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Best of Mark Pilarski

Gaming Guru

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Finder's keepers, losers weepers?

26 November 2002

Dear Mark,
You always say check your machine for credits before you leave. Is it true that if I went to play a machine and there were credits left on it by someone I could get in trouble with the casino? Beri W.

Called "seagulling" in gambling lingo, it is illegal to specifically circle the casino looking for credits on a slot machine. Not even change on the floor. I've seen player impostors given the heave-ho (the dreadful permanent 86) for making a full-time occupation of floating the casino looking for easy pickings. Fortunately I have never heard of an unsuspecting patron walking up to a machine with credits, playing them, and being shown the door.

Nevertheless, Beri, before you walk away from any slot machine, don't forget to press the cash-out button. Millions are lost each year by gamblers forgetting their stored credits (winnings).

Dear Mark,
I don't quite understand what is meant by a pay cycle on a slot machine. Does it mean that over one pay cycle, every possible combination on the reel will appear? Melvin V.

Not quite, Melvin. The term "pay cycle" is a theoretic expression used to describe the number of plays required for the machine to display all the possible winning and non-winning combinations. But, because each and every spin is a random event, a machine won't hit all the possible combinations through any one specific cycle.

Dear Mark,
Recently I got my first royal flush. That was the good news. The bad news is I only had two coins in it when it hit. Would I have still gotten a royal flush had I inserted the maximum amount of coins? Jennifer G.

No, but not for the reason you're probably thinking. Many, many players believe that video poker machines are programmed to avoid a royal flush because the maximum amount of coins was inserted. As stated many times in this column, machines do not operate with artificial intelligence programmed to hit royals when you have less than the maximum amount of coins in the machine.

The reason you would have received a different hand, Jennifer, is because in the short amount of time it would have taken to insert the additional coins you didn't play, the machine's random number generator (RNG) would have cycled to another outcome. A video poker machines RNG will typically continue to crunch those 1s and 0s until you hit the deal button. As many as a million hands per minute. So unless you pushed the deal button at the correct millisecond, Jennifer, no, the proverbial royal flush with five coins inserted would not have appeared.

Dear Mark,
Why has the term "odds" been so closely associated with gambling? Terry K.


The laws of probability, Terry, on which odds are based, are as highly respected a branch of mathematics as geometry, trigonometry or differential calculus. Odds are used in business, science, military planning, mortality rates and virtually all human endeavors-including gambling.

Most gamblers don't realize it, but every time they enter a casino the odds are 2 to 1 against them no matter which game they play. First, you go to war with the casino, which has an edge on each and every bet, and second, we all must do battle with the ultimate demon — ourselves.

There is your 2 to 1 against.

Dear Mark,
With all the different types of video poker machines to select from, how's a customer to choose which machine to play? Gerry B.

There are more than a hundred different video poker machines to choose from. Games like Joker Poker, Louisiana Jacks, Gator Poker, etc., offer you a supermarket selection, but all have different pay tables needing distinct playing strategies.

I recommend learning and limiting your play to two, like my favorites, Deuces Wild and Jacks or Better.

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.