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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Deal Me In: A courtesy, or something more ominous?

24 April 2015

Dear Mark: In a recent column you addressed a reader named Danny, who only likes to play on hand-shuffled games. Include me on that list. Where you find hand-shuffled games, I have noticed signage posted along these lines: “As a courtesy to the other players, no mid-deck entry." Interestingly, you never see this same sign at machine-shuffled games. Do you really think it is a courtesy to the other players? Steve P.

I can buy into that, Steve, up to a point. Plenty of players on a roll superstitiously believe – erroneously I might add – that when someone jumps in mid-game, it messes with the flow of their cards, which causes their luck to change.

However, forbidding mid-deck (usually stated “mid-shoe”) entry is also employed as a security measure by the casino to discourage back counting. Back counting is someone who isn't sitting at the table playing, but who is counting down the deck(s) while standing behind the game.

An example would be two friends who come up to play, where one sits down and the other dawdles behind him and counts cards. The friend lingering doesn’t enter the game until the count becomes favorable to players on the game. By avoiding the periods during the game when the dealer has a much higher chance of winning the hand (small cards remaining), the back counter will only come aboard when there is a high concentration of high cards outstanding.

Since most games today are machine shuffled, you do not see the placard that you mentioned very often. Still, Steve, I am old school enough to be of the opinion that all players should have a right to play when they want, including mid-deck (shoe) entry.

Nevertheless, when I see players playing at a hand-shuffled game, especially when their wagers exceed what I plan on betting, I always ask them if they wouldn’t mind some extra company.

Dear Mark: Holy Toledo! Where is this 10-7 video poker machine that your reader wrote in about? I haven't seen any of those for 15+/- years in the Reno/Vegas/CA Indian casinos area. Graton Resort and Casino in Rohnert Park, CA has 9-5 machines. Gerry P.

My thoughts exactly, Gerry! Well, almost: I might have used a different word than "Toledo."

For readers who missed that column, here’s the take-home message. A 10/7 "Double Bonus" video poker machine offers a bonus payout for four aces, with this particular paytable having a theoretical return of 100.2 percent with optimal play.

I did e-mail Dave R. and inquire where he stumbled upon this 10/7 Bonus machine. He politely responded and asked that I not reveal where the machine was as he reasoned that its exposure through my column might cause its removal. Fair enough.

I believe the last time I saw a 10/7 Bonus machine was about five years ago in a Chicagoland casino. I figure, though, borrowing one of the Chicago White Sox announcer Ken Harrelson's hawkisms, “She Gone.”

When it comes to video poker, Gerry, it is tough enough grinding it out against the house playing smart. But, that is not nearly as hard as playing hide-and-seek against the casino and accidently coming across a decent-paying video poker machine.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: “No one will ever play that damn thing — it doesn't even have a handle to pull." — Jay Sarno, Nevada casino entrepreneur, upon being shown a prototype of the first video poker machine.
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.