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Gaming Guru

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Deal Me In: Warranty service with a smile

11 December 2009

By Mark Pilarski

Dear Mark: As a way of stretching your bankroll, you have stated that on some machines you don't need to play the full coin amount. For that reason, to save money, my wife will only play one coin on progressives like Megabucks. Did she misunderstand what you said? Cliff W.

Yes, Cliff, she did, but let's just call it a slight misinterpretation of what I wrote.

On some slot machines, I stated that it doesn't matter whether you play one coin, or the maximum, as playing the full amount gives you little more in the way of a payback percentage. But with a progressive like Megabucks, you should play max coin or shun them.

Megabucks offers a life-altering score, but the odds of hitting it are 30,000,000 to one. Another downside is that the long-term paybacks on these machines are usually the lowest in the casino. Still, you don't get to tell your boss to shove it unless you play the full amount.

As for your wife's playing one coin (credit) at a time, you do this on a "straight multiplier" or "equal distribution" machine that pays according to the number of coins you play. For instance, if you hit the jackpot having played one coin, the machine will pay 500 coins, two coins, 1,000, and three coins, 1,500.

Playing one coin (credit) on this type of slot machine is okay because the average return never changes based on the number of coins you play, whereas a progressive tacks on an additional amount of money, a mega-jackpot, if you're playing the maximum number of coins.

Yes, a Megabucks progressive jackpot is colossal compared to that of any straight multiplier, but with odds at 30 million to one against, your chances of hitting the big one are only a teensy weensy bit better than zilch. So, Cliff, the only reason to play these machines is having a miniscule chance of hitting the big one, so tell your wife that I recommend that she play either the full coin amount or not at all.

Dear Mark: For many of your video poker questions, you usually use Jacks-or-better as an example. Am I to assume that it is the best machine to win at? Tom E.

Not at all, Tom. I use it as an example because it was the first, the strategy is simpler than many others, identifying good and bad paytables is easy, it's a personal favorite, and because it's available far and wide, wherever this column is syndicated.

Your chances of winning on any video poker machine increase when you play machines with the best paytables, and when you know how to play each hand. Even on a full pay Jacks-or-better machine, those who don't know the proper strategy to use fare little better than someone who's holding a rabbit's foot and winging it.

Dear Mark: is there a way I can legally avoid receiving an IRS tax form on a slot win? I just got my first one ever here in Biloxi, Mississippi. Terry B.

Sure, Terry, tell them you were just playing for fun and you don't want the money. Sorry 'bout that, Terry. The heavy wet snow we're currently having in Michigan puts me in my comedic mood. I've got to get down your way sooner than later.

Casinos are required to report to the IRS any slot jackpot of $1,200 or more; no exceptions. Your only option would be to find a machine that has a jackpot below the threshold amount at which casinos are forced to ask for identification and issue a W2G.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: "The whole secret to gaming is to make the games liberal -- let you use two hours instead of one to lose your money." -- William "Si" Redd, from his forthcoming biography, King of the Slots

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.