factor contributing to the appeal of the slots is the chance to
arrive at a casino by bus and depart by limo. Say, by parlaying
$100 into $500,000. Traditional table games, with no bonuses or
progressive side bets, don't seem to offer this opportunity. Yet,
the old table standbys have less house advantage than most slot
machines and should therefore be easier to win. What's the catch?
Picture a $0.50,
two-coin maximum, machine with a $500,000 jackpot for $1 bet. Assume
a 90 percent return -- the casino has 10 percent edge. Say that
1 percent of the total return is allocated to the jackpot. The payoff
is essentially 500,000-to-1. The odds against winning are 100-fold
greater -- 50,000,000-to-1 -- because the jackpot is a hundredth
of the overall return. Steep, but if a bank of these machines gets
100 million pulls per year, the casino expects to pay a jackpot
every six or so months.
about blackjack buffs over whom the casino has an edge of only half
a percent. Pretend some enthusiasts buy in for $100, start betting
at $5, press up wantonly as their winnings wax, and play until they
go belly-up or hit $500,000. All told, this group might average
$100 per hand. And the odds each member fights of reaching $500,000
are around 10,000-to-1.
If you think
10,000-to-1 seems too favorable, consider what the numbers mean.
Of 10,001 people playing this way, one will win $500,000 and 10,000
will lose $100 each. That's $500,000 for the bettors and $1,000,000
for the bosses. The casino earns $500,000.
chance of winning half a million dollars on a $100 stake being considerably
lower for slot than table players, such scores happen to the former
and not the latter. For four reasons.
action far surpasses table play. A smaller fraction of a disproportionately
larger population yields more successes.
Second, a slot
aficionado can jump from $1 to $500,000 in one admittedly low-probability
step. Even an extremely aggressive and lucky blackjack player needs
a multitude of rounds to bridge this chasm. Using the earlier estimates,
for the house to rack up $500,000 profit on 0.5 percent advantage,
a total of $100,000,000 would have to have been wagered. This is
a mean handle of $10,000 for each of the 10,000 players -- or 100
bets averaging $100 each. But the 100-bet statistic is misleading
because the vast majority of gamblers will tap out early while the
rare survivors would have to go on for days, weeks, months, or longer.
Few would persist. For any who might, their $100 origins would be
obscured at intermediate plateaus. When an urbane high roller enters
the casino with a $250,000 line of credit and starts at $1,000 per
hand, nobody would recall the provincial penny-pincher who began
two years earlier with $100 and hit a streak betting $5 or $10 and
maybe $25, then returned a month later with $500, and so on.
players typically risk the same amount on every round -- $1 in the
example proposed. A bettor comfortable at this level knows that
success on the next spin could bring a fortune while failure will
only cost a buck. Earning