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Deal Me In: Odd dollar jackpot avoids a W-2G

22 July 2016

By Mark Pilarski

Dear Mark: Why do casinos have jackpots on their video poker machines that pay $1,199? That seems like an odd jackpot number. Trish H.

Think, Trish, of a $1,199 jackpot as the Lords of Chance doing you a favor.

A blast from the past typically on video poker machines, that $1,199 bonanza is $1 shy from you getting a mandatory tax form. At $1,200, the casino is required by the IRS to have you sign a W-2G before they can pay you. At $1,199, you avoid the paperwork. Although there is still a tax liability on all casino winnings, the $1,199 windfall is between you and the IRS.

Now for those of you might want to ask a slot attendant to be paid a $1 less on a $1,200 royal flush to dodge a W-2G, I’d say, “Not a chance.” Here’re two reasons why: accounting – the pencil pushers upstairs like things balanced – and collusion. Again, granting all gambling winnings are technically taxable, Uncle Sam getting wind of a publicly traded company on the NYSE in cahoots with players trying to avoid paying taxes would be jeopardizing a casino’s gaming license.

A little side note about “things balanced.” I worked for a time in the cashier’s cage, where at the end of a shift, you totaled out the casino cage. In essence, you count down every dollar within the casino walls. We’re talking millions here. If an incoming shift supervisor is $0.10 off, they can plan on running a tape until they find it. Yours Truly, being dyslexic, ended up acquiring blistering speed on a 10-key adding machine by forever searching for that dime.

Dear Mark: What do casinos do with the old slot machines they are no longer using? Steve H.

It depends on, Steve, if the casino bought them outright, the manufacturer placed them in the casino to share profits, or they are leased. If they come from the manufacturer or leased, both parties will come and scoop them up. If a casino outright bought the machine, the casino will sell the machine after its useful life to a slot wholesaler or distributor, or, it finds its way to the slot graveyard in the basement.

If you were looking to purchase a particular machine, I would recommend searching for it on the Internet, especially on eBay.

One caveat, Steve. Many states do restrict private ownership of slot machines. You might want to check that out first.

Dear Mark: On a Jacks or Better video poker machine, is it ever advised to break up a high pair? For instance, I have a pair of queens, but I also have four cards to a royal flush. What is the correct strategy here? Also, how much am I giving away if I play three or four coins instead of the full five coin amount? Daniel L.

Basic strategy, Daniel, dictates that you should always break up a pair of jacks, queens, kings or aces for a one-card draw in preference to a four-card straight flush, four-card inside straight flush, or a royal flush.

Players who play short of the maximum number of coins, be it one, two, three or four coins/credits, have a theoretical of 98.05%, considerably less than the near zero house edge you would have with perfect play and full-pay 9/6 machine.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: “With the casino and the beds, our passengers (Virgin Airline) will have at least two ways to get lucky on one of our flights.” - Sir Richard Branson
 

Deal Me In: Fast play doesn't change payback rates

15 July 2016
Dear Mark: I was sitting next to a lady in a casino who was playing at a speed that I had never witnessed in the 30 years that I have been going to the casino. When she finally stopped to catch her breath, I had to ask her, “Does it help?” She said the faster she played, the higher the return on the machine. ... (read more)
 

Deal Me In: Separating the wheat from the chaff

11 July 2016
Dear Mark: A few weeks back you had mentioned both the math and rules for the table game Let It Ride. You also recommended not playing the game. But there are other table games that seem interesting, for instance, Three Card Poker and Caribbean Stud. Compared to Let It Ride, which would you recommend between these two other games? Nicolas C. ... (read more)
 

Deal Me In: A video poker machine too good to believe

1 July 2016
Dear Mark: You have written that with perfect basic strategy some video poker machines will have a payback above 100%. I have also read that the machines can NOT be set to return over 100%. Can you please explain the difference of what I am reading? Dave D. When employing expert play, a player’s strategy can affect payback percentages. ... (read more)

Next 10 Articles >

  • Featured Articles

Deal Me In: What in the world is going on with craps tables in California?

Dear Mark: So I go to the craps table at Spa Resort Casino in Palm Springs, as it is my favorite casino endeavor. I place $20 on the pass line. Being the only player, I am presented the dice, pick out a pair, and send them down the road. To my delight, I see a 6 and a 1. Now, that's a great start! As I lo... (read more)
 

Deal Me In: Show me your ID, please!

Dear Mark: I have asked around, but nobody can give me a direct answer. If you get a taxable jackpot, will an expired driver's license be sufficient as an ID? Mary P.Whenever someone wins $1,200 or more, an ID is required for tax purposes because Uncle Sam claims a piece of the action. Thus, casinos today require proper identification (e.g. ... (read more)
 

Deal Me In: Just a token of your appreciation

Dear Mark: In yesterday's Detroit Free Press (10/1/15), there was a question about tipping. My question is also about tipping but more specifically as it pertains to a casino if you are lucky enough to win something big. A few weeks ago, my husband and I were vacationing in Deadwood, S.D., and I was one of the lucky ones who won at slots. ... (read more)
 

Deal Me In: Gamblers are shunning tightfisted slots

Dear Mark: In your column “I’ve Been Everywhere,” you wrote about all the casino destinations that you have visited over the years. Did you find in your travels that slot machines look and play the same from state to state? Ken K.Slot machines, Ken, are comparable from casino to casino, state to state. ... (read more)
 

Deal Me In: Where's my refill?

Dear Mark: I just wanted to share a story about your column regarding tipping. We were not at a casino, but my mom and I occasionally go to dinner or lunch. She always offers to pay, and I say I'll get it, so she says "I'll leave the tip." Probably the third time we went out we stood up to leave, and I looked down to see a quarter. ... (read more)
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.
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.