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Deal Me In: Does back-and-forth chip exchange happen?

13 August 2010

By Mark Pilarski

Dear Mark: Can a casino change the paybacks on their slot machines instantly? I've heard they do it on busy weekends. You have said in the past they can't. Kelly D.

Whoa now, Kelly, I never said that casinos couldn't change paybacks on their machines. What I stated was that the casino doesn't throw a secret switch to instantly tighten their machines, because Kelly's coming on the weekend to try her luck. Wholesale reprogramming of machines on Friday, then changing them back on Monday, doesn't exist.

Yes, some gaming jurisdictions do allow casinos to have manufacturer's licenses allowing them to change the chips themselves. They would only have to file the obligatory paperwork with their state gaming commission, and the swap could be made. In other jurisdictions, a gaming commission agent must witness the changing of the chips, or an agent must make the change, and in yet others, the machine must be sent back to the manufacture for open chip surgery.

The reason a state's gaming commission is so interested in a chip swap is that it wants to verify that a machine is operating properly, and that the amount of money it pays out falls in the range predicted by the number of spins played on the machine.

So yes, Kelly, a casino can change the payback on any machine, when it wants. However, it is just not cost-effective for the casino to continually alter the payouts on their machines from weekday to weekend.

Dear Mark: If the dealer is showing a 9, 10, or an Ace, and my hand consists of a soft 18 with more than two cards, do you still hit it? Ed S.

With a two-card soft 18, basic strategy dictates that you stand against a two, double versus a three through six, stand if the dealer is showing a seven and eight, and hit against a nine, 10 or ace. The set-up in your question, a soft 18 consisting of more than two cards, wouldn't change that strategy. You should still hit it.

As tough as it is to do, Ed, you are still slightly better off by hitting a soft 18 with multiple cards than you would be by standing pat.

Dear Mark: If I insert my Players Club Card, play for a period of time, then remove it, will the machine start paying more because it knows I left? Also, do some casinos actually have slot machines that purposely lose money to stir interest in a particular area of the casino? Gail D.

A slot machine doesn't give one iota whether you are using a Players Card or trying to be sneaky by pulling it out making the machine think you're long gone.

The drawback to pulling out your card, Gail, is that you are cheating yourself out of some comps that otherwise you would have been entitled to. You need your play recorded in order to get your goodies.

As to your second question, Gail, casinos are not in the business of losing money by using shill machines. Over the long haul, it's nearly impossible for a casino to lose money on a slot machine.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: "Gaming is an enchanting witchery, gotten betwixt idleness and avarice; An itching disease, that makes some scratch the head, whilst others, as if they were bitten by a Tarantula, are laughing themselves to death." - Charles Cotton, The Compleat Gamester 1674

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.