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Ask the Wizard #239

I’ve been told that a casino’s selection of video poker can be a good indication of their slot looseness. The idea behind it is supposed to be that if a casino is willing to put a lot of full play poker on their floor then they will also likely put more loose slots. Does this hold any truth or is it just a myth?

Omer from Freemont, CA

I think that theory holds water. When I did my Las Vegas slot machine survey, I found the looseness of a casinos slots and video poker was highly correlated.

If you were a casino manager, what would you do in these tough economic times to help generate revenue in a smaller area market? (besides giving them free money)

William from Shelton, WA

That is getting outside my area, but I subscribe to the Benny Binion philosophy that if you offer the player a good value, and aren’t afraid to take a bet, then he will keep coming back.

Do you know if there is any way to get the probability payout schedules for slot machines in Nevada? I called gaming and they told me it was confidential information. I am curious because at some point when playing a progressive slot machine, it must tilt into the players favor. And as a follow-up, what is the law on disclosure of probability tables. Thanks for the help in advance.

Mark from Las Vegas

No, there isn’t. I don’t like it any more than you do. I think the player should be allowed to know the rules and/or the odds about what he is gambling on. Others have asked me if invoking the state Freedom of Information Act. I tend to doubt it would help or apply. As far as I know, the only place with such a right to know might be Holland. I’m told in Amsterdam information about the virtual reel stripping is indicated in little cards on the machines. You could in theory calculate the odds with that information and the pay table.

I am curious to know what became of that Eternity II puzzle challenge. Was it solved? Are you still working on it?

Matt from Las Vegas

Thanks for asking. No, I haven’t touched that thing since I wrote about in the November 17, 2008 Ask the Wizard column. According to their web site, they will have "scrutiny dates" on December 31, 2009, and 2010 if necessary. In my opinion, it will never be solved.

Update: The Eternity II web size appears to no longer exist.

For recreational blackjack players, who use basic strategy, and don’t count, does the house advantage increase as the penetration increases? I believe it does because the deeper you get into the shoe, the greater the absolute value of the count will tend to get, which should trigger count-based strategy changes. Since the non-counter wouldn’t know when and how to make such changes, he would be making more mistakes as the count gets further away from zero. Thus, wouldn’t a non-counter be better off at a table with shallow penetration?

Jon from Doylestown, PA

In a non-cut-card game, the house advantage is always the same for the non-counter. Clumps of high or low cards are just as likely to appear at the beginning of the shoe, as the middle, as the end. Just because the count is zero at the top of the shoe doesn’t mean you’ll have an exact balance of high and low cards. You seem to be suggesting that the cards are more clumpy at the end of the deck. However, if that were true, then the odds would change if the dealer dealt the cards in reverse order. Surely that is a ridiculous notion.

Let’s say the basic strategy player has 16 against a 10 late in the shoe, and hits. If the count were high, standing would be the right play, resulting in what would look like an error to a counter who was watching. However, if the count were negative then hitting would be all the better. In the end, it averages out, for the basic strategy player.

For reasons I explain in my blackjack appendix 10, the basic strategy player should prefer a game with a continuous shuffler, if his goal is to minimize the house edge. Aside from that, the house edge is not affected by penetration. I should add that with a shallower penetration there will be more time spent shuffling, and thus a lower expected loss on an hourly basis.