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Best of Mark Pilarski

Gaming Guru

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Casinos don't mind an infrequent winner

3 March 2000

Dear Mark,
I watched a gentleman on a blackjack table start with $100 and beat the casino out of $4,500. It didn't even faze the pit boss. I realize it wasn't his money but shouldn't he have been more concerned that someone beat the casino out of $4,500 with so little invested? Rob B.

If the game is square, the casino shouldn't give one iota when someone wins a huge sum of money, even if he or she started with a meager bankroll. It is not all that rare for a player to take a hundred dollar bill and run it up to four digits.

Casino operators realize they will suffer short-term losing streaks, even when every bet is in their favor. Besides, Rob, casinos are retail establishments. If none of the customers had any chance of winning big, how long do you think they could keep their doors open? They actually prefer a few winners. Winners tell the 90+% who lose where they won it.

The way casinos guard against financial ruin during a player's winning streak is to set betting limits at the table. It is the "house limit" that protects the casino bankroll against a lucky assault by a hot gambler. Additionally, the house knows the longer you gamble, the more exposure you have to the casino's inescapable casino edge.

The gambler's biggest advantage against the house, Rob, is to quit on your own terms, not the casino's. Unfortunately, few have the internal fortitude to take the money and run.

Dear Mark,
Does the Megabucks machine that has a jackpot of $1,252,000 and is continually climbing in Reno have the exact same jackpot in Las Vegas? Jim K.

Yes, Jim, they are exactly the same.

Megabucks is a statewide network of progressive slot carousels linked together to produce huge, dramatic jackpots. It was created by IGT to challenge the big payoffs found in state lotteries.
Each slot machine in the Megabucks network plays independently. A small computer chip in each machine monitors every coin played and communicates that information electronically to a mainframe computer at IGT's headquarters in Reno. 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.

Dear Mark,
The reason I enjoy your column so much is because of your insider's view. You spent 18 years in the business. No other gaming columnist I've read has. Was writing about casino gaming an afterthought? Marshall G.

Someone once asked Nobel Prize winner William Faulkner for his advice to a young and struggling writer; he responded that the young person should get a job as a janitor in a whorehouse. I went into casino gambling instead — it paid more.

Dear Mark,
The last time I went to Las Vegas was in 1963. In December I'm going back to see what all the hoopla is about. One problem: I'm a low-limit gambler. Do nickel machines still exist? Marge G.

You're in luck, Marge. Low rollers can still enjoy the city of Lost Wages. There are 5,000 nickel machines at the Strip mega-resorts and 4,200 downtown.

Dear Mark,
It hasn't happened to me yet, but what should I do if I'm ever dealt a natural royal flush? I think I will panic and push the discard button by mistake. Beverly M.

If your hand of destiny has been naturally dealt, immediately press all five hold buttons, followed by the draw button. Still nervous, Beverly? Fear not. If any of the top three hands are dealt naturally, most machines automatically skip to the payoff mode, eliminating the possibility of you hitting the wrong buttons.

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.