Spin a Deal on the Gambling Wheel

Virtual gambling wheels

For Gamblers, wheels rock!

One of the most successful slots of all time is Wheel of Fortune. Not because of the branding power of the game show, but because of the function of the wheel itself: A spinning wheel is the perfect way to capture a player’s attention and generate excitement as the process plays out. Obviously, you’re getting added value any time you’re spinning for something, but how do you determine what that value is?

If it’s a physical wheel that’s spun by hand, it’s pretty simple: Add up the value of all the possible prizes and divide by the number of slots. The Emerald Island casino in Henderson has a “Wheel of Cash” on which members can earn spins through various promotions. As the name suggests, it’s an all-cash wheel, with prizes ranging from a low of $10 to a high of $100. One slot pays $100, one pays $50, four pay $25, six pay $20, 16 pay $15 and 22 pay $10. That adds up to 50 slots with a total of $830 in monetary prizes. Hence, the average value of a spin is $830/50, or $16.60 (even though you’ll win less than that—a $10 or $15 prize—on 76 percent of your spins). That’s a nice perk if you happen to get it.

It gets a little more complicated when you have to assign values to the prizes. The last time I was in the Four Kegs bar they had a promotional wheel with 10 slots paying $50, $25, $10, $5, $5, a stromboli, a medium pizza, an order of wings, an appetizer and a T-shirt. In a case like this you can use posted prices for the food, but what’s a T-shirt worth? That’s a subjective thing, so just assign your own number. Maybe a Four Kegs T-shirt is worth $20 to you, but I’d call it about six bucks. Plugging in $6 for the T-shirt, $13 for the stromboli, etc., you get a prize total of $149 divided by 10 slots, which is another good average of $14.90 per spin.

Where it gets funky is with the virtual wheels, such as the aforementioned Wheel of Fortune or the automatic wheel spins you get for hitting the card of the day in the local bars. These wheels can’t be hindered in the same way, because the probability of a spin landing on the $1,000 slot is far below the 1-in-10 that the wheel portrays. With virtual wheels, the only thing you know for sure is that the average is something higher than the lowest payout, which is usually $10 on bar wheels. Based on information I’ve gleaned over the years, you’re safe assuming an average value of about $12.50 on these.

Knowing the average value of a wheel spin can lead to more sophisticated analysis of a game or promotion, or maybe just give you a better idea of what to expect when your turn comes up.

Anthony Curtis is the publisher of the Las Vegas Advisor and lasvegasadvisor.com.