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Gaming Guru

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Deal Me In: Think outside the bun

12 November 2010

By Mark Pilarski

Dear Mark: I have a glass jar full of chips that I bring home from each casino visit. It's becoming quite a collection and was wondering if they have any value. Donna S. Honestly, Donna, they probably have far less value than what you forked over for them. I recommend, check that, I highly recommend, that on your next casino trip you exchange them for hard currency. Plenty of players keep casino chips as souvenirs from their casino visit. Casinos love it when you intentionally take their chips from the casino premise because your $1, $5, $25, or $100 memento only cost them 50¢ to have made, as opposed to the face value they represent. Now that's not to say there isn't a market for those who dabble in this form of exonumia, the collecting of value representations other than actual money. With the advent of eBay, there are thousands of listings (21,744 as of this writing) for those who want to own a piece of gambling's past, especially if the casino is long closed or the chip represented a past special event at such-n-such casino. Nevertheless, right now on eBay, there is a DUNES, $100 Las Vegas Casino Commemorative Chip that can be had for the price of Taco Bell's new XXL Chalupa; $2.99, Buy It Now, five available. For the serious Russell Rulau type casino chip collector, there are two price guides. The Official U.S. Casino Chip Price Guide and the Chip Rack. The first deals with chips for most gaming jurisdictions throughout the US, the latter, chips from the State of Nevada. FYI, the largest recorded sale for a casino chip to date is $39,000, but I'm pretty certain you are not sitting on a high-value chip in a Ball jar on the fireplace mantel. I'm holding onto my chip collection, all seven of them. They have sentimental value in that they were from the seven different casinos where I once worked. Four have since closed, yet, the current eBay price on any one of them wouldn't even get me a grilled chicken burrito off the Why Pay More! menu at The Bell. Dear Mark: I have often read that the odds on higher denomination slot machines are better than for the lower. There are several slot and video poker machines that feature multi-denomination options. Do the odds improve on these machines as you raise the denomination? Dave M. Most multi-denominational machines, Dave, actually have better long-term paybacks as you increase the denomination on them. For a slot game, the machine uses a different virtual reel layout, for video poker, the machine just uses a different paytable. For video poker, paytables are in full view for you to compare, as you move up the ladder from nickels to quarters, and quarters to dollars. On all of the machines I've eyeballed, Dave, the paytable for the dollar denomination is more generous than the paytable for the quarter game, and quarter more than the nickel denomination. As for changing denominations, remember, Dave, when you bet more, you can lose more, at a much faster pace. Sure, you may find a paytable that returns 98% to the player playing quarters versus a 95% payback for nickels, so effectively you've cut the house advantage by more than half from 5% to 2%, but you are putting into play five times more per hand ($0.25 versus $1.25). Gambling Wisdom of the Week: "It (gambling) is the child of avarice, the brother of iniquity and the father of mischief." -George Washington, President and racehorse owner
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.