QUESTION: Can you tell me anything about slot machines that also have a bingo logo with numbers being drawn while the reels are spinning? My wife and I were visiting her sister and brother-in-law, and they took us to a casino we’d never been to before. They had a lot of these kinds of games. They seemed to play like regular slots, but I’d never seen the bingo thing before.
ANSWER: The machines you describe are called Class II games, and they are used in some, but not all, Native American casinos. The game you’re playing is really electronic bingo. Bingo numbers are drawn and relayed to the individual machines by a central server. The slot reels and bonus events are just user-friendly interfaces, giving us a fun way to see winners that are really determined by the bingo numbers.
Class II games are not house-banked. Rather than the house putting up the money to pay all winners, bets are paid from a pool that comes from the wagers of other players. At least two people must be playing. That doesn’t mean they have to be playing the same game theme. The server can link bingo games with different themes.
Games with their own random number generators, such as those we see in Las Vegas, Atlantic City and most other commercial casino jurisdictions, also are used in most tribal casinos. In the tribal environment, they are called “Class III games.” In some states, the number of Class III games a casino can offer is limited by compact with the state, but there are no limits on Class II games. So a tribe that has used its Class III allotment can then expand its gaming positions by offering Class II slots.
QUESTION: A roulette dealer told us the house wins because of the zeroes. It seems to me that if that’s where the edge is, that’s where my money can go. Do I get the advantage if I bet on the zeroes?
ANSWER: When someone tells you the house gets its edge at roulette from the zeroes, it’s a short-hand way of saying, “The house pays off winning bets at odds that would make it an even game if 1 through 36 were the only numbers on the wheel, but since there are also 0 and 00 on most American wheels, those payoffs are short of the true odds on the game.”
Betting the zeroes does not give you an edge. Zero is just another number of the 38 on the wheel, as is double-zero. They are subject to the same house edge that comes from paying winning bets as if there were only 36 numbers on the wheel, when there are really 38.
It is true that adding extra zeroes adds to the house edge. Roulette games with only one zero have a lower house edge than double-zero games, and if someone decided to use a wheel with zero, double-zero and triple-zero, it would have a higher house edge than the others. Payoffs remain constant --- 35-1 on a single-number bet, for instance --- but the true odds change as more numbers are added to the wheel --- on a single-number bet, true odds are 36-1 on a single-zero wheel or 37-1 on a double-zero wheel.
If you were ever to encounter a triple-zero wheel, as I once did at a charity casino, the odds against winning a single-number bet would be 38-1. Winners still were paid at 35-1. The house makes its money by paying winners less than true odds, just as it does on any other casino game.
QUESTION: I guess this is more telling a story than anything else. I was at a blackjack table with one of those loudmouthed guys who objected strongly to my hitting 2 vs. 12. I was at third base, and he yelled that third-base was a team position, that I couldn’t take the dealer’s bust card because the team needed me to stand. So I told him that it becomes a team position once the team starts funding my bets and not before. He stormed off, I guess looking for a table of team players. How do you handle that situation?
ANSWER: I think we’ve all run into similar situations from time to time, but I never cease to be amazed when the other player storms off. Similar to your story, I once had a husband and wife tell me third base was a team position, and if I wasn’t going to play for the team, they didn’t want to play with me. I told them I guessed they didn’t want to play with me then. And they changed tables, grumbling away.
There’s nothing you can do but play your own game.
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