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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Just say NO to keno

4 June 1999

Dear Mark:
Though I'm not a keno player, my favorite casino offers a Special Bonus Keno ticket. All I have to do is hit 19 out of 20, and I win $250,000. Is this ticket worth a try? Marti S.


The nerve of your favorite casino calling it a "Special Bonus" ticket. Let me illustrate how appalling this ticket is. Let's say you were to play one keno ticket per second, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. According to laws of probability you will catch 19 out of 20 once every 93,420,116 years. What are the odds of hitting it? Two quadrillion, 946 trillion, 096 billion, 780 million to one.

Unfortunately, Marti, this isn't the only ruthless ticket in keno. The chances of hitting 10 of 10-and mind you they will only pay you $50,000-is nine times harder than hitting your state lottery. Then the casino has the audacity to pay you what is called an "aggregate payoff," meaning if both you and someone else are playing the same numbers and it hits solid, you split the money.

Or how about this popular ticket here in Nevada-the 15 spot. Chances of your hitting it? 428 billion to one. Tall odds, but consider that no person has ever hit a solid 15 spot, a solid 14 spot, a solid 13 and to the best of my knowledge, a 12 out of 12. As you can see, Marti, these long-shot tickets-or keno in general for that matter-are a game designed for the Tootsie-Pop crowd; known by the casinos as "a sucker's born every minute" club.

Dear Mark:
My husband claims that certain casinos use different weighted dollar coins for their slots in order to make it sound as if people are winning in the casino. Is he right? Sally L.

Your husband is on to the casinos. It's not heavier coins, though, but the tray where the coins fall. Casino operators have long understood the value of "the sounds of winning," so what some do is install "loud drop bowls," which are the metal trays that catch the slugs when your slot is paying off. These deeper pans tend to make more noise when the coins drop, creating the misimpression that people are winning big. Unfortunately, that sense of luck is really nothing more than an illusion the casino hopes will stir interest in playing their machines.

Dear Mark,
How Did the strip get its name? Suzanne S.

One day I was walking down the strip in Las Vegas recently and overheard a couple vehemently arguing over how "The Strip" got it's name. The husband said; "Bugsy Siegel named it when he built the Flamingo-and I should know, I played there the second week it was open." The wife believed it was Liberace who named the Strip.

The dialog was hideous and I would have butted in, but like I said, they were arguing, actually screaming at a level that brought security out of Caesar's Palace. Now, I've seen some skirmishes over positioning in a $3.49 prime rib buffet line, but over how the Strip was named? It's a first.

So, Suzanne, here's how "The Strip" got it's name.

Known also as Las Vegas Boulevard and earlier the Los Angeles Highway, The Strip's name came from a Los Angeles Police Captain named Guy McAfee, who said it reminded him of Sunset Boulevard (Strip) in LA. The story doesn't end there with Captain McAffe. He was a Las Vegas casino owner as well. McAfee purchased the Pair-O-Dice on the Los Angeles Highway in 1938 and reopened it as the 91 Club.
Liberace's early fame came from being the first to demand, and get, $50,000 a week to perform in Vegas.

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.