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Deal me in: Anytime is the right or wrong time to play

30 January 2009

By Mark Pilarski

Dear Mark: Is there any good time to play slots. For instance, day versus night, weekday versus weekend? It seems you see more jackpots hit on the weekends. Dusty E.

Your chances of winning, Dusty, have nothing to do as to when you play. Casinos don't tighten or loosen machines at a whim or with moon rise.

That doesn't mean that there are not better times to play. Some players don't like crowds, so weekday play suits them fine. In addition, your favorite machine's availability is better on weekdays. Just try getting on a single bank Wheel of Fortune quarter slot on Saturday night. It's not going to happen. Then there are those who love crowds, smoke, and pushy players. Okay, I'm bringing my past employment to the table, but there are players who do enjoy the liveliness of a crowded casino.

The reason, Dusty, why you'll note more players hitting jackpots on the weekends is because more people happen to be playing then, but that has absolutely nothing to do with your chances of winning, or theirs.

Dear Mark: Recently on a crap game, I suggested to a player, as you have always recommended, to just stick with the pass line and forget about all the wacky bets he was making. He rudely told me to mind my own business. I was just trying to help a poor soul who ended up losing all his money. Did I do or say something wrong? Gerald C.

You probably in the future want to avoid being a kibitzer -- that fellow player who offers unsolicited advice about how to play. Even though the Great Kibitzer in the Sky would give you a high five on that advice, Gerald, the High Eminence of Diplomacy would remind you that cantankerous players will always end up blaming you when they lose.

Dear Mark: What amount of dollar play rewards a blackjack player with comps to a casino's restaurant? I'm typically a $5-$25 player. Marty B.

Even as a $5-$25 player, Marty, you can get your fair share of goodies, at least when it comes to food and drink. What you are asking for is called a "soft" comp, which can be cocktails, restaurant expenses and shows that the casinos produce themselves. They are relatively easy to get because casinos technically purchase them wholesale and bill them to a comp account retail.

"Hard" comps are reimbursements for airline tickets, golf, concerts, off-site casino shows or anything else that would cost the casino real out-of-pocket dollars. Those hard comps have to see a lot more action on your part to become yours.

Every casino has different standards and policies towards rewarding comps to table game players, but if you planned on playing in the $5-$25 level for at least a couple hours, when I played pit boss, we would have gladly comped your play with a feeding frenzy at our buffet.

Because comps are not automatically flung at table games players, you have to do your part. Ask for them. One thing I wasn't good at was reading minds, or sniffing out the hungry pheromones spread by starving players.

Dear Mark: My friend and I read your column religiously and have a bet on if you do, or don't, play the lottery. I say no, he says yes. Tim J.

If you are you asking, "Do I play occasionally, like twice a week," the answer is, absolutely not. But do I dabble in $3 worth of Quick Picks occasionally for a once-in-a-lifetime possibility of flanking a never-in-our-lifetime probability. Yep.

With my background of evaluating odds in every playing situation, I confess, I do play, but only when the jackpot exceeds the true odds of hitting either the Mega Million, which is 1 in 175,711,536, or Michigan's Classic Lotto 47 when it's over $10,737,573.

Gambling wisdom of the Week: "The dice goad like hooks and prick like whips; they deceive and torment. They are coated with honey." --Better's Lament, Rig Vada Hyme

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.