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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Playing nickel machines with small stakes

31 March 2000

Dear Mark,
I hate to ask this question because so many people consider keno machines to be losers. However, I do not do all that bad playing keno. Although I play table blackjack and slot machines (very selective), I still love video keno. I can sit at a nickel keno machine through an afternoon and evening. I pocket my winnings and continue to play with my original bankroll. Knowing your interests and that readers probably concentrate on table games, what are your thoughts on 5¢ keno? Vicki C.

Understand, Vicki, that nickel slots are a tough beat because of their high casino hold. Consequently, they profit the house more than higher denomination machines. Table games and selected casino wagers, played intelligently, offer the greatest hope for the player whose sole purpose is walking out of the casino with the casino's loot.

But I give credence to the "entertainment factor" of gambling, especially with games (nickel machines) that are enjoyable to play on a modest bankroll (under $20). I have never been one to be critical of any player who limits his or her gambling to nickel machines. By playing solely nickels, you are in total control of your bankroll, plus you can enjoy casino gambling while limiting your cash outlay.

Also, Vicki, given a choice, it is better to play video keno versus regular keno. Besides being inexpensive to play at 5¢ a pop, video keno does not give as large an edge to casinos.

Dear Mark,
When I applied for my slot club card at a casino, the slot host told me that all points were based on "coin-in" machines. What was she talking about? Karen K.

When you insert your slot club card into a slot machine, the magnetic strip enables the casino to know exactly how much money you are actually betting. "Coin-in" machines count the total amount of your coins inserted, then fund your slot club card with comp points without distinguishing between remaining credits played or coins inserted.

Dear Mark,
I loved to play this one particular machine at my favorite casino in Reno. The best way I can describe it is that it has a frog on the front of it. I called it my "little froggie." On my last trip the machine was no longer there. When I inquired what happened to the machine, I was told by someone in the slot department that the machine was not performing up to expectations. What did he mean? Beverly K.

From the casino's point of view, your beloved froggie didn't hop, skip or jump all the way to the bank.
All machines, Beverly, need to show reasonable results, or their replacement is inevitable. A gaming machine's performance is measured by two factors: the amount of coins wagered daily ("coin in") and the amount collected daily by the casino ("win"). If a machine's performance falters ever so slightly, a slot manager could decide a change is needed in the slot mix, meaning the placement and positioning of machines on the casino floor.

Dear Mark,
Next month I'm going to London, England. I've planned a few hours of relaxation and would like to try my luck at the slot machines in their casinos. Any recommendations? Calvin R.

Realize, Calvin, that by being a punter across the pond you will need a special membership to enter London casinos. The waiting period for a membership is 24 hours. Another shortcoming is that all casinos in London are limited by law to just six slot machines. Plan on waiting, and waiting and waiting, to lose your money.

Furthermore, Calvin, your slot strategy shouldn't blueprint breaking the bank. The maximum jackpot is limited to 300 pounds sterling, or $450.

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.