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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Deal Me In: It's possible, but improbable, to hit the big kahuna

6 March 2015

Dear Mark: I just returned from Las Vegas and noticed every casino offers banks of slot machines that offer those huge progressive jackpots. Do those machines ever pay the progressive jackpot or is that the casino's way of getting people to pump in more of their money? Gary C.

The allure of progressive slots, Gary, is always in the possibility of arriving by bus and departing in that new car showcased on top of a bank of progressive machines. Unfortunately, that appeal is far from reality.

Yes, Gary, progressive slot machines that offer super-sized, life-changing jackpots eventually are hit, as is a lottery. Unfortunately, on many, especially the wide area progressives, the chances of your hitting your state’s lotto might be easier.

Progressive slot machines come in three forms.

The Stand Alone Progressive can have a fixed-top jackpot. On these machines, a specified percentage of the coins played is added to the award for the highest winning combination.

The second variety is Proprietary Progressives. These are an in-house group of machines that are owned and operated by the casino and are linked together.

Your question most likely refers to what are called Wide Area Progressives. These machines are linked together from multiple unrelated casinos. Think MegaBucks and Quartermania, Gary. With these progressives, the casino shares in a percentage of the winnings, but here, IGT owns the games.

That sizable progressive jackpot is established by taking a certain percentage of all monies played on the machines from throughout the network, with the jackpot continually climbing as more players play the machines.

Using a $1 Megabucks machine as an example, these progressives return approximately 87 percent back to players compared to a standard $1 slot that returns roughly 94 percent. That 7 percent loss in your long-term return is tied up in a jackpot that you have little chance of hitting.

My recommendation, Gary, is to not make playing progressives the mainstay of your casino play. Your expectations when playing these machines should be based on pure luck akin to hitting a lottery ticket.

If you are still inclined to give them a shot, I suggest that you only put aside a small percentage of your playing bankroll, and recognize that the true entertainment value is that of fantasizing about champagne wishes and caviar dreams, and not necessarily winning.

Dear Mark: How many decks do the blackjack video machines use? R.R.

In the majority of gaming jurisdictions, video card games such as video blackjack are required to be based on random shuffles and deals that match those of the live table games they simulate. Typically, video blackjack is a one-deck game, and the deck is "shuffled" after every hand rather than playing to a virtual cut card, finishing the hand and then reshuffling.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: “Handling the luck through adjustments in your play, is one of the great arts in gambling.” – Bobby Baldwin, Tales Out of Tulsa (1984)
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.