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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Gambler's Ruin

22 January 1999

Dear Mark,
Casino Windsor has high table minimums and low table maximums. Is this a player advantage? Danny B.


Quite the contrary, Danny. It's a huge advantage for the casino, and here's why. Casinos win for two reasons. First, a statistical edge (percentage advantage) on each and every game, and second, they have a whole lot more cash and staying power than you do. For the latter, it's a simple concept called "gambler's ruin." In essence, it's how long will it take you-with your limited bankroll-to lose everything to a casino, which has a relatively infinite wad of cash. So even if you do have a short-term winning streak, Danny, when the house has this infinite stake, they can, and will, always outlast you.

Now to your situation playing the high minimums/low maximums limits. When you have a casino with a competition-free monopoly, you tend to find table limits that, in my humble opinion, border on larceny. This scenario eliminates low-stakes betting (high minimums); plus, the ability to parlay your winnings by increasing your bets (low maximums) is removed. Unfortunately, when you play under these conditions, depletion of a low roller's bankroll in a matter of minutes is not uncommon.

So the long and short of it is this, Danny. Avoid playing high minimums/low maximums table limits like the plague!

Dear Mark,
If I were to hit $1 million on a progressive quarter slot machine, will they pay me all at once? Dave G.

Forget borrowing Uncle Fred's three-quarter-ton pickup truck to haul off 42,000 pounds of quarters. Look at the machine closely, Dave. A sign placed inconspicuously on the machine will read something like "Progressive Jackpot paid in 25 equal installments. First installment paid upon validation of win."
One exception is a statewide progressive machine in Nevada, and other locations, called "Cool Millions." Bet 3 bucks, line up 3 ducks, and you win "the first million" instantly. Now if you get your ducks in line, Dave, make them pay you in $100 bills. They will weigh only twenty and a half pounds.

Dear Mark,
How come I always lose when I'm drinking with my buddies vs. sober and winning by myself? Bradley S.

Casinos are fundamentally democratic institutions where all are welcome, united in the brotherhood (and sisterhood) of losing. Free drinks (chip remover) which have always been part of the casino ambience, speed up the process. Then there's Brad, gambling with friends, raised testosterone, elevated male bravado and sipping hooch, not for pleasure but gulping for effect. What do you expect, Bradley? I'll tell you: the demise of a normally sensible gambler!

All bets are off on the quality of your play, Brad, when influenced by any intoxicating beverage.

Dear Mark,
I witnessed something amusing recently in a casino, someone sprinkling salt all over a slot machine. Did she really think this would bring her luck? Edith C.

By sprinkling salt, this superstitious gambler was trying to make the machine pay off by using salt's association with money. It comes from ancient times when workers were paid with salt, called "salarium." We know that word today as salary.

Now my own personal feelings about (a) luck and (b) superstition. When it comes to the goddess "Lady Luck," I'm an atheist. Smart wagers bring luck! I have a saying, Edith, if you will: "The smarter you play, the luckier you'll be." Salt to me has more value disguising my own cooking, not showering a machine with it.

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.