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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Deal Me In: The role of Lady Luck at the the casino

13 May 2008

Dear Mark: When it comes right down to it, isn't Lady Luck really the deciding factor when it comes to winning in a casino? Mark L.

Sorry, Mark, but it isn't Lady Luck nor Jack's Magic Bean that is the deciding factor when it comes to winning. It's knowledge of the game you are playing and a solid grasp of the odds and probabilities that will bring you success. The smarter you play, the luckier you'll be is the correct answer here.

As a bonus, I can also tell you with certainty what the deciding factor is when it comes to losing: continuous play.

Because the casino has a built-in house advantage on each and every game it offers, the more hands you are dealt per hour, the more dice throws you see, the more spins on a roulette table, the more pulls of a handle, the more the built-in casino advantage chomps away at your bankroll. From a player's perspective – your perspective, Mark – continuous play kills in a casino environment.

The elephant in the room for every player is the casino edge, and you can't beat it to its knees with a Wiffleball bat. But with a Louisville Slugger, and by this I mean smart play, you can occasionally get on base.

Dear Mark: On a video poker machine that offers numerous games, if I hit a jackpot on one game, for instance Jacks or Better, and then switch to another game on that same machine like Deuces Wild, do the odds change in any way on Deuces Wild because I already hit a jackpot on Jacks or Better? Jill L.

Hitting a jackpot on one game, such as in your example Jacks or Better, has no effect on the chances of your hitting a jackpot on another game on that machine, nor does it have any effect on your chances of hitting another jackpot on the next hand on the same game. Each individual hand you play on the machine is, in effect, randomly dealt from a freshly shuffled deck of cards.

Dear Mark: As you so often state, the random number generator on a slot machine is always crunching numbers. If that is true, then doesn't it stop to give you your results for that particular spin? Dave N.

Technically, Dave, the random number generator (RNG) never stops crunching numbers. You are correct in that at some point the software within needs to know the value of the RGN to produce the outcome you see on the screen, but what the program is doing is "polling the RNG" to pinpoint its value at that given moment, and it's not necessarily coming to a complete halt.

Just what creates that given moment? Some action by you the player causes the program to poll the RNG. It could be when you yank the handle, deposit your first coin, or press either the Spin or the Bet Max buttons. Because pulling a handle and pressing Spin commences the same action, the program accounts for that, and any or all of these events have been used by to initiate polling the random number generator.

Gambling wisdom of the Week: "There is no disgrace in being a loser. The disgrace is not knowing why." VP Pappy, Midwest Casino Guide

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.