like his first hand, he may exchange it for a second hand by merely increasing his bet. The dealer also has the ability to replace his hand in certain circumstances. Then, the higher hand wins, and all wins pay at least even money. WagerWorks has an exclusive license to be the sole provider of Three Card 2nd Chance for Internet-based casinos.
The house edge of Three Card 2nd Chance 1.25%, with perfect strategy. For more information, please see my page on Three Card Second Chance.
WagerWorks offers three different game types in three different formats. Phantom Belle is their single hand game, Lucky Draw is their 4-play offering while their 10 play game obviously offers 10 hands. As is consistent with WagerWorks policy of fully legitimate gaming, they have licensed multi-hand game rights from ActionGaming.
Though the return to player is listed in each WagerWorks game pay table, there is no indication on the game launch screen as to the minimum denomination needed to get the better pay table. You'll need to check for yourself, probably starting at denominations larger than 10 pence.
WagerWorks Video Poker — Expected Return
|Jacks or better||0.995439|
Following are the expected return tables for WagerWorks video poker, assuming optimal player strategy.
Jacks or Better - WagerWorks
|4 of a kind||25||47093167764||0.002363||0.059064|
|3 of a kind||3||1484003070324||0.074449||0.223346|
|Jacks or better||1||4277372890968||0.214585||0.214585|
|3 of a kind||3||1484391167856||0.074468||0.223405|
|Jacks or better||1||4290810981444||0.215259||0.215259|
|5 Of A Kind||940||0.000091||0.085499|
|4 Of A Kind||16||0.008189||0.131022|
|3 Of A Kind||2||0.125047||0.250095|