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Deal Me In: Player questions if he is a freak of nature

20 February 2015

By Mark Pilarski
Dear Mark: I am a freak of nature. Of the 50 times that I have played slots, maybe twice I left with $20 to $40. All the other times I have lost big. One time, I went with a lucky elderly teacher friend of mine and she won $300. I lost $50. So, she gave me another 20, and again I lost. She then gave me yet another 20, and again I lost. She got tired of giving me 20s And who can blame her. Another time, I had spent an hour on a machine with no luck at all so I moved over to the next machine. Along came an elderly woman who sat down at the machine I had previously been playing on and within 20 minutes she won a $400 jackpot. The casino Gods just refuse to let me win! Mark G.

I begin with casino secret #1: Slot machines can have such a bloodthirsty appetite that they can attack your bankroll with ferocity akin to a school of piranha consuming a cow.

Now let’s move to your playing timeline, the “50 times that I’ve played slots.” Well, Mark, that is relatively short, especially against slot machines, which are notorious for being the toughest game to beat in the house.

Which leads me to what I believe your problem is. It is called, The Grind.

For example, suppose you are playing on a slot machine that is pre-programmed to return 88% of wagered money back in wins. If you were to cycle through a $200 bankroll, which you can easily do in mere minutes, you can expect back, “in theory,” $176. Now here’s dirty little casino secret #2. The casino knows full well that “you ain’t goin’ nowhere.”

The casino anticipates with almost 100% certainty that you will be re-playing that $176 and they will happily give you, in return, $155 for doing so. Play the $155, and your return will be $136. Playing through the $136, will get you back $120. Against that kind of math, Mark, you’ve got some nerve trying to be a winner.

It’s understood/assumed, this is based on a pre-programmed computer chip in the machine tuned to return a certain percentage back as wins. But, Mark, can you see how the casino is grinding away at your capital?

Now here’s casino secret #3. The casino is NOT in the gambling business. It is in the math business. On pre-programmed slot machines that give the house a certain percentage return, you are the only one doing the gambling here. Granted, you may happen occasionally to be the one who gets well over an 88% return, but in all probability you will be among the countless who are contributing the 12% to the casino.

Casino secret #4: Casinos LOVE winners. Winning customers are the most important asset in the world to someone involved in selling chance. Winning players tell future losers of their good fortune. Hope, Mark, springs eternal. Alexander Pope (An Essay on Man, 1732)

The huge house advantage on slot machines will always grind away your bankroll at a lickety-split pace. The more time you spend front and center in front of a slot machine, the better the casino’s chances of liquidating your bankroll.

Consider your play normal, Mark, and not some unusual, unexpected natural phenomenon.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: “It is not uncommon to see a lady in her bridal gown, married moments ago by a minister in full Elvis regalia, furiously working the slots with a Marlboro clenched between her teeth.” – Rod Wiser, Casino Player

Deal Me In: Decent game, for those running the casino

13 February 2015
Dear Mark: I happened to come across a game called 3-5-7 Poker. Could you please share some information regarding this game, and, if it is a reasonable game for the player who follows your rule of “only make casino bets that have less than a 2% house edge.” Jeff J. The game 3-5-7 Poker is a simple poker-based hybrid found both in table and video poker form in many casinos today. ... (read more)

Deal Me In: Does the Golden Arm exist?

6 February 2015
Dear Mark: I have read about people who are selling info about how to set dice. Is there anything to someone's ability to set dice and to throw them a certain way to improve their ability to throw desired numbers? On the other hand, are you convinced no matter how you "set" the dice that you will have a ... (read more)

Deal Me In: Scores of one-button bandits seldom pay out super-sized jackpots

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Dear Mark: A slot employee told me that some of the bigger jackpot machines, where he works, have not been hit in years. Does this surprise you? Alice L. Not in the least bit, Alice. The odds of hitting some of these super-sized jackpots can be higher than hitting the Mega Millions (258,890,850 to one) lottery. ... (read more)

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Mark Pilarski
As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.