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Thursday, October 16, 2008

How often do you finish with two pair in video poker?

While playing at the Showboat recently another player noticed that I was taking notes and asked how often I drew two pair in an hour. His reason was that he noticed another person playing Double Bonus (DB) and thought that player was giving up an awful lot of small wins in chasing the bigger bonus payouts. Of course, this gentleman was correct, though Showboat does offer some Double Bonus machines that return over 99% (as good as any that you will find in Atlantic City these days), but I couldn't offer him the exact statistics that he requested. However, having just purchased Frugal Video Poker I was looking at expected returns for different video poker games and thought I would share my the data that this gentleman requested.
Assuming a reasonably rapid and steady (that not insanely fast) pace of play, at 800 hands per hour playing perfect strategy you should expect to finish with two pair 103 times per hour playing 9/6 JoB (12.93% of the time), 95 times per hour playing 9/7/5 DB (11.89% of the time), and 98 two pairs per hour playing 9/6 DDB (12.31% of the time). Assuming a more leisurely pace of 600 hands per hour, which was closer to the speed I estimate this man was playing, the number of two pairs per hour ranged between 78 for 9/6 JoB to 71 for 9/7/5 DB.
Those are a lot of credits to give up for a chance at the mini-jackpots that these Double Bonus games offer, but that goes a long way to explain why your results will vary so much more over the short run from playing these games and why your gambling bankroll needs to be robust enough to cover those swings.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Times Have Already Changed in AC

We've heard for some time that Atlantic City is in the process of changing, but it now dawns on me that the change is here. I admit I've been a little out of touch with town during the early part of the year and have mostly had my head buried in the virtual sand of video poker when I have been in town, but reflecting on a visit from this past weekend it is finally sinking in that Atlantic City is not the place it used to be.

We know that the town went through major changes from the initial casinos that opened in existing hotels with their owners in a rush to start reaping the benefits of legalized gambling on the east coast, and another change as major casino corporations and moguls made their mark on the city. The Borgata spurred a new series of construction in town along with more competitive inventories of machines (at least for the thoughtful video poker player) and (slightly) better blackjack games, but for some time the Borgata stood out as the exception in a town otherwise full of bland, functional buildings that lacked the imagination and color that draws folks to the middle of the Nevada desert. Well, I saw the Harrah's Waterfront Tower at night for the first time a few weeks ago and then again several times while staying there and at the Borgata last weekend, but looking at a picture from the window of the Caesars Centurion Tower really helped me encapsulate what is so significant about the light show that Harrah's presents on the walls of their flagship resort each night. There is now color, and not just red lettering on the top of the buildings. There is finally color and light in Atlantic City.

Now, I'm no architecture buff, so I can't articulate exactly what has changed, but I can say that Caesars has finally attempted to make their building look like some place that can legitimately carry the Caesars name, we all know the Borgata would fit in just fine on the Las Vegas Strip, Harrah's new tower and new pool are legitimate attractions that deserve the "resort" moniker, and even the Trump properties have made significant improvements in recent years, with the Plaza and Taj Majal taking on modern attractive interiors for the first time in a long time.

What is so exciting about seeing all of this change is that it is just the beginning. With a slew of new construction projects ready to start as soon as the country gets through this latest financial crisis Atlantic City is on the verge of finally reclaiming its past glory that was promised when casinos first came to town and once again becoming a premier luxury seaside resort destination. Of course, a lot could happen, but things are at last starting to seem very real.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Smoking Ban to (Sort Of) Take Effect Soon

Atlantic City always seems to find a way to make the worst of a bad situation. A couple summers ago no one anticipated the effect of a statewide shutdown of government services on one of the state's most consistent sources of revenue. Thus, the casinos lost a few days of revenue during their key summer months, but more importantly, Atlantic City suffered a blow to its reputation in the eyes of potential visitors. As the city is in the midst of reinventing itself and making genuine improvements it found another way to stand in its own way. This time, City Council has managed to get the worst of both worlds in announcing a complete smoking ban and then reversing that ban just days before it was to go into effect.

The Press of Atlantic City reported this weekend that its heavily promoted smoking ban will last for only one week. Thus, the city's casino workers and non-smoking patrons will achieve none of the benefits that the ban set out to achieve, while just about all of the damage has already been done. Since there has been so much talk of the complete ban in casino circles many smokers have already started looking for other options, while casinos have already invested in lounges to accommodate smokers in their casino. The Press reported that Harrah's spend $7 million on these lounges, which will be unnecessary once the new delay for the ban is officially passed.

Atlantic City may have been ahead of the curve in outlawing smoking in their casinos or they may have been out of touch with their customers who expect smoking in the casinos. That point is up for debate. However, announcing a ban and then announcing the ban has been canceled serves only to upset folks on both side of the smoking debate. Whether a reprieve on the end of smoking on the casino floor gives the casinos a boost remains to be seen. As Pennsylvania and New York add more casinos, gas prices continue to rise, and the stock market continues to fall, it seems dubious to think this latest decision will have much of an impact on the profits of Atlantic City's casinos.

September Casino Revenue Report

The New Jersey Casino Control Commission released the monthly Casino Revenue report for September 2008. Some of the noteworthy items from that report appear below.

The casino win was $356 million, a 15.1% decrease over September 2007. Slot machine revenue fell 18.6%, while table game revenues dropped 6.2% from the previous year.

The annual casino win through September is $3.6 billion, down 6.3% from the previous year. Slot machine revenue is down 6.3%, whie table game revenue is down 1.8%.

No individual casino posted an increased win from the previous September, while Harrah's Atlantic City is the only property with a higher increased YTD win through this point than in the previous year, though Borgata and Trump Plaza are not far off their previous numbers.

The AC Hilton, Resorts, Trump Marina, and Trump Plaza all suffered casino win totals off nearly a quarter to nearly two-thirds of the amount they won in the past September.

Caesars Atlantic City Centurion Tower Room 4428 (10/2008)

Pictures from Caesars Atlantic City Centurion Tower Room 4428 (top floor), from October 10, 2008.

Harrah's Atlantic City Marina Tower Luxury Room 15024 (10/2008)

Pictures from Harrah's Atlantic City Marina Tower Luxury Room 15024, from October 10, 2008

Borgata Fiore Suite 3201 (10/2008)

Pictures from Borgata Fiore Suite 3201, from October 9, 2008