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Cash out, then clear out

19 October 2007

Dear Mark: So I sit down at a bank of video poker machines and quickly hit a four-of-a-kind for $800. Every bone in my body says I should move to the next machine if I want to keep playing, but I know your counsel is that it won't matter as far as the odds go. Are all video poker and slot machines hooked together in every casino? Does it ever make sense to move on after a decent win? I want you to say yes, move on, but what do the odds say? Dick D.

You are spot on, Dick, in that "it won't matter as far as the odds go," so long as the pay tables at adjacent machines are the same, and as I've stated far too often in this column, random is random. Those millions of outcomes created by a random number generator that map into any set of cards ensure that each hand and game outcome is completely random, and no amount of seat stratagem is going to change that one iota.

As for "are video poker and slot machines hooked together," yes, they can be, but they are hooked together to create progressive jackpots; still, each electronic machine within that network plays independently.

Using Megabucks as an example, although you are playing an individual machine, you are hooked up to a statewide network of progressive slot carousels linked together to produce those prodigious payouts.

A small computer chip in each machine monitors every coin played and communicates that information electronically to a mainframe computer at IGT's headquarters. The central computer keeps track of every Megabucks slot and maintains a constant tally of the jackpot. Then the computer projects the ever-changing jackpot total to all Megabuck units where it is displayed on the digital tote board.

By the way, Dick, to grow any progressive, a portion of each bet made funds the winning jackpot. The rate at which the meters progress upwards is based on a pre-set percentage of all the money cycled through the machine. The meter rates will vary from machine to machine, and casino to casino. If you are playing an individual progressive, expect an advance rate of 5% to 10% of the money played. Example: When a dollar is wagered, the jackpot goes up 10¢. Machines that are tied together, like a bank (carousel), as well as networked slots like Megabucks, involve a much lower progressive rate. In return, you are provided the hope for a life-changing jumbo jackpot.

For video poker, it's usually the payout of the royal flush that rises. Here several machines at a carousel are linked together so that each bet at any of them increases the jackpot. On your typical video poker machine, the meters rise on the average between 0.25% and 2.0%, with 1% being the industry average.

The final part of your question, "Does it ever make sense to move on after a decent win?" gets an affirmative aye. You move on by cashing out that $800 you won from that four-of-a-kind and moseying out the front door.

Dear Mark: What are your thoughts about the bonus of getting paid two to one for a same-colored blackjack? By adding this rule is it a player advantage or disadvantage? Dale G.

You might be slightly confused, Dale, as your question should have been about a suited blackjack, meaning of the same suit (ace and queen of spades), not a blackjack of merely the same color (such as ace of spades, queen of clubs).

Ordinarily a blackjack pays 3:2 (win $15 for a $10 bet) whereas a suited blackjack pays 2:1 (win $20 for a $10 bet). All other rules being equal, when a suited 2:1 blackjack is offered, it's a positive to the player of .57%.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week:

"Poker is generally reckoned to be America's second most popular after-dark activity. Sex is good, they say, but poker lasts longer," Alfred Alvarez.
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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.