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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 ( He offers one-minute gambling tips on radio station WLS-AM (890) and podcasts are available at your question to Grochowski at

Q. Baccarat is supposed to have such a low house edge, but when I get in a bad streak, it just kills me. At a $10 table, betting the minimum, I buy in for $100, and I'm reaching for the second $100 before I know it. At blackjack, it seems my money goes farther. At least, that second $100 rarely has to come out as fast as it does in baccarat.

A. If you're playing for $10 a hand, it's most likely a mini-baccarat table. That's a very fast-moving game. Only two hands are dealt - a player hand and a banker hand - and all decisions are automatic. The dealer completes the hands rapidly.

In blackjack, the dealer has to wait for players to make strategy decisions. Decisions on whether to double down or split pairs also can slow down the game.

The result is that a full seven-player blackjack table moves at between 50 and 60 hands per hour. Even a full mini-baccarat table can move at more than 200 hands per hour.

Baccarat house edges of 1.06 percent on banker and 1.24 percent on player are low, but the speed of the game can be hazardous to your bankroll.

Q. Talk to me about Deuces Wild, Loose Deuces, Double Pay Deuces, etc. The same four deuces that get me 1,000 credits in DW get me 2,500 in Loose Deuces, 2,000 in Double Pay and 3,000 in Triple Pay. Do you get fewer deuces in the higher-paying games?

A. You don't get fewer deuces when the four-deuces jackpots are larger. In fact, with strategy changes designed to chase the bigger jackpots, you get the four-2 bonanzas more often.

Deuces Wild Games fund the bigger jackpots by adjusting paybacks lower on the pay table, just as non-wild-card games accommodate bigger four-of-a-kind paybacks by reducing payoffs on hands that occur more frequently.

Let's look at an example with similar payback percentages.

The very common version of Deuces Wild known to players as "Illinois Deuces" or "Airport Deuces" pays 98.9 percent with expert play. Like other DW games, it has a 200-for-1 payoff on four 2s, or 1,000 for a five-coin bet.

The game is recognized for its 25-15-9-4-4-3 pay table, paying 25-for-1 on a royal with wild cards, 15 on five of a kind, 9 on a straight flush, 4 on either four of a kind or a full house, and 3 on a flush.

There's also a version of Loose Deuces that pays 99.2 percent with expert play - these two games are only three-tenths of a percent apart. Loose Deuces, like Deuces Wild, has the 4,000-coin jackpot with five coins wagered on a natural royal and pays 25-for-1 on a wild royal, 2-for-1 on a straight and 1-for-1 on three of a kind.

But on Loose Deuces, four 2s bring back 500-for-1, or 2,500 for a five-coin wager.

How can it pay so much if the frequency of deuces isn't controlled? By paying less on hands that occur a lot more often. This version of LD reduces five of a kind to 12-for-1, straight flushes to 8-for-1, full houses to 3-for-1 and flushes to 2-for-1.

The principle is the same in all video poker games. When more is given on jackpot hands they are balanced by reductions lower in the pay table.

Q. I read an article about a slot machine that said, "The manufacturer says the side bet also causes the bonus features to occur more frequently." 

 Now, if the RNG throws out random numbers, which I would assume correspond to the bonus symbols (or whatever type of bonus triggers there may be), how can the RNG reconfigure the numbers it's constantly throwing out to make the game's bonus features occur more frequently? 

Even if the bonus feature has nothing to do with the RNG, there has to be something in the machine that is being automatically changed to make for more often-occurring bonuses.

 A. It's not a matter of something being changed in the game to increase bonus triggers. It's a matter of a feature being activated.

That something is a mystery trigger, which works with a different random number set than the main game.

Mystery triggers are most common on multi-level progressive jackpots, but also can be used in bonus events. It's also possible to use them both for progressives and bonuses in the same game.

Here's one way it can work. Let's say you're playing a game as you describe, but elect not to make a side bet. You're not eligible for progressive jackpots, but still can go to bonus events. For you, the bonuses are triggered any time you see three bonus symbols on the reels.

Now let's say you change your mind and start making the side bet. The random number generator for the main game keeps operating as normal, and you still go to bonus events whenever three bonus symbols appear.

However, making the side bet activates more random numbers, with a number generated for each progressive and a number generated for the bonus events.

You do not need to have a winning combination show on the reels to win the mystery progressives or go to the mystery bonus. They come by surprise - that's the mystery part.

Since you are going to the bonus whenever the needed symbols are on the reels AND whenever the mystery bonus is triggered, a player who makes the side bet goes to the bonus event more often than one who plays only the base game.

Ever since video slots rose to popularity, game-makers have searched for ways to encourage larger bets. The method used on three-reel slots - a disproportionate jump in the top jackpot when you bet max coins - does not work well on video slots with their greater emphasis on entertainment, more pay lines, and a tendency among players to bet only one or two coins per line.

Progressives plus greater frequency of bonus events through a side bet and mystery triggers is one way to encourage a larger overall bet.

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