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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Deal Me In: Getting ignored by a touch screen

9 March 2012

Dear Mark: Here is a question from the Twilight Zone. My girlfriend and I play video slot machines side-by-side, but I have trouble activating the touch screen. She will switch machines with me and have no problem. I do not have cold, clammy hands, so should I not be able to activate the screen from the heat from my fingertips? Have you ever heard of anything this bizarre? Danny F.

Your Midas touch question may seem a bit wacky, but if you do not mind a Rod Serling reply, I’ll take a crack at it by sharing anecdotal evidence with a likely bearing on what’s occurring.

First, Danny, a question your way; Do you play the guitar?

I ask because being a hack myself, with skill levels not much past Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven, I do have hard-as-steel calluses on the fingertips of my left, or fret-board, hand. When I try texting on an iPhone using my left index finger, I usually get zilch. The same holds true with the checkout machine at the supermarket, or anything that uses capacitive touch sensors, such as laptop trackpads, tablets and computer displays, a technology which, I am guessing, is also used on the video screens in a casino.

A capacitive touch screen is not based on heat sensors. This interface instead detects anything that is conductive. To prove it isn’t heat related, a dedicated doubter could get out a hair dryer and blow hot air on any capacitive touch screen device. Nothing will happen. If it were heat sensitive, your device would go bonkers. Can’t speak for the owner of the hair dryer.

My index and middle fingertips have the feel of a plastic stylus, which doesn’t work well on a capacitive touch screen. This would hold true for those with very long fingernails. Some touch screens will work; some won’t. If you are using just your fingernail to touch the screen, that might only work on a resistive type touch screen, the old version that used a stylus.

Now the Serling’s Twilight Zone, unexpected twist. Although the index finger on my left hand has trouble initiating a response from a touch screen, guess what does work: cold sausage. I kid you not. Pull out an iPhone, some kielbasa, and touch the Safari Web browser button with its tip, and off you go surfing the World Wide Web.

Option B, Danny, would be to create an Aluminum Foil Deflector Beanie (AFDB) out of Reynolds Wrap. This headgear will shield your brain from most electromagnetic pulses, ones that typically distort a touch screen.

Dear Mark: Where would you get a more random spin in roulette, with a live dealer, or on a video roulette game? Kevin T.

Straight up, Kevin, the more random spin would come from a video roulette game. With a live dealer, you have the one-in-a-million possibility of identifying the predictive nature of a dealer or the equipment. The specific mannerisms of the dealer, known as a “dealer’s signature,” can put the dealer into a distinctive rhythm of spinning the wheel and launching the ball in such a way as to unintentionally target a given section of the wheel.

Then there is always the whiz that believes he can exploit the flaws of the equipment. Said whiz looks for a biased wheel in the belief that some wheels may have mechanical flaws that will provide a non-random number distribution.

A video roulette game uses a random number generator, with every spin of the video wheel being an independent trial. If the last number was 22 black, the chances are still 1 in 38 that the ensuing number will be 22 black. With a RNG, the result of any previous event plays no role in generating the next outcome.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: "Casinos will outlive all of us. So what's the hurry." --A Vegas Host
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.