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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Deal Me In: An explanation of 'loose' and 'tight' slot machines

25 April 2008

Dear Mark: How do you determine what is considered loose and tight in slot machines? Is there a way of identifying them? Do they place them where we can't find them? Karen K.

All casinos, Karen, have "loose" and "tight" machines commingled on the casino floor. "Loose" machines are defined as those machines returning more of the player's money; the "tight" machines return less.

Likewise, "loose and "tight" are relative terms. One casino's "loose" machines could be the equivalent of another casino's "tight" machines — with all casinos having a mix of both.

If such-and-such casino describes their machines as "loose," it can mean one of two things, "more payouts" or "higher paybacks," and a slot machine's payback is not necessarily related to the number of payouts. Confused, I thought so.

As for finding those "loose" ones, well, that's no easy task. Slot managers place their machines strategically to maximize customer appeal and potential casino earnings. Unfortunately, Karen, I can't give you a tried-and-true reply as to where slot managers place their "loose" machines, besides, no two casinos do it exactly alike.

Nor is it possible to distinguish "loose" and "tight" machines by look or type. Unless specifically advertised, such as, "98% return on these machines," two similar machines sitting side-by-side could produce radically different results.

Yet, if happenstance and Irish luck place you in front of the loosest machine in the house, a "loose" machine over the long run is seldom a winning proposition.

Dear Mark: Is there any difference between a pass line bet and a come bet? Can you explain how they work? Larry S.

Come bets can be confusing to newbies, but they are easy to play -- and profitable!

A Come bet acts like a pass line bet, but they are made after a pass line point has been established, with the next point that the shooter rolls becoming your personal point.

When you make a come bet one of the following three things will occur: a.) The next roll will be a 7 or 11, in which case you immediately win even money (1 for 1), or... b.) The next roll will be a 2, 3, or 12, in which case you immediately lose money, or... c.) The 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, or 10 will roll, becoming YOUR and the roller's point. If the shooter repeats that point on an ensuing roll, you win and are paid even money (1 for 1).

Look at a Come bet and Pass line bet as analogous, both as a couple of the best bets in the casino, with each having a house advantage of less than 1.5%.

Dear Mark: Suppose you are playing Three Card Poker and you make a bet on "Pairs Plus." You're dealt a pair of fives, but the dealer has a pair of aces. What happens to your bet? Does it lose? I lost a bet this weekend with my example above. Jerry C.

You shouldn't have. Dealer error! He or she, possibly seven hours into their shift, probably had you on ante/play spots and inadvertently scooped up your winner.

With a "pair plus" wager, it does not matter if the player's hand cannot beat the dealer's. This is a stand-alone wager with the payout based solely on the rank of the 3-card hand. If less than a pair, the player loses. With a pair or higher, you win, and the higher the rank, the greater the payout.

Your typical "pair plus" payout schedule, no matter what the dealer has, is as follows:

A pair: 1 to 1

A flush: 4 to 1

A Straight: 6 to 1

Three of a kind: 30 to 1

A Straight flush: 40 to 1

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: "It makes sense to do the job well instead of depending on luck." --H. W. Lewis

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.