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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Deal Me In: Reader questions where lucky machine went

9 August 2013

Dear Mark: I recently had the good fortune of hitting a sizable jackpot on a slot machine. It took over an hour to be paid, plus, they opened the machine, not once, but twice. Here is the funny part. I returned the following month, and the machine was gone. Do you think it was because of my jackpot that the machine was removed? Nate S.

Although, Nate, you did not mention your jackpot's size, when the win is over a specific amount, it is commonplace for a casino to verify a sizable win. To make sure the chips within have not been tampered with, the casino will run various tests to ensure that there is no hanky-panky going on. Those tests are required because of a statutory requirement where you play or it is the casino's operating procedure.

I do not believe, Nate, that the disappearance of your machine is related specifically to YOUR good fortune. All slot managers place their machines strategically to maximize customer appeal and potential casino earnings, and one of their variables is that each slot machine is required to produce its weight in gold to hold its placement in the slot lineup. Under-achievers that do not maintain the profits the casino is looking for are either relocated, or simply removed. Sure, Nate, your slot machine paid handsomely, but every machine eventually pays its top-end jackpot. You just happened to be that lucky son-of-a-gun who was sitting front-and-center when it did.

Dear Mark: I am not sure if you have answered this question before, but is the player better off when the dealer hits soft 17 or the dealer stands on all 17s? Matt R.

A "soft" hand indicates that a player or dealer cannot go bust by taking an additional card; otherwise, the hand is "hard." For example: An Ace, 6 is a soft 17. An Ace, 6 and 10 is a hard 17 since now the Ace must be counted as a one.

As a player, you are better off when the dealer stands on all 17s. When the rules allow the dealer to hit soft 17, he or she has a chance to improve a so-so hand, plus, they can't bust with their next hit. Also, when the rules allow the dealer to hit a soft 17, you are giving the house an additional two-tenths of 1 percent advantage over your play.

Here's the deal, Matt. When a dealer gets that additional hit on a soft 17, eight of every 13 cards (Ace, 2, 3, 4, 10, Jack, Queen or King) either improves the dealer's hand, or keeps it the same.


Moreover, if any of the other five cards are drawn (5, 6, 7, 8 or 9) the dealer still has some chance to escalate his or her hand-value with another draw. My recommendation, Matt, is to search for a game where the dealer stands on a soft 17. Most casinos will indicate directly on the table layout whether the dealer stands on all 17s, or must hit a soft 17 and stand on hard 17 or better.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: God not only plays dice, he also sometimes throws the dice where they cannot be seen. – Stephen Hawking, Nature (vol. 257)
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.