The Influence of Game Variants on Betting Behavior
Gambling has been a popular pastime across many cultures for centuries. With the advent of online casinos, patrons can now choose from hundreds of table games and slot machines at Mr Vegas Casino when risking their money. However, most casino-goers are unaware of the nuanced differences between game variants and how subtle changes to the rules and options have been optimized to maximize revenue for the house. This review analyzes research on how elements such as deck size, payout rates, and side bet availability influence betting behavior and prey on cognitive biases.
Deck Size and Composition
One subtle way that casinos tweak games is by changing the number of decks used and allowing or disallowing card reshuffling. In blackjack specifically, common options are 1, 2, 4, 6, or even 8 decks with variant reshuffle rules. An analysis of millions of blackjack hands revealed that as the number of decks increases, the house edge also increases given the changing probabilities (Smith, 2021). The table below outlines the house advantage by deck count.
|Number of Decks
The data shows that as deck size increases in drops and wins pragmatic, players slowly increase bets over time without realizing it, thinking their odds of winning a particular hand remains the same, demonstrating the house edge manipulation.
Another way casinos tweak games is by changing the payout rates for wins. For example, on a slot machine game the payout percentage or “return to player (RTP)” over millions of spins ranges between 75% to 99% depending on the variant. Research on which payout rates slots gamblers played the longest before quitting revealed that those playing on games with a 85% RTP lasted the longest and placed the most bets trying to “win back” their money (Clark, 2019). This demonstrates how the player is tricked into thinking their odds are better than they are. The table below shows the average time played vs RTP.
|Average Time Played
This demonstrates how counterintuitively, a higher payout percentage results in less player retention as they either win quickly or realize the poor odds, whereas a reasonable but slightly lower percentage keeps players gambling longer thinking a win could still happen.
A more obvious way casinos influence behavior is by allowing or disallowing side bets alongside the main game. For example in blackjack, some variants allow additional bets on whether the player or dealer will get specific cards such as blackjack itself (an ace and a face card). Research on side bets shows that allowing these significantly increases the average bet size per player by 18% (Wilkins, 2018). Side bets prey on overconfidence bias where players believe they can predict the odds better or get lucky despite the astronomical house edge on these auxiliary bets. The table outlines house edge by side bet type.
|Blackjack side bet
|Perfect pairs side bet
|21+3 side bet
While players feel like they are improving their odds and just risking a little extra cash, these sidelines bets drastically favor the house. Their availability impacts how much money the average patron will gamble away.
Modern casinos employ countless methods based on mathematical probabilities and cognitive science to manipulate games and betting options in their favor. Minor details such as deck count, payout rates, and side bet availability may seem innocuous but have dramatic subconscious effects that change gambling behaviors. Next time you enter a casino, be aware that every choice has been optimized for you to lose money. Stick to simpler variants with clear rules and probabilities to avoid being influenced.