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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Opulence has its place and price

7 September 2007

Dear Mark: I am interested in how, or if, the casino's carpets guide visitors through the space, whether it aims to work sort of like Muzak, keeping their attention focused on the gambling options rather than on the floor; and, of course, if you think it's a successful move for casinos. Alex P.

Crassly bizarre casino carpets are one of the many methods the casino employs to get their patrons to spend hours in their gaudily garnished joint, losing their hard-earned money – and just loving it.

So why are they ostentatiously designed? Primarily so that your eyes do not linger on them, and succumb, instead, to that "come-hither look" where the slot machines and table games are. (P.S. to this notion: I'm pretty sure it doesn't work in lifting the heads of bummed out losers.)

Others believe that the busy patterns and bright colors work subliminally to make gamblers more aggressive, which leads to taking more risks.

Added benefits are that patterned carpets need to be changed less often, they hide stains well, and busy patterns break up the long expanses of emptiness when the casino lacks player activity.

And let's not forget that the casino purposely makes it difficult for you to find your chips if you happen to drop some. OK, I'm kidding on this point, but whether a sublime work of tasteless art that you walk on somehow encourages people to gamble more, yeah, maybe, but I'm still from the camp that says the best pro-gambling strategy for extorting someone's hard-earned cash is chip remover, aka "free booze." Then again, there has to be a reason why some of the most successful business enterprises in the world actually buy these tread-on tapestries.

Oh, and that word you used in your question, Muzak, it was coined in 1922 by Gen. George Squier, who trademarked the word to mean a system of recorded background music for workplaces. As with carpets, casino operators use it very effectively.

Dear Mark: One evening, after I tapped out with the remainder of my bankroll playing slots, I had eight hours to kill before catching a cab to the airport. I sat in a keno lounge and proceeded to write down all the numbers on the keno board. On the plane ride home I inserted all the numbers in an Excel spreadsheet and started seeing a pattern of the same 15-20 numbers. Being that the 15-spot pays such a large amount, what are your thoughts on my next trip of taking my entire bankroll and wagering it all on 15-spot tickets after I follow patterns for a few hours? Clay F.

I'll be the first to say that even keno --yep, I am full of contradictions and misconceptions-- with its impregnable casino advantage, has a certain "entertainment factor." Any game that is enjoyable to play on a modest bankroll where you set loss limits (under $10), and modest win goals (free drinks), is OK by me. I will be the last to be critical of any player whose strategy limits his or her gambling to under 10 bucks, maintains total bankroll control, and enjoys the R&R aspect of casino gambling.

But for you to expose your war chest of hard-won treasure to a game that has the highest casino odds working against you, well -- I best inform you of what my spreadsheet foretells. If you were to play six tickets an hour, 24/7, it would take 8,143,074 years before you hit that 15-spot; all of which, by the way, works out to one in 428 billion that Clay never gets anything more than befuddled with drink, unless of course you stiff the cocktail waitress, and then you'll get diddly squat.

I could go on regarding the 15-spot ticket, but I'll abbreviate a long-winded rant by quoting Clubber Lang from Rocky III: "I predict PAIN."

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: "People always call it luck when you've acted more sensibly than they have." -- Anne Tyler, Celestial Navigation

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.