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Strategy to casino winning in changing economic times

Every casino periodically makes adjustments in the games they offer. The recession is causing more than the normal number of adjustments to be made. Not because the casinos are mean, nasty, and greedyBob DancerBob Dancer is one of the world's foremost video poker experts.  He is a regular columnist for Casino Player, Strictly Slots, and the Las Vegas Review-Journa land has written an autobiography and a novel about gambling.   He provides advice for tens of thousands of casino enthusiasts looking to play video poker.  Bob's website is  SOBs, but more likely because they are losing money and trying to hang on. Station Casinos, for example, is said to be filing for bankruptcy and are getting takeover offers from others.

The recession is affecting casinos and it's affecting players as well. Any of us with money in the stock market has seen that drop by more than 50%. Sometimes much more. For those of us still working, companies are laying off people and sometimes demanding that the ones who wish to keep their job accept a pay cut. This is no fun for anybody.

In the face of changing casino conditions, players need to re-evaluate where they play and for how much. And it affects each of us differently. At some casinos, players who only play 100% games are now getting no monthly mailers, or perhaps token $5 a week mailers. Some of these players used to get $25-$50 a week mailers with the same amount of play. What should they do?

If you complain to the booth you'll be told that mailers are based on "theoretical" and since you only play 100% machines and the casino loses money on these machines these machines have a theoretical of zero --- hence no mailers. If you want the mailers, you need to play lesser machines. While this is done on a case-by-case basis, let's look at how this would work at one casino --- namely the Eastside Cannery.

Let's say you played 25¢ Full Pay Deuces Wild (100.76%) for a total of 20 hours each month. These machines are a bit slow, so let's assume you can play 600 hands per hour ($750). On these machines you always get 0.083% in cash back, whether or not there's a multiplier in effect on other machines, so we'll add that in and say the game returns 100.84%. Our net profit from playing the machine is 20 * $750 * 0.0084 = $126 before we count the mailers.

Now let's assume you play 25¢ NSU Deuces Wild (99.73%) for the same 20 hours and you only play on 3x point days (0.50% cash back), which makes the game worth 100.23%. The machines are faster so we'll assume you can play 800 hands per hour ($1,000). Now our expected profit from playing these machines is 20 * $1000 * 0.0023 = $46 before we count the mailers.

Playing the lesser game costs us $80 a month (or $4 an hour). Now we need to look at the mailers, and for this I don't have a clear cut answer. If playing the FPDW machines gives us $5 a week in mailers and playing the NSU machines gives us $25 a week in mailers, then playing the two different games is equivalent! If the difference in the mailers is more than this, NSU is the better choice. If the difference is less than $80 month, FPDW is better.

It's possible, of course, that you can afford to play for dollars but the maximum offered in FPDW is only quarters. In that case, you're better off playing $1 NSU even without considering the mailers. When you include the mailers, that makes it more profitable to play the $1 machines.

How do you find out how much you get for each amount of play? One way is to ask other players. Sometimes a friendly host or booth employee will give you a glimpse of the formula. And sometimes you just have to play and find out. I know married couples where one of them plays on one set of machines and the other plays on the other. They keep good records and compare mailers. Then they know. If you don't have a spouse, find a buddy and you can run the same sort of experiment.

I'm assuming, of course, that you can play close to perfectly. Most players don't get very near this ideal. If you want to assume a 1% error rate, then you can reduce FPDW to 99.76% and NSU to 98.73%. The same kind of calculation comparing the games still works.

At every casino you need to make this sort of calculation. In the example used, there was a close-to-yet-still-under-100% alternative available for the same stakes. This isn't always the case. At one casino, for example, the next-best-game for quarters is 8-5 Bonus Poker (99.17%). With this game, and with multipliers commonly available at this casino, this will never be a smart choice. However, playing $1,000 or more coin-in on such a machine every month (for an expected loss of about $5, assuming you played on a day with a multiplier), will keep you getting the minimum monthly mailers. While the free play you get from these mailers might be embarrassing small, you will also get 4x and 5x multipliers. Playing on the 100% machines on multiplier days instead of the non-multiplier days more than makes up for the $5 "investment" you made in getting the mailer.

It's not only the 100% games where you need to do this. At Orleans, for example, if you want to get the top mailer ($100 weekly in free play, plus food, show tickets, and other stuff) you need to play $100,000 a month. The highest-returning game for stakes where it is reasonable to play that much is $2 Five Play 9-7 Double Bonus (99.11%). Playing on 9x point days (0.90% cash back) makes it a breakeven game (actually 100.01% if you play perfectly --- which is not likely. It takes a lot of study to play this game well, and while many players have practiced on 10-7 Double Bonus, which returns a full percent more and has a similar-yet-not-identical strategy, hardly any of us have devoted that much time on the 9-7 game simply because it returns so little). Earning $400 in free play (plus food plus other things) for $100,000 of play is a pretty lean return percentagewise, and it depends on what other opportunities are available, but at the minimum it is at least worth considering. Playing the same machines for lesser mailers is also worth considering.

Although I can provide a few how-to examples, the games you play and the casinos you play at will likely be different from the examples I provided. Therefore you need to be able to do this kind of calculation for yourself.

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