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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Orwellian video poker

5 April 2004

Dear Mark, Here is the scenario: I am in a Strip casino, losing some money at video poker. I have pure tunnel vision looking at the machine. A fight broke out at a table behind me. Security was there in a flash, broke it up and separated everybody. They then asked everybody in the area what they saw. I told them I saw 4 out of 5 cards for a flush on the machine in front of me and that was about it. I thought it ended there.

Now, I'm back home and I get a call from the casino asking if they could send me a copy of my statement, and if I would sign and notarize it (at their expense), then FedEx it back to them. I say, "sure, no sweat." They told me it's for the insurance company and if I had a problem with it, talk to a lawyer. So, I spoke to one, who told me it was no big deal and it was somebody probably threatening to sue, if they have not already.

Here is the scary question. How did they find me? At no time did I give them my telephone number (it's unlisted), nor did I give them my home address. Just my first name. Can they go back and see whose slot club card was in what machine at what time? Is big brother watching? Mitch

Two things probably happened, Mitch, for you to get that call: First, some security guard wrote up a detailed report that probably stated that some dude named Mitch, was playing video poker on machine N-4536 directly across from blackjack table T-17. It would have ended there had you not been using a slot club card.

Most casinos have some form of computerized tracking system that records your detailed playing history. With the insertion of your slot club card, onboard software knows your name, address, interests, denomination of play, when you play your favorite machines, how much you have invested, your winnings at any given hour, and even if you like pizza with anchovies.

Tell a slot host any relevant information about yourself, and it's fair game for the casino's computer database.

On the plus side, your information helps them with direct-mail campaigns informing you of promotions, upcoming slot tournaments, parties, reduced room rates, casino events and most importantly, comps. Of course, there is always the possibility you might be a material witness to a jury trial. If so, don't forget to ask Big Brother for a RFB (room, food and beverage) comp.

Shades of 1984? No doubt, but player gratuities far outweigh the casino's knowing that your portly frame probably doesn't need the pizza. "Ah, hi Mitch. Last time you were in, you told slot hostess Suzie you were on the Atkin's diet and to remind you if you started making moon eyes at the carb-laden buffet."

Dear Mark, Once a hand is dead, or cards mucked, are players ever allowed seeing what the next card would have been? Max B.

In gamblingo nomenclature, playing woulda, coulda poker is called rabbit hunting, where you ask to see the next card after you mucked your hand, or look through the discards to see what cards have been dealt. You seldom, if ever, see this done in a professional card game, but at home on the kitchen table, it is common practice.

Dear Mark, In your column in the Reno Gazette Journal, you mentioned your laminated blackjack strategy card. How can I go about getting one? Don S.

Those interested in dropping the casino edge to less than 1%, send one dollar and a self-addressed stamped envelope to: Winners Publishing, ATTN: Blackjack Strategy Card, PO Box 1234, Traverse City, MI 49685.

Gambling quote of the week: "Gamblers, with but few exceptions, are the most honest men in the world." Nick "the Greek" Dandalos, Nick the Greek: King of Gamblers (1969)

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.