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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Deal Me In: Getting gripped in the grind down

22 May 2015

Dear Mark: I read with interest your most recent explanation about the $0.80 payout of slot machines when I win. It made some sense; however, what happens to most of us personally? For example, I go into the casino with $100 earmarked to spend. I can play one or many machines all night, but in the end, my $100 is in the bank account of the casino, and I have nothing left! If, at the end of an exciting night of gaming I could walk out of the casino with $80.00 of the original $100.00 (your $0.80 payout by the slots example), I probably would not feel so bad as I had a good time. So, why do most of us leave broke, unhappy, and knowing we have been “taken again” by the one-armed bandits? Gary S.

In the language of casino gambling, Gary, what you are up against is called the “grind down.” This is where the casino is capable of eventually winning your entire bankroll due to the huge built-in advantage it has over you when you play slots, together with applying crazy glue to the slot machine stool.

For example, suppose you are playing on a slot machine that is pre-programmed to return 80% of wagered money back in wins. If you were to cycle through a $100 bankroll, which you could easily do in mere minutes, you can expect back, “in theory,” $80. Ah, but you ain’t goin’ nowhere, and the casino knows it.

Since you don’t, or won’t, get up and leave $20 light in the billfold, you start re-playing your remaining $80, and in return, the casino will happily give you $64 for doing so. Play the $64, and your return will be approximately $50. Playing through the $50 will get you back $40. What’s going on here, Gary, is that you keep playing through your outstanding credits like Pavlov’s dog, over and over again. Eventually, Gary, you will zero out.

Anytime you are up against the above arithmetic, if you end up with more than lint in your pocket, consider it a windfall.

Dear Mark: On a 6:5 blackjack game, is it a good strategy to double down on a blackjack when the dealer is showing 4, 5 or 6? Jeff B.

The scourge of the 6:5 blackjack game has been well documented in this column. I have often recommended that if you have any other blackjack choices available, you should not be playing a game that only pays 6:5 for a blackjack. Anytime you see a 6:5 payoff on a two-card 21, blackjack instantly becomes a second-rate game instead of one of the best gambling opportunities the house offers.

Now, Jeff, to answer your question directly, you should always take the bird in the hand ($12) and not two in the bush ($20). Assuming the dealer doesn’t also have a blackjack, on a $10 bet you are guaranteed a win of $12 with no chance of losing money versus risking another bet with the hope of winning $20 instead of $12.


Gambling Wisdom of the Week: “This is the third time; I hope good luck lies in odd numbers... There is a divinity in odd numbers, either in nativity, chance or death.” – Sir John Falstaff, in William Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor (1592)
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.