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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Penny investment pays off

9 February 2007

Dear Mark: I heard on the radio about a man who had just won 18 million dollars playing penny slots. Which machine pays that kind of money? Does he get all that money paid up front? Cindy G

In for $44, and out with $18,799,414 was an anonymous gentleman's reward for playing Penny Megabucks. The penny Megabucks progressive jackpot builds from a base amount of $10 million and is paid in annual installments. And how popular are they? Try getting on one.

Dear Mark: I was just curious to what happens to the cards after the "pit boss" takes the cards away from the table? I know you already answered this question on your website but my questions has a little twist to it. Let's say six of my friends are playing blackjack at a casino and every time they are dealt a 10 or higher they mark the card with "juice" that's on their finger. Eventually when the cards are re-shuffled and re-dealt the second time around everyone is aware of which cards are 10 or higher because of the imprint left on the deck. Do the casinos check for marked cards after they are taken from the table? Flyboy

What's that saying? "Give a man a marked deck; he can use it for a day. Teach a man to make his own marked cards, and he can use them for a lifetime." Here is mine: "County jail will happily swallow the ignoramus found juicing a deck of cards in a casino."

I'm very leery, Flyboy, on how far down this road I want to travel in regard to juicing a deck, especially in providing a "How-to" guide. For the curious though, here's an explanation of what our future felon is talking about.

To the untrained eye, a juiced deck looks normal, but for the knowing eye, it's as though the cards are being dealt face up, and legible from as far as 15 feet away. No special gimmicked sunglasses or contact lenses are needed, as would be required for luminous marked cards, no blacklight or satellite spy-rays, but some practice is needed to read the marks.

The juice marking system has been in use by both magicians and card cheats for many years. Do an EBay search of "juice" and "cards" and here's what you will find: Professional Marked JUICED BEE Cards - Brand New. Buy it Now: $24.95.

I've even seen one offer that states that juicing a deck is totally legal in casinos. That individual has wrongly interpreted what the courts have said. For example, the Nevada Supreme Court, as well as courts in other gambling states, has ruled that "advantage gambling" (techniques like shuffle tracking) is legal. You can use normal intelligence much as would a poker player use thoughtful observation in watching other players. BUT manipulating cards, in any shape or form, is NOT a protected form of innocent fun.

Suspicious play, Flyboy, (and that does include winning) can warrant a deck being pulled off the game and inspected. I was trained to look for bends, crimps, bumps, scratches, inks, pigments, the latest in shade technologies, etc., and I suspect most pit bosses worth their salt have been as well.

Once thoroughly inspected, the used decks have holes punched through the middle, corners cut off, or large black spots applied, so they can be sold to tourists in a casino gift shop. By thus castrating the used deck, the casino prevents its return to the tables as a newly bought, casino-provided crowbar for prying open the casino's safe.

Hey, Flyboy, I've heard from a reliable source that the clink in the county where you plan on playing serves up a mean omelet, made with real eggs, on alternate Sundays. Tempted?

Gambling Wisdom of the Week:
"They say poker is a zero-sum game. It must be, because every time I play my sum ends up zero." -Max Shapiro

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.