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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Deal Me In: Fast play doesn't change payback rates

15 July 2016

Dear Mark: I was sitting next to a lady in a casino who was playing at a speed that I had never witnessed in the 30 years that I have been going to the casino. When she finally stopped to catch her breath, I had to ask her, “Does it help?” She said the faster she played, the higher the return on the machine. Is this true or hogwash? Sandy C.

My first impression from your question, Sandy, is that this lady perhaps is gambling far more than she should be, and that is a question/answer for another day, one she needs to ask herself first. As to “the faster she played, the higher the return on the machine,” unequivocally utter hogwash!

Faster play makes zero difference to the random number generator. Over the long run, she will get the equivalent payback percentage regardless of the speed of her play.

What is working against her and her Quick Draw McGraw speed is the total amount she is wagering, especially against any machine that carries a high house edge, which, by the way, is all of them.

If she is wagering $0.75 a spin on a quarter machine for 600 spins in an hour, she is putting at risk $450. If you, sitting next to her, are wagering that same $0.75 a spin, but spinning the reels only 150 times per hour, you are only risking $112.50. Faster play means more money exposed, and with the casino holding, for instance, a built-in 15% on quarter play, she’s donating far more to the casino's coffers than you are.

Dear Mark: Why does a player who is betting two spots in blackjack have to bet double the minimum? Ed P.

I learned the answer to this question, Ed, on the first day I dealt blackjack.

Yours Truly thought dealer school was an inconvenience during ski season, so I self-taught myself by pitching cards across the room into a hat, practiced shuffling, dealing, and the pay and take on an ironing board. I did have some tutelage from a dealer roommate who went on to become a gaming agent for the State of Nevada, but obviously, he couldn’t cover all the rules. One such overlooked tenet missed was the rules related to payouts for scoring 21 on split aces. I assumed that if you split aces and got two face cards, you just got yourself two blackjacks, so I paid accordingly. Yep, I paid them.

Another was the appropriate amount needed when playing two hands. An old-time pit boss named Dennis Healy at the Club Cal Neva noticed my error, among others, and corrected me on my break. Being the curious sort, I did ask why. Healy said the reason the casino requires a double-minimum bet to play two spots is that it doesn't want a player to tie up multiple spots with minimum bets. Leaving the spot open for another player who might bet several times the minimum will make the casino more money over the long run, hence, the double minimum.

Incidentally, errors on my early shifts should have sent me down the road, but Healy and the Club Cal Neva let them slide. Ultimately, dealing there ended up being a terrific place to work for the break-in dealer.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: “Poker is a lot like sex: Everyone thinks they are the best, but most don't have a clue what they are doing!” - Dutch Boyd
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.