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Best of Mark Pilarski

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A $64 question

23 June 2003

Dear Mark,
A few questions if I may regarding progressive, networked slot machines. If player A is playing in one location, and player B in another, are the odds of hitting a jackpot the same? Does one machine know what the other machine is paying?

Now the $64 (obviously much more on a progressive machine) question: What would happen if two players hit a progressive, network slot machine before it was reset? Amber D.

Well, Amber, so long as Players A and B are playing for the same single jackpot, both machines must have the same chance of coughing up that jackpot. This applies to machines linked to other machines on the same bank, inside the same casino, over a network of machines in different casinos, and even to machines in different cities-a clear benefit for closet-gamblers.

All small jackpots are paid directly at and by the casino or by the machine itself, while the progressive jackpot is paid from a "progressive pot" which is generally set at 5-10 percent of the value of all coins inserted.

That amount rises until some serendipitous soul hit the big enchilada. Each machine is controlled internally by its own EPROM, the programmed drill sergeant, and is unaware of what is happening on other machines. Coded into the machine's internal software (technically, its "gizzard") are instructions to send a certain percentage (5-10%) of the total input value into the jackpot.

As to your $64 question, yes, the extraterrestrial possibility exists that when Player A hits the jackpot, Player B could hit the same jackpot milliseconds later, before the jackpot is reset to its starting amount.

These mega-jackpots can go months, if not years before being hit, so the possibilities of this happening are I'll-eat-my-hat unfathomable, about the same as for a needle falling onto a bottle with a ship model inside and balancing on its point for seven years.

But, if the astronomically improbable did happen, the first winner would win the jackpot and the second, or P-O'd winner, would get the starting amount of the new reset jackpot.

Incidentally, Amber, did you know the "sixty-four dollar" question has gambling roots? It originated from a popular radio quiz show in the U.S. in the 1940s that offered $64 as the top prize. The first question carried a prize of $1, and the prize amount doubled with each successive question: $2, 4, 8, 16, and 32, culminating in the $64 question. Later, corporate suits thought that too measly a win and upped it to the "sixty-four thousand dollar" question you are probably familiar with.

Dear Mark,
From your column and my last few casino visits, I have just discovered, and now enjoy playing, Three-card Poker. Just how long has three-card poker been around? Mike B.

In 1994, Derek Webb developed three Card Poker, initially for British casinos. But it soon emigrated across the Pond and can now be found everywhere in the States. Its ancient lineage traces to a popular British game called Brag, one of the many proud ancestors of poker. Edmond Hoyle had written about Brag as early as 1751.

In 1999, ShuffleMaster acquired Three Card Poker. Many like yourself enjoy the fast pace, favorable odds, and high frequency of winning hands in Three Card Poker. According to ShuffleMaster, Three Card Poker is now the country's fastest-growing specialty table game, both in units played and in revenue generated.

Gambling quote of the week: "Taunting the odds is a little sexy, a little dangerous, and straddles the line between unimagined success and nauseating failure." Chad Millman, The Odds

Recent Articles
Best of Mark Pilarski
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.