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Deal Me In: Getting gripped in the grind down

22 May 2015

By Mark Pilarski
Dear Mark: I read with interest your most recent explanation about the $0.80 payout of slot machines when I win. It made some sense; however, what happens to most of us personally? For example, I go into the casino with $100 earmarked to spend. I can play one or many machines all night, but in the end, my $100 is in the bank account of the casino, and I have nothing left! If, at the end of an exciting night of gaming I could walk out of the casino with $80.00 of the original $100.00 (your $0.80 payout by the slots example), I probably would not feel so bad as I had a good time. So, why do most of us leave broke, unhappy, and knowing we have been “taken again” by the one-armed bandits? Gary S.

In the language of casino gambling, Gary, what you are up against is called the “grind down.” This is where the casino is capable of eventually winning your entire bankroll due to the huge built-in advantage it has over you when you play slots, together with applying crazy glue to the slot machine stool.

For example, suppose you are playing on a slot machine that is pre-programmed to return 80% of wagered money back in wins. If you were to cycle through a $100 bankroll, which you could easily do in mere minutes, you can expect back, “in theory,” $80. Ah, but you ain’t goin’ nowhere, and the casino knows it.

Since you don’t, or won’t, get up and leave $20 light in the billfold, you start re-playing your remaining $80, and in return, the casino will happily give you $64 for doing so. Play the $64, and your return will be approximately $50. Playing through the $50 will get you back $40. What’s going on here, Gary, is that you keep playing through your outstanding credits like Pavlov’s dog, over and over again. Eventually, Gary, you will zero out.

Anytime you are up against the above arithmetic, if you end up with more than lint in your pocket, consider it a windfall.

Dear Mark: On a 6:5 blackjack game, is it a good strategy to double down on a blackjack when the dealer is showing 4, 5 or 6? Jeff B.

The scourge of the 6:5 blackjack game has been well documented in this column. I have often recommended that if you have any other blackjack choices available, you should not be playing a game that only pays 6:5 for a blackjack. Anytime you see a 6:5 payoff on a two-card 21, blackjack instantly becomes a second-rate game instead of one of the best gambling opportunities the house offers.

Now, Jeff, to answer your question directly, you should always take the bird in the hand ($12) and not two in the bush ($20). Assuming the dealer doesn’t also have a blackjack, on a $10 bet you are guaranteed a win of $12 with no chance of losing money versus risking another bet with the hope of winning $20 instead of $12.


Gambling Wisdom of the Week: “This is the third time; I hope good luck lies in odd numbers... There is a divinity in odd numbers, either in nativity, chance or death.” – Sir John Falstaff, in William Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor (1592)
 

Deal Me In: Time-killing bet causes confusion

15 May 2015
Dear Mark: I enjoyed your May 1, 2015 column on "low roller" time-killing bets (keno in particular). It brought back memories. I only dabbled with keno when I exceeded my gambling budget for the day, and I'm certainly not an expert. However, it seems that you should have mentioned that keno odds vary between casinos, and expected payout will also vary according to how many numbers one chooses. ... (read more)
 

Deal Me In: The machine is random; it's the payout that's fixed

8 May 2015
Dear Mark: I believe in the theory that slot machines do not act in a random manner, but are fixed to pay out at the leisure of casino management. I just can’t believe it can be any other way. Fred C. Total agreement here, Fred. Slot machines are fixed, but not for the reason you suspect. That said, with any luck, my parallel analogy should dispel your theory that slot machines are rigged. ... (read more)
 

Deal Me In: Think of keno as a spectator sport

4 May 2015
Dear Mark: My wife has an upcoming convention in Las Vegas, and I have decided to tag along. As I am from Vermont, where at least for now there are no casinos, my experience in gambling is very limited: none! Considering this, and with me needing to kill time, along with an unwillingness to spend a lot of ... (read more)

Next 10 Articles >

  • Featured Articles

Deal Me In: A courtesy, or something more ominous?

Dear Mark: In a recent column you addressed a reader named Danny, who only likes to play on hand-shuffled games. Include me on that list. Where you find hand-shuffled games, I have noticed signage posted along these lines: “As a courtesy to the other players, no mid-deck entry." Interestingly, you never see this same sign at machine-shuffled games. ... (read more)
 

Deal Me In: Appearances can be deceiving

Dear Mark: I have been a longtime, 20-year reader of your column. Your weekly column offers terrific material for us aspiring gamblers. I do strictly abide by your “make only bets that have less than a 2 percent house rule” with one exception. As you advise, I am always on the lookout for a single-zero roulette table where the house edge is cut in half. ... (read more)
 

Deal Me In: Using this lotto write-off ruse is ill advised

Dear Mark: I have a tax liability from a slot jackpot win from this past November of $20,000. Because I have never won any sizable amount in the past, I didn’t do what you have suggested multiple times, that is, keep accurate records of my play. All I have is the tax form from the casino and no documented losses to offset that win. ... (read more)
 

Deal Me In: I'll be back

Dear Mark: Recently, someone who wrote you was frustrated with never winning at slots. Your answer was excellent but you left something out that is probably also adding to his frustration: gamblers, especially slot players in my opinion, are notorious liars about their gambling outcomes. Although the ... (read more)
 

Deal Me In: Only Nostradamus can predict when a machine is due to hit

Dear Mark: I always look forward to reading your answers and thoughts on the casino world. I do have one question that I have always wanted to ask and your recent answer to the fellow complaining that he always loses at the slots has stimulated me to ask. You mentioned that a slot machine might be programmed to return 88 percent of the wagered money back in wins. ... (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.