Q. In casino statistics online from various gambling states, I see casino hold percentages and win percentages in blackjack listed at 16, 17 and 18 percent. How can that be? I know there are some bad players, but no one should be giving the house 16 percent.


A. Those hold percentages are not the same thing as the house edge. When gaming board statistics list a hold percentage of 16 percent, it doesn’t mean blackjack players have lost 16 percent of wagers. It means they’ve lost 16 percent of buy-ins.

Let’s take an average player not a basic strategy player or an advantage player, but the kind of player who fills most of the seats and bucks a house edge of about 2 percent. And let’s say he buys in for $500, wagers $25 a hand, wins a little, loses a little and sticks around long enough to play 200 hands. He’s made $5,000 worth of wagers. His expected loss at a 2 percent house edge is $100.


But, if he actually loses $100, casino statistics won’t see that as 2 percent of his $5,000 in wagers. They’ll see it as 20 percent of his $500 buy-in. That’s the hold percentage.


Electronic games are reported differently. There, actual wagers are tracked, and what you see on gaming board reports as a hold percentage or win percentage is the percentage of money wagered that’s kept by the house. If the same situation described above happened at a slot machine say a $500 buy-in at a $5 slot, $5,000 worth of wagers and $100 in losses it would be seen as a 2 percent casino win.


Hold percentages on tables and slots are not comparable statistics, and can’t be used to compare what kind of deal you get on the games.


Q. I have a question about slots strategy. I went to the casino last night and got back a chunk of my recent losses. A little background: I’m very old-fashioned and only play the max (75 cents) on mechanical machines. There’s too much going on with most video machines, and I have no idea how I won or how I lost.


I won off a particular machine that KILLED ME this winter. My question is how long do you keep playing a winning machine? I kept hitting multi-colored 7s with one or two doubler 7s thrown in. My rule of thumb is when I win a big chunk, to round it off and play that. I find it keeps me from giving it all back. For example, if I’m up to 356 credits I’ll play the 56, and then convince myself to walk away.


Last night was tough, that machine was in an uncharacteristically giving mood. I think I played down 50 or 60 credits. Should I have stayed on longer?


A. Past wins or losses have no affect on future outcomes on slot machines. No matter what your results have been, the expected return on a game remains the same from that point forward. However, slot machines are what analysts call â??negative expectation games,â? meaning there is a house edge and players will lose money overall.


In any negative expectation game, it makes good sense to protect a large portion of any winnings.


I like to play mental games that amount to floating win goals and loss limits. If my buy-in is $100 and my credit meter reaches $150, I tell myself, “OK, I want to give this game a shot, but I don’t walk away a loser.”  So I’ll set $100 as my floor, and if the credit meter drops to that point, I’ll cash out. If I get a nice win or two and the meter rises to $175, I’ll revisit my limits, and tell myself that I’ll walk away at $125, for a $25 profit.


The details of any such system are up to the individual, but it helps discipline me to walk away from any negative expectation game without blowing my full stake.


With larger wins, you can give yourself more leeway, but target an exact amount to protect. If I buy in for $100 and the meter is down to $60 before I hit a $1,000 jackpot, I have a decision to make. Do I want to set my floor at $1,000, so that the most I spend is my original buy-in, and I walk away with the full jackpot? Do I tell myself it’s OK to invest another $100 in addition to my original buy-in, and set my floor at $900? Either way is valid, and enables me to walk away with a good chunk.


That’s a roundabout way of saying there is no hard-and-fast rule. It’s up to the individual. But I do suggest setting in your own mind a walk-away point that will protect most of your winnings.


Q. I was reading a website about poker probabilities. It said there are 40 possible straight flushes, and that four of them are royal flushes. If you separate out the royals like you do in video poker, there are nine times more straight flushes than royal flushes, 36 to four.


So why do royal flushes pay 16 times as much as straight flushes in video poker? You get 4,000 on the royal, but only 250 on the straight flush? Shouldn’t you get more like 400 or 450 on straight flushes?


A. Some video poker games do pay 400, and even 500 on straight flushes. I’ve seen IGT Double Bonus Poker games that paid 400 though not in a long time and WMS Multi-Pay Poker not only paid 500 for the straight flush, but also paid on the flush and straight contained in the hand.


But that’s all really beside the point. Video poker pay tables are not designed to reflect the exact odds of the game. They’re designed to be fun to play and to keep us coming back for more.


For more free gambling tips visit gaminganddestinations.com


Author Bio: Syndicated gaming columnist John Grochowski has been covering the casino industry for 17 years in his weekly column distributed to newspapers, websites and magazines. He is also the author of six books, including The Slot Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. You can also find him online at CasinoAnswerMan.com