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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Deal Me In: Player questions if he is a freak of nature

20 February 2015

Dear Mark: I am a freak of nature. Of the 50 times that I have played slots, maybe twice I left with $20 to $40. All the other times I have lost big. One time, I went with a lucky elderly teacher friend of mine and she won $300. I lost $50. So, she gave me another 20, and again I lost. She then gave me yet another 20, and again I lost. She got tired of giving me 20s. And who can blame her? Another time, I had spent an hour on a machine with no luck at all so I moved over to the next machine. Along came an elderly woman who sat down at the machine I had previously been playing on and within 20 minutes she won a $400 jackpot. The casino gods just refuse to let me win! Mark G.

I begin with casino secret No. 1: Slot machines can have such a bloodthirsty appetite that they can attack your bankroll with a ferocity akin to a school of piranha consuming a cow.

Now let’s move to your playing timeline, the “50 times that I’ve played slots.” Well, Mark, that is relatively short, especially against slot machines, which are notorious for being the toughest game to beat in the house.

Which leads me to what I believe your problem is. It is called The Grind.

For example, suppose you are playing on a slot machine that is preprogrammed to return 88 percent of wagered money back in wins. If you were to cycle through a $200 bankroll, which you can easily do in mere minutes, you can expect back, “in theory,” $176. Now here’s dirty little casino secret No. 2. The casino knows full well that “you ain’t goin’ nowhere.”

The casino anticipates with almost 100 percent certainty that you will be re-playing that $176 and they will happily give you, in return, $155 for doing so. Play the $155, and your return will be $136. Playing through the $136, will get you back $120. Against that kind of math, Mark, you’ve got some nerve trying to be a winner.

It’s understood/assumed, this is based on a preprogrammed computer chip in the machine tuned to return a certain percentage back as wins. But, Mark, can you see how the casino is grinding away at your capital?

Now here’s casino secret No. 3. The casino is NOT in the gambling business. It is in the math business. On preprogrammed slot machines that give the house a certain percentage return, you are the only one doing the gambling here. Granted, you may happen occasionally to be the one who gets well over an 88 percent return, but in all probability you will be among the countless who are contributing the 12 percent to the casino.

Casino secret No. 4: Casinos LOVE winners. Winning customers are the most important asset in the world to someone involved in selling chance. Winning players tell future losers of their good fortune. Hope, Mark, springs eternal (Alexander Pope, "An Essay on Man," 1732).

The huge house advantage on slot machines will always grind away your bankroll at a lickety-split pace. The more time you spend front and center in front of a slot machine, the better the casino’s chances of liquidating your bankroll.

Consider your play normal, Mark, and not some unusual, unexpected natural phenomenon.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: “It is not uncommon to see a lady in her bridal gown, married moments ago by a minister in full Elvis regalia, furiously working the slots with a Marlboro clenched between her teeth.” – Rod Wiser, Casino Player
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.