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Best of Mark Pilarski

Gaming Guru

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Deal Me In: Slots held on a very short leash

18 January 2013

Dear Mark: Before a machine is placed on the casino floor, who tests the machines to see if they are working properly? Brad H.

Every gaming jurisdiction, Brad, has its own set of guidelines about testing the reliability of a slot machine before you get a crack at it.

Being most familiar with Nevada, I can tell you that Nevada was but one of just a few states that maintained its own testing lab. Most others outsource it to independent labs, whose standards are approved by government regulators. I believe now, even in Nevada, they are starting to allow manufacturers to use autonomous labs to test their slots. That said, most labs in those other states have incorporated the same industry testing standards as Nevada's.

Be assured, Brad, before you get to yank the handle of any new slot machine, it undergoes a series of software and hardware tests in a gaming technology lab. What engineers are primarily looking for is to ensure that the slot selects a random outcome while playing to the stated probability of winning a jackpot.

As an additional consumer safeguard, once the slot hits the casino floor, gaming control agencies know the programming and virtual reel layout of every single slot machine. A gaming control agent can ask the casino to open any slot machine on the floor, remove a chip, and compare it against their reference chips to ensure that the data stored are exactly alike.

Dear Mark: Can you please recommend a good book on how to learn to play craps? I am a beginner who enjoys playing whenever we visit the casino. I only play the basic bets but would like to learn more about the game. Bill

For starters, Bill, and to instantly go from a beginner to an expert, I would recommend that you concentrate on only those "basic bets," that just so happen to have a house edge under 1.5 percent. Those basic bets are a pass line bet, along with free odds to reduce the casino advantage, and placing the six or eight.

One of my favorite bets in the casino is the pass line bet and taking 10 times odds, where available. The combined house edge on this wager is .018 percent. The multiple odds have a zero casino advantage, and it is the pass line bet where the casino enjoys its slight edge. The expected mathematical loss on a $2 pass line bet with $10 odds is about $0.08.

The two books that I have recommended in the past, and do again today, are Henry Tamburin's Craps: Take the Money and Run, and as a valuable follow-up, Beat the Craps Out of the Casinos by Frank Scobete is also excellent. Both explain in detail all the various bets, correct odds, payoffs, sucker bets and the playing strategy described above.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: "Poker is the game closest to the Western conception of life, where life and thought are recognized as intimately combined, where free will prevails over philosophies of fate or of chance, where men are considered moral agents and where -- at least in the short run -- the important thing is not what happens, but what people think happens." - John Luckacs
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.