CASINO ANSWER MAN
by John Grochowski
John Grochowski is a blackjack expert and a well-known and respected casino gambling columnist. His syndicated casino gambling column appears in the Denver Post, Casino City Times, and other newspapers and web sites. Grochowski has written six books on gambling including the "Answer Man" series of books (www.casinoanswerman.com). He offers one-minute gambling tips on radio station WLS-AM (890) and podcasts are available at http://www.wlsam.com/sectional.asp?id=38069. Send your question to Grochowski at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q. The casino about 10 miles from my house has eliminated all its Caribbean Stud tables after getting rid of Let It Ride a couple of years ago. It still has Three Card Poker, and now it has Mississippi Stud to replace Caribbean Stud. It seems I see less Caribbean Stud at other casinos, too. Is that a real trend? And can you explain a Mississippi Stud strategy?
A. Yes, there’s a real trend toward fewer Caribbean Stud tables. Caribbean Stud had proven more durable than most games developed in recent decades, with its progressive jackpot as a big attraction. But it has a bigger house edge and lower win frequency than old standbys such as blackjack, craps, and baccarat. More frequent losing sessions eventually put a damper on excitement over the jackpots, and the game’s audience narrows.
I recently spoke with a table games director who told me he’d removed his last Caribbean Stud table more than a year ago. He’d tried Ultimate Texas Hold’em, but it didn’t perform to expectations. Now he was trying Mississippi Stud, which is the fastest rising new game.
Mississippi Stud is dealt with each player getting two cards face down, and with three common cards. You start with an ante, and then may make a bet of 1 to 3 times your ante after you see your cards, again after the first common card is turned up, and again after the second common card is turned up. Payoffs are according to a pay table that starts at a push for a pair of 6s through 10s and rises to 500-1 for a royal flush. The house edge is 1.4 percent of your total action, or 4.9 percent of your ante.
Michael Shackleford has a full analysis and strategy at wizardofodds.com. The strategy boils down to this:
Q. I guess this is more telling a story than anything else. I was at a table with one of those loudmouthed guys who objected strongly to my hitting 2 vs. 12. I was at third base, and he yelled that third-base was a team position, that I couldn’t take the dealer’s bust card because the team needed me to stand. So I told him that it becomes a team position once the team starts funding my bets and not before. He stormed off, I guess looking for a table of team players. How do you handle that situation?
A. I think we’ve all run into similar situations from time to time, but I never cease to be amazed when the other player storms off. Similar to your story, I once had a husband and wife tell me third base was a team position, and if I wasn’t going to play for the team, they didn’t want to play with me. I told them I guessed they didn’t want to play with me then. And they changed tables, grumbling away.
There’s nothing you can do but play your own game.
Q. What does "perceived skill" mean on slots? My wife said she overheard someone talking about it.
A. There are a very few slot games that involved real skill. IGT’s Centipede is one, where your skill at the arcade-game bonus event makes a real difference in your winnings.
More common are "perceived skill" or "illusion of skill" games. Your skill may make an actual difference in how the bonus event plays out, or in points accumulated, but the actual monetary award is determined by a random number generator.
One example of a perceived skill game is Bally’s SkeeBall slots, introduced in 2012. In the bonus event, the video screen turns into a SkeeBall machine, set up to mirror the arcade game with its set of concentric circles. Players touch and drag balls on the screen, then let them roll. Landing a ball in the smallest circle brings the most points.
The skill is real enough. You can bank the ball off the sides, roll it straight or at an angle, and your velocity matters.
If the points you accumulated while rolling the balls translated directly into credits, SkeBall would be a skill-based game. But there’s a twist. The points earn you virtual tickets, just as you’d receive tickets from an arcade game. When the SkeeBall round is over, you go to a ticket redemption counter that shows small, medium and large prizes. You touch the screen to select prizes, and the prizes reveal your bonus credits.
The values behind the prizes are determined by a random number generator. Even a small number of points can bring big credit awards, and a large number of points can bring small ones. Your skill level affects the number of points and tickets you accumulate, but not your final credit award.
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