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Best of Mark Pilarski

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A machine that is due is a glittering myth

20 August 2007

Dear Mark: A slot attendant in a UP casino [note: what Larry refers to with "UP" is a casino in Michigan's Upper Peninsula] advised me to play a particular one-dollar progressive video poker machine because it was due to hit. It didn't, and I ended up losing my evening's allotted bankroll. Did she really have a clue on the machine's ability to hit a royal flush? Larry L.

If the slot attendant told you that you could save a ton of money on your car insurance by switching to GEICO, maybe after fifteen minutes (actually it takes around 40, I've tried it), she might be right. But her prognosticating powers are limited to parroting television commercials, and not to when a royal flush is due. But you knew that all along, eh?

No matter how long it has been since that machine had last hit a royal flush, the random number generator used to shuffle the cards lacks memory, and it certainly doesn't know that some poor schlub's aboard, in desperate need of the progressive jackpot to make their readjusted sub-prime mortgage payment. The probability of a royal flush on each and every hand remains the same, approximately 40,000 to one.

What you are doing right, Larry, is having the discipline of an "allotted bankroll" for your single gambling session. No player should ever bring his or her entire bankroll to any one session. Players should always divide their bankroll into the number of days they'll be gambling, then divide each daily bankroll into the number of sessions they will be playing each day.

As for a session bankroll, I recommend at least 200 bets, but it also depends upon several factors: The game you're playing, denomination of the machine, session length (how many hands), quality of your video poker play, and how much you're willing to lose. But you knew that all along, too, eh?

Dear Mark: Referring to your column in the Reno Gazette-Journal, June 7, 2007, about the poor odds offered by a 6-to-5 payoff for a blackjack: Most casinos in Reno, if they offer a single deck at all, have enough "rules" to change the odds from an ordinary single-deck game so that they are grossly in favor of the house. For example, Harrah's offers a single-deck game, and they may pay 3-to-2 (I can't recall), but you cannot double down on anything but a 10 or 11.

It's a lot more fun for us geezers to play the 6-to-5 game offered across the street where the 6-to-5 game allows splitting, re-splitting, doubling down on anything, etc. It's much more like a game of blackjack should be. And, with these liberal rules, I suspect the odds are favorable if not the very best. John O.

Two decades ago when I was pitching cardboard on a single-deck game, even then you couldn't double unless you possessed a 10 or 11. My beef, John, in that June 7th column, was that casinos were offering single-deck blackjack games that pay a natural blackjack 6-to-5 instead of the traditional 3-to-2. This variation of single-deck blackjack being offered to the unmindful was taking a house edge as minuscule as 0.18%, and with one slight rule variation, abracadabra: The casino advantage became 1.45%. I believe this enormous 800% increase in the house edge is far too prohibitive. And even if you were to add up all the rule benefits you may get down the road, you are still not quite at that 0.18% house edge offered on a single deck, or even on a multi-deck game with liberal rules.

That said, I will without end recommend that blackjack players always play in a casino that offers the best playing conditions. Look for the following combination of rules favorable to the player: A single-deck game (one that doesn't pay off 6-to-5 for a blackjack), and on a multiple-deck game: surrender, both early and late; doubling down allowed on any two cards; doubling allowed after splitting pairs; multiple pair splitting allowed; re-splitting aces; dealers that stand on a soft 17; and deep-deck penetration. That's pretty much what you geezers should be searching for, and getting 7-to-5 for your snapper.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: "I simply don't subscribe to silly superstitions, but I do wholeheartedly believe in my instincts. When I gamble, I take along my most trusted friend. I never gamble with a fool." John Gollehon, Strike The Casino With Winning Strategies

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.