Bad-beat pots turn losing into winning
Players at a 4-8 limit Hold 'Em game at Rivers Casino erupted in noisy cheers Wednesday.
One showed a straight flush to beat an opponent's full house of Aces over Jacks, and big money was on the way.
The players won a bad-beat jackpot of $102,118, shift manager Sam Rudman said.
The bad-beat jackpot is a poker room version of the Powerball lottery. It draws players with dreams of hitting big, and it provides excitement even when you just get close.
The jackpot pays off when a qualifying strong hand is beaten by quads or a straight flush. The loser of the hand gets half the jackpot, the winning hand gets a fourth of the jackpot and the remainder is split among the others in the hand, even if they had folded without making a bet. In this case, the other players received about $5,000 each. Rudman said three people at the table had sat out the hand and were not eligible for a jackpot share.
The prospect of sudden riches makes the bad-beat jackpot so enticing that most players don't mind an added $1-per-pot rake to fund it.
Bad-beat rules differ from casino to casino. At The Meadows in Washington County, Rivers on the North Shore and Wheeling Island in West Virginia, the minimum losing hand is Aces full of Jacks, with the player holding pocket Aces. At Mountaineer in Chester, W.Va., it's Aces full of Kings.
Meadows poker room manager Peter Lau said he knows of a Florida poker room where the minimum losing hand is quad 8s.
Jackpot rules typically require that both players use both hole cards to make the best possible poker hand. So if the board includes 7-8-9-10 of hearts, a player holding the 5-6 of hearts wouldn't qualify for a bad-beat jackpot because the best possible hand in that case is a 10-high straight flush. For quads, players must hold a pocket pair; holding Ace-King when the three other Aces are on the board would not qualify for the jackpot.
The $1-per-pot bad-beat rake is divided between the main jackpot and a reserve jackpot, with some casinos using a portion for promotions such as high-hand bonuses or cash drawings. The reserve jackpot takes effect when the main one is hit; that way, the jackpot doesn't reset to zero.
Your chance of hitting a bad-beat jackpot depends on casino rules, but it's a long shot no matter what. With rules at The Meadows, Rivers and Wheeling Island, a bad beat comes up once in about 50,000 hands, according to WizardOfOdds.com . For the Florida poker room Lau cited, it's once in about 193,000 hands.
Poker pro Jon Stein of Washington, who operates PennsylvaniaPokerPlayers.info , said he's played at numerous games in Atlantic City, Las Vegas and Western Pennsylvania over the years and has yet to be at a jackpot-winning table.
"I don't think a lot of people understand the mathematical percentage of hitting," he said. "You've got to be at the right place at the right time."
A cash-game player sees an average of 28 hands an hour, he said. If a bad beat happens once in 50,000 hands, a player would see it once in 1,785 hours of play.
"If you have a potential bad-beat hand, you should play the hand," Stein said. "That's the only way to increase your opportunity to get the bad beat. But that's also the reason why a lot of (full-time) players don't like the bad beat, because people play cards like the 7-9 of hearts" and end up beating a much stronger starting hand.
Traditionalists and some full-time players -- so-called "grinders" who depend on poker for income -- look down their noses at bad-beat jackpots because they attract so many unconventional players.
"Grinders figure they can beat two donkeys or two donkeys and a fish, but you can't beat eight of them," Stein said, referring to players who don't understand poker odds. "They never fold."
Lau said bad-beat jackpots have long been popular, recalling that they were offered when he started work at California's Bicycle Club 25 years ago.
Even bad-beat jackpots can have a bad-beat story.
Lau said he awarded a bad-beat jackpot at a table where every player but one was happy at their good fortune. The unhappy guy had missed the hand to use the restroom. Because he wasn't dealt in, he wasn't eligible for a jackpot share. He had to settle for $100 the other players tipped him from their payouts.
Slot revenue for Pennsylvania's 10 casinos was $197.5 million for October, up by $22.3 million from October 2009, the Gaming Control Board said this week. That's an increase of 11.5 percent from a year ago, when nine casinos were open. The board said slot revenue from the nine casinos that were open a year ago was up by 4.25 percent overall, although revenue at The Meadows, Harrah's Chester and Mt. Airy was down from last year. State and local governments get 55 percent of the slot revenue in taxes.
Statewide, slots have paid out 90.38 percent since July, the start of the fiscal year.
October slot revenue for Western Pennsylvania casinos:
• $212 million: The Meadows, on bets total $269.8 million. Slot revenue is up $393,948 from September but down $1.4 million from October 2009. Payout since July: 90.49 percent.
• $240.2 million: Rivers, on bets totaling $266 million. Slot revenue was up $785,318 from September and by $5.3 million from October 2009. Payout since July: 90.29 percent.
• $168.2 million: Presque Isle in Erie, on bets totaling $186 million. Slot revenue was down $538,674 from September but up $1.4 million from October 2009. Payout since July: 90.44 percent.
How often does the dealer bust in blackjack?
In some sessions, it seems like never. Overall, a blackjack dealer busts on about 30 percent of the hands played, according to WizardOfOdds.com . The dealer is most likely to bust with an up card of 5 or 6; but even with those weak up cards, the dealer will make a hand more than half the time.