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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Deal Me In: Talk about a snowball's chance in hell

31 January 2014

Dear Mark: I am sure you saw the news. Quicken Loans are offering to pay anyone filling out a perfect bracket for March Madness a billion dollars. Do you think anybody will ever fill out a perfect bracket? Jimmy K.

Nada chance, Jimmy! Zippo, zero, zilch!

The $1 billion prize is safe; and believe me, Quicken Loans knows the math of such a feat. The Quicken Loan honchos, along with the underwriter of the challenge, Berkshire Hathaway, fully realize that filling out a perfect bracket and predicting the correct result of all 63 games is one in two to the 63rd power, which just happens to be one in nine million trillion, that’s 1/ 9,000,000,000,000,000,000. It is easier to hit the Powerball lottery solid on two consecutive draws.

Take for example, last year. With a kazillion entries in ESPN’s Tournament Challenge, there was not one entry that remained perfect heading into the round of 32.

Sure, filling out a chart makes for good fodder at the water cooler. In my son’s case, he attended U of Cincinnati, graduated from Michigan, and is now in grad school at Duke, so he has three contenders that will make the show, and at least he gets to fill out his bracket with fervent allegiance. But, Jimmy, let’s get something straight here. You, I, and my son are never going to win. No one is.

Well, actually, that is not entirely true. The winner here is Quicken Loans for all the publicity it’s getting. The amount of FREE media exposure from this marketing maneuver has to be worth tens of millions of dollars.

Dear Mark: I have been a devoted reader of your column for years and I just wanted to inform you that I finally found one of those elusive 9/6 video poker machines that you said are near extinct. Inform your readers that they can find them at the Odawa Casino in Petoskey, MI. Diane R.

The casino mentioned above, Diane, just happens to be a rock skip across the Little Traverse Bay from my home in Harbor Springs. That being the case, I moseyed on over the other day and found your 9/6 Jacks-or-Better game. That full-pay 9/6 (9 for a full house, 6 for a flush with one coin inserted) video poker machine that you stumbled upon, isn’t exactly what you thought it was.

If you look closely at most video poker paytables, you will notice a non-linear progression on the royal flush payline. Your typical $1, 9/6 royal flush payline looks like this: 500, 1,000, 1,500, 2,000 and 4,000. Note, Diane, the hefty jump with the fifth coin inserted. These machines return 99.54 percent of money bet, assuming you employ perfect basic strategy.

The $1 Game King machine that offers a 9/6 game at the Odawa shows a linear progression on the royal flush payline. It pays off like this: 500, 1,000, 1,500, 2,000 and 2,500. This machine, Diane, is shorting you 1,500 coins on the fifth coin if you hit a royal. This game returns 98.87 percent, slightly lower than a true, full-pay 9/6 machine.

I also found a 9/5, 25¢ video poker machine, where with optimal play, it returns 98.45 percent. It, too, returns a bit less, but combined with their vast dessert display at their reasonably-priced lunch buffet, possibly you have found the Promised Land.

You are using your Player’s card to comp yourself a feeding frenzy, right?

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: Gambling itself will only end when human nature has changed completely and there are no more bets to win. - Harold S. Smith Sr.
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.