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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Deal Me In: Scores of one-button bandits seldom pay out super-sized jackpots

30 January 2015

Dear Mark: A slot employee told me that some of the bigger jackpot machines, where he works, have not been hit in years. Does this surprise you? Alice L.

Not in the least bit, Alice. The odds of hitting some of these super-sized jackpots can be higher than hitting the Mega Millions (258,890,850 to one) lottery. You couldn’t count the number of players who have contributed their hard-earned coinage to a progressive one-button bandit, with nothing to show for it but for the hope of a basic algorithm of division that may improbably calculate some day in their favor.

Take, for example, the extremely popular Lion's Share machine at the MGM Grand. This $1 machine has been whirling and flashing on the casino floor since the MGM opened 20 years ago. The progressive jackpot hadn’t been hit in all that time until last year when an East Coast couple lined up the Lucky Lions and nailed the casino for a $2.4 million dollar win.

Actually, Alice, after 37 years in this business, nothing surprises me anymore.

Dear Mark: With a six-deck shoe (standard rules), on your first play, basic strategy dictates hitting 12 against a dealer’s up card of 2 or 3. What if your 12 is a combination of 3 or 4 cards? Does that same rule apply or do you stand? Herb C.

After taking into account what the dealer's up-card is, basic strategy necessitates that you play each hand the optimum way.

Your question refers to when the player gets a cluster of consecutive low-numbered cards, should the basic strategy player continue to hit.

Blackjack basic strategy dictates that you keep hitting until you reach a hard hand total of at least 13, no matter how many times you have to take a hit. (There are a couple exceptions when possessing multiple cards in your hand on a single deck game)

Some may wonder, is hitting 12 against a 2 or 3 the mathematically correct move in the first place. Unquestionably, YES.

Without considering the depletion of a six-deck shoe, your chances of not busting when you hit a 12 are 9 ÷ 13, or 69.23076 percent. So, Herb, what you don’t want to do is stand on a 12 when mathematically if you do hit it, the odds significantly favor an improvement of your hand. If you do NOT hit, your only chance, of winning with a 12, is if the dealer busts and the dealer has that same 69 percent plus chance of making his or her hand that you did.

Stick with basic strategy, Herb, and continue to hit until basic strategy dictates that you stand no matter how many small cards you receive. In your case, that would be a hard hand total of 13.

Dear Mark: In a recent column about home poker games, you seemed to lean towards letting whoever is “gracious enough to supply the table plus the food and beverage” to determine some of the rules. Would that also include which games are played? Bill A.

When it comes to the friendly confines of home play, I am OK with dealer's choice, where, on their turn, they are allowed to name which poker game is to be played, and set the stakes, just so long as they clearly define any special variations or unusual rules.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: “Even in their wildest dreams, casino owners could not possibly have concocted anything to match a slot machine's raw capacity to generate revenue.” — Lou Krieger & Arthur Reber, Strictly Slots
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.