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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Deal Me In: Coins will slow you down — and that's a good thing

18 July 2008

Dear Mark: I liked your column last week where you told Ruth to slow down her play by inserting coins instead of using credits. Unfortunately, where I play, they only use bill acceptors. Still, it's good advice, just not here. Denny B.

A friend of mine has a yellow ski boot where he hoards all his change thru the year, separates it in different denominations for slot play, and then hits the casino for fun and frolic. Like you, where he plays, the casino wants him to keep his loose change at home. (Side note: The last I heard Burger King still takes coins for their Value Menu, although have you noticed -- they now ask if you want to pay for that Whopper Junior with a credit card?)

My apprehension with bill acceptors, or using credit slips, is that you play slots oh, so much faster. Twice, maybe even three times as fast.

Back in the day when you could plop coins in for each spin, you would average 250 twirls an hour. Today with credit play it's double that, and players of dubious talent with a hungry twitch can see 1,000 spins.

What that means to player on a $1 slot machine that holds onto, let's say, 92% of what you put into it, at $3 a yank, instead of losing $60 an hour, it's now $120 and $240 if you work at it.

Like you, Denny, it's not only the $3.49 prime rib buffets I long for.

Dear Mark: When you nearly line up three jackpot symbols, does that mean the machine is due to hit in the near future? Jenny S.

Ah, Jenny, were it only true!

Those "almost jackpots," Jenny, we call, "near misses," and you see them for two reasons: The fun factor, and to encourage you to keep playing.

Although it seems you are on the doorstep of hitting the big one, the odds don't change on your next spin. Your chances, albeit minuscule, of hitting a jackpot are the same on each and every spin whether you've had a near miss or not. The near miss has no predictive talent.

Dear Mark: Do players win less when they use their players' club card? Sue N.

Just because you are accumulating comps on your club card, the casino is not going to make you pay for it with a lower return on their machines. Besides, the random number generator within doesn't even know you are using a slot club card.

Let me also add, Sue, that differential paybacks are illegal. Oh, and one more thing. Think of all the time and energy the casino went through to enroll you in the slot club and put you in the database so that through its incentives you'll keep coming back.

They want you as a loyal, regular customer, and not one it can screw over. Appeasing you with a feeding frenzy at the buffet while stiffing you on returns on their slots would make for bad business.

Dear Mark: I have a coupon from our local casino that pays 3 to 1 for a natural blackjack. What's that worth to the player percentage-wise? Nick G.

Get your scissors or grab your saber, Nick, clip that coupon and use it. A 3 to 1 payout on a natural in blackjack gives the player a 6.52% advantage over the house.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: "No victor believes in chance." Friedrich Nietzsche

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.