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Best of Mark Pilarski

Gaming Guru

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Bad checks, loaded dice and coin flips

24 December 1999

Dear Mark,
Trick question. If a friend and I flip a coin in the air and bet on its result, would the coin be considered an unlawful gambling device? Josh L.

A coin itself is not a gambling device per se because it was created and designed for a specific purpose. However, the coin becomes an illegal apparatus, subject to forfeiture by the state, when it is flipped in the air and wagers are made on its eventual outcome.

Dear Mark,
How does a pitboss on a crap game identify loaded dice? Donald M.

Called the "Spin" or "Pivot" test, a boxman on a crap game will hold the dice loosely between his thumb and forefinger at diagonally opposite corners and gently spin the dice. A fair cube will spin smoothly and its revolution will stop in a natural way. A loaded die, because of the extra weight, will pivot back in a distinguished manner at the end of its rotation.

At home, you can test for loaded dice by filling a tall glass with water and dropping the cubes in gently. Repeat this action several times with a different number on top. If the same number appears repeatedly, they're loaded. Why? Because the weighted dice will turn toward the bottom as they fall each time.

Dear Mark,
While at a party for the final game of the World Series, I bet an acquaintance, not friend, $300 on the game. He took Cleveland, lost, and paid me with a personal check. Yes, the check bounced. Do I have any legal recourse against him? Billy C.

Sorry, Billy. Unless you own a casino, accepting a check to cover a gambling debt is not collectable in a court of law, even if you made the bet in Nevada where sports betting is legal.

Dear Mark,
What do you think of all the new games that keep popping up on the casino floor? Lyle O.

This past week I noticed yet another new game, 21 Stud, that offers a bonus jackpot for a naturally dealt, no draw royal flush. Casinos get goo-goo-ga-ga about introducing any game that will induce additional play. Their marketing department goes head over heels highlighting the fact that if you get a natural royal flush, you will be paid 1,000 to one. What they forget to tell you, this column continually will. The chances of getting a naturally dealt, no draw royal flush are 659,740 to one.

For a new game to survive in today's tough gaming market, table games must have some sort of progressive or jackpot to generate play. Unfortunately, the odds are usually long and tall against the customer. Be an educated player, Lyle. On all these new games and side bonus bets, you might as well pass.

Dear Mark,
How come some slot machines advertise a relatively high payout but still send you home devoid of casino loot. Pearl R.

Pearl, the answer, in one word, is what makes every casino owner's pockets bulge with your cash-CHURN. That higher payout rate only applies if you don't continue to bet your winning credits. Unfortunately, that's not the way most people play. They recycle (churn) their money back through the cybernetic one-armed bandit.

Casino operators have long realized the advantage they have between an advertised payout and the coinage they eventually reap. How so you ask? By comparing credits won versus credits paid out. Player behavior is such that credits won are generally replayed, and replayed and replayed again, resulting mathematically in a much greater chance of eventually tapping out. They may advertise a 95 percent return, but after the churn takes place, you'll generally go home lighter in the wallet.

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.