Promotion at Molly’s – Part I of II

I received the following email for the Gambling with an Edge mailbag show:

Hi Bob, how do you calculate the edge on this video poker promotion? Molly’s in Vegas offers “lose $20, get $20” but I’m not sure how to calculate the advantage (if any). Also, if you have played this promotion before, do you literally have to put in $20 and lose it all before you get the $20 free play, or can you just lose four hands at $5 a hand to be credited the $20 free play?

I not only had not played this promotion before, I’d never even heard of Molly’s before this email. Since it sounds to me like a promotion LVA would mention, I asked Anthony Curtis if he knew anything about it. Anthony responded: 

Here’s the LVA note about it this month as it appears, including the reference to you.

The Molly’s lose-$20-get-$20 promo runs on Wednesdays and Saturdays in August.

Check out Bob Dancer’s Tuesday blog and his Thursday “Gambling With an Edge” podcast with Richard Munchkin, both at

Thanks for the plug, Anthony. At least I now know why I got this email from a listener. Nothing to do but to check it out.

There are several Molly’s on the west side of Las Vegas. I live on the east side and the only Molly’s anywhere close to me is on Eastern at Silverado Ranch, which is about a mile from my gym. So, the next time I went to the gym on an appropriate day for the promotion, I made a special stop at Molly’s. 

I cannot tell you if all the Molly’s have the same inventory, as I only went to one. I cannot guarantee every machine within each store has the same inventory of games as the others do. I didn’t check that either. When I was there (at 9 a.m. on a Saturday morning), there was a brand-new bartender who didn’t know much and a player, who was also an employee of the bar, playing Keno. Between the three of us, we figured out the promotion. 

First, you have to get a player’s card for Jett Gaming, a route operator I’ve never heard of. This means if you hit a jackpot of a certain size (perhaps $5,000 or larger), they will have to drive the money from elsewhere. Smaller jackpots will be paid off at the site. The games have the same pay schedules in all denoms between quarters and $2. They are typical bar schedules (in the range of 95% – 96%), but they did have 7/5 Bonus Poker, which is a 98.0% game, in all denominations. This pay schedule is considerably looser than you usually find in Las Vegas bars.

This ‘lose-$20-get-$20’ is a loss rebate promotion. The basic rule to loss rebates is to play high variance, high denomination games. If you hit something big, forget the loss rebate, take your winnings, and run. If you don’t hit something big, just take the loss rebate.

The high variance games on these machines is 8/5 Double Double Bonus (96.8%) which they had up to $2 and 8/5 Triple Double Bonus which topped out at $1. Generally speaking, these are typical bar schedules (i.e. terrible for the player), but on this promotion they are the best choices. As soon as you lose the $20 (or win enough), stop playing these terrible games immediately.

Playing $2 denomination Double Double Bonus game while generating your loss is the best play — even if you’re normally just a quarter player. Use the stopping rule of:  If I reach $160 profit, quit. If I lose $20, quit.

Playing $1 denomination on the Triple Double Bonus game is slightly worse. There you use the stopping rule of: If I reach $135 profit, quit. If I lose $20, quit. 

If you do find a $2 Triple Double Bonus game on another machine, that is a better play, using $150 as a stopping point.

EV-wise, using quarter Triple Double Bonus, and stopping when you’re $100 ahead or have lost the $20 is also an acceptable play — but it can take a long time to get above or below the range of [-$18.75:+$98.75]. Not for me, but for those who really don’t want to get a W-2G, it works.

This stopping rule was calculated using James Grosjean’s Exhibit CAA formulas. The information is discussed in Arnold Snyder’s Radical Blackjack. The math is beyond today’s blog. In fact, it’s more complicated than I wish to deal with. My friend Filius Bruce ( dusted off a loss rebate program he had in his files and calculated the stopping points using Grosjean’s methodology.

Not knowing the best stopping rule at the time, or that 8/5 Double Double Bonus was the best game to play, I played $2 Bonus Poker while losing the $20. I was never significantly ahead so not knowing the stopping rule didn’t hurt me. But it could have. (I probably would have quit had I been $60 or so ahead. That would have left some EV on the table.) It took me five hands to lose the $20. I removed the card and reinserted it. I was expecting to find $20 in free play on it. I didn’t. I found $40 in free play. Jett Gaming (or maybe Molly’s) has a one-time-only $20 signup bonus. So the $20 loss rebate plus the $20 signup bonus resulted in my $40 free play.

During my $50 of coin-in to lose my $20, I generated five cents in free play. This comes out to 0.1%. Good to know. Some days they might have 5x or 10x points, and to figure out how valuable that is, you need to know what 1x points is worth. Now I do.

After you’ve earned the rebate, now you want to switch to Bonus Poker. That game is about 1.2% looser.

I tried to cash out the $40 without playing. They wouldn’t let me. I played one hand, hit 3-of-a-kind, and then tried cashing out. I got a $30 ticket (the payment for 3-of-a-kind at $2 denomination) and still had 15 credits (worth $30) on the machine.  Playing the additional three hands earned me $20. I ended up cashing out for a total of $50 after putting in $20 — for a $30 win — your mileage will vary.

If you’re new to Jett Gaming, the $20 signup bonus means it’s almost impossible to lose — assuming you quit when you can.

In subsequent weeks, it is possible to lose — but the odds are in your favor. After you lose your initial $20 and get $20 free play, you may or may not get $20 by playing the free play off. If you’re playing for quarters, it’s extremely unlikely you’re going to lose 16 hands in a row and go through the entire $20, but it’s not impossible. Plus, if you don’t have the discipline to quit once the promotion has been satisfied, you can lose whatever you brought plus whatever the ATM will give you.

If you play this twice a week and leave when you have played enough to cash out, you’re guaranteed to be a net winner. You will have frequent losing sessions, but your winning sessions will more than make up for that. You will hit higher-paying-hands along the way enough times that you must come out ahead. I can’t figure out the percentage, because it depends on a lot of things, but it’s definitely a positive low-roller play. I wouldn’t drive five miles to play it — but probably will drive one mile on qualifying gym days.

I will probably play the quarter denomination when I play off my $20 rebate. If I use the $2 denomination, I’ll only be in the place five minutes. It looks too much like I’m using the place as an ATM, which I am. In addition, I’ll probably only cash out my TITO ticket once a month or so. You have to do it via the bartender and there’s no sense of letting him know exactly how you’re doing.

I was told the Wednesday and Saturday promotion days were for August only. In September they will still have the promotion, but it will be on different days.

They also have a Card-of-the-Day promotion. Hit a particular 4-of-a-kind and spin a wheel for a prize between $10 and $500. Not worth much, but still, if you’re there anyway, you’ll hit it on occasion. There might be other promotions I didn’t see. The promotions might be different at other Molly’s. They all have slightly different names (which all include “Molly’s”) and possibly have different owners.

There are other promotions sometimes, and if you play enough they’ll send you a small mailer (perhaps $5 a week?) That’s nothing to get excited about, but as we said this is a low-roller play. If I got that bonus, I would definitely play it off each week I was there, whether I qualified for the $20 free play bonus or not. Another part of the question was do you have to lose the entire $20, or can it just be $20 less than your high. For example, if you’re up $70 and lose two $10 hands in a row, leaving you with a $50 profit score at the moment, does that count as a $20 loss? The answer is ‘no.’ You must lose the entire $20 to qualify for the bonus.