Gambling

Is This a Good Deal? – Gambling With An Edge


I’ve had a relationship with Anthony Curtis for more than 25 years. Mostly it’s a business relationship, but over the years we’ve also become friends of sorts. Not best friends, but friends nonetheless.

I received a telephone call from him at about eight o’clock one Saturday evening recently. I took the call, of course, but this was a surprise. I would definitely not be his first choice on a call like, “Hey, I’ve got an extra ticket to the Raiders game tomorrow. You interested?”

This was about a video poker game that sounded like it might be too good to be true. One of the LVA subscribers had seen a Dream Card game at Resorts World before leaving town, and checked the pay schedule after getting home. It was more than 110% and was available in any denomination between 10¢ and $5.

The pay schedule was like regular Bonus Poker, except it paid 45 for the full house, 35 for the flush, 25 for the straight, and 20 for 3-of-a-kind instead of the normal 40, 25, 20, and 15 for these same hands. Anthony told me he had a picture of the screen, and this was real.

Anthony was too busy getting LVA ready to try it himself, so he offered it to me. Anthony proposed some sort of money split on the profits. We didn’t get too far into this particular negotiation because I turned the deal down quickly. Presumably the guy who told Anthony about the game would get a piece of it, as would Anthony himself, and I’d keep the lion’s share.

If I were really planning on doing this, I would probably have rejected Anthony’s first offer and gone for a bigger share for myself and a smaller share for the other two. Or had a discussion of how potential losses would be shared. Whatever. In a negotiation, everything is on the table and it’s rarely a good idea to accept the first offer.

I rejected the offer because Bonnie and I had the next day fully planned and the chance to earn a few extra bucks would not be a good enough reason to cancel our plans. Earlier in my career when I was struggling financially, a good play would have trumped whatever social activity I had planned. But fortunately, we not struggling financially anymore.

Plus, I was very suspicious. I’d been to Resorts World. While they do have 8/5 Bonus (99.17%) in the High Limit Room, the games on the main floor where you can play 10¢ to $5 have an average return of about 96% to 98%. I strongly doubted that any 110% game was actually there.

So, I passed, and assured Anthony I wouldn’t go and play the game on my own now that I knew about it. This would have been a way for me to benefit from the game without giving Anthony and the subscriber their shares, but that’s not who I am. I appreciated getting the call, and potentially I’ll accept the next offer that comes along, but this was not the one. I didn’t want to burn any bridges.

My refusal wasn’t distressing to Anthony. He had other people on his list. I was the first because the subscriber had mentioned my name. For which I’m grateful.

But I still thought about the game. It turns out there are two separate games with “Dream Card” in the name. One, the newer one, is just called Dream Card, while the older one is called Draw Poker with Dream Card. 

The games play the same, but they’re different. They are both 10-coin games. In the older game, the Dream Card feature always adds a bit (0.1% or so) to the return on the game. In the newer game, this might not be true. In the newer game, you get far fewer Dream Cards, but the ones that you do get are more valuable. 

The way this works, I think, is that when the system is triggered to give you a Dream Card, the machine actually deals three hands in the background and deals you the one that returns the most. 

As it happened, Anthony and I spoke the next day. Not on purpose, but accidentally. I unknowingly “butt dialed” him when my cell phone was in my pocket, and he returned the call.

I told him that I wasn’t at all certain the game was anywhere near positive.

“What do you mean‽” Anthony exclaimed. “I ran it on software and it’s more than 110%. How can that not be positive‽”

I told him it’s a 10-coin game and the software assumed it’s a five-coin game. If there were no Dream Cards, a 10-coin game that seems to be 110% is actually worth only 55% when translated to five coins. With the Dream Cards added, the game is worth quite a bit more than that, but it’s hard to say how much more. 

The game was designed by videopoker.com and manufactured by IGT. Both companies employ pretty impressive mathematicians. It’s doubtful that they would have released a game with such a big mistake on it. It’s possible, of course, and I’m always on the lookout for mistakes, but if I had to guess, I would predict the game is worth 97.5%.

Anthony thanked me and stopped considering the game as a godsend.

Turns out I wasn’t spot on in my prediction. The game actually is worth 98.5968% according to the Wizard of Odds website. This may well be the highest-returning video poker game at Resorts World outside of the High Limit Room. 

If you decide you wish to play it, please note that the higher returns for various pay schedule categories (the flush and the straight especially), will change your strategy considerably compared to regular Bonus Poker. You’ll need to work out your own strategy using whatever computer tools you have because the correct plays haven’t been published anywhere insofar as I know.

For me, though, even though the game turned out to be more than 1% looser than my prediction, 98.6% isn’t nearly high enough to be interesting to me.

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