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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Casino loyalty deserves slot club compensation

14 January 2000

Dear Mark,
I understand the latest rave in slot play is joining a slot club. Numerous casino slot hosts continue to approach me asking if I would be interested in participating. I don't want to waste my time filling out applications, but, I reward myself by searching out 9/6 video poker machines that pay a decent return. Am I missing something? George R.

Missing something? Yes! Just by being a certified card-carrying member of a slot club you can receive up to a one percent cash rebate while playing video poker. On a full-pay Jacks or better 9/6 video poker machine with an expected return of 99.6%, you now command a positive expectation of 100.1%. Yes, George, this is a mathematical edge against a cybernetic one-armed bandit the whole time you're playing.
Though the equation for perks differs from casino to casino, this is what I typically receive with my Tropicana's Island Winner Club card after eight hours of play on a 25¢ video poker machine: four free meal comps, a $60 room discount and at least an $80 cash rebate. In addition, they send me goodies in the mail-two-for-one buffet coupons, room discounts, invitations to casino events and even free gifts. The Tropicana pays me for my loyalty. And what are you getting? ZIPPO!

In the future, George, make yourself a sought-after guest. Simply fill out as many slot club application cards as you can get your hands on and start making the casinos compete for your business. Join me in the VIP line at the buffet.

Dear Mark,
Please end a discussion among friends. When using your club card in any game machine or slot, exactly what does it track? Paper or coins in, payment out, time and date? R. H.

Most casino slots today have a fully automated player tracking system, or SMART-Slot Marketing and Revenue Tracking. With the swipe of your slot club card, onboard software knows your name, address, interests, denomination of play, favorite machines, how much you have invested, your winnings at any given hour and if you have a dog named Sparky. Tell a slot host any pertinent information about yourself and it's fair game for the casino's computer database.

On the plus side, your information helps them with direct-mail campaigns informing you of promotions, upcoming slot tournaments, parties, reduced room rates, casino events and most importantly, comps, comps, comps.

Shades of 1984? Probably, but player gratuities far outweigh Big Brother knowing the date of your wedding anniversary.

Dear Mark,
I have been going to my local casino for about six months, and I mostly play blackjack, but recently have been playing the electronic roulette machines. Is the sequence of numbers pre-programmed, or is it a random number determined by the machine at the time of the roll? Also, what is the best bet to make when playing roulette? I have seen players blanket the whole board, and some just keep betting on the same numbers until they come up. Barry S.

Assuming programming integrity, all spins are random, which, Barry, is what you can expect in regulated casinos as there is no reason for the house to risk breaking the law and lose their valuable casino license by programming the machines to beat you.

As for the best bet in roulette, there really isn't any. All bets on a double zero roulette table hold the same 5.26% house advantage, with one exception; the five-number bet (0, 00, 1, 2, 3). The casino edge on that wager is 7.9%.

Dear Mark,
What are some of the advantages the casino holds over the player in blackjack? Bart D.

The ONLY advantage the casino has over the player in blackjack is that the casino plays last. If you bust and so does the dealer, the house already has your money in the tray. Player skills, or lack of them, are really what are going to determine your success in a casino. The casino, Bart, doesn't beat you; it merely gives you the opportunity to beat yourself.

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.