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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Slot machines don't have synthetic reasoning capabilities

28 January 2000


Dear Mark,
Does the slot machine know once I've won three or four small jackpots in a row to stop paying me because it has already paid me too much money? Roger B.

The machines are not programmed to say to themselves; "Oh no, I've been paying Roger way too much money. Time to stiff this loser."

Slot machines, Roger, do not operate by artificial intelligence as you suggest in your question, but are preprogrammed to pay out a certain percentage on a random basis with all kinds of streaks-good and bad-appearing. All symbols are selected by a random number generator (RNG) and this small internal chip knows nothing about cycles. What the programming does tell the casino operators is that after millions and millions of decisions, "X" amount of money will be earned by the casino and lost by the players. But no one, Bob, not even the machine, knows what the actual "sequence" of wins and losses will be.

Dear Mark,
Is it true that in Canadian casinos there is no tax taken from jackpots? Randal H.

True, Randal, all winnings are passed on to the player. But, American players like you who play at Casino Niagara and win more than $10,000 are required to report it at the border.

Dear Mark,
Recently a dealer flipped over a blackjack and yelled out "red snapper." Is that some sort of insider lingo? I've never heard it before. Noreen R.

A snapper is an archaic term for blackjack. A red snapper is a blackjack composed of two red cards.

Dear Mark,
Is it true that baccarat is a very erratic, risky game and the casinos bottom line can be in jeopardy by a high roller? John Z.

If ever, John, there were a scenario where a casino owner would climb to the top of his casino and leap, it would be when a whale-a heavy hitter who has just as much money as the casino-sits down on a baccarat game and begins kicking rear end.

For the bigger joints in Las Vegas, baccarat represents a large percentage of their annual win. But baccarat can be extremely volatile, both in volume and in the casino's hold percentage.

What's interesting is that only a small number of high rollers contribute to the total baccarat revenue. It is estimated that the very highest of high rollers (those with credit limits of more than $1 million and the potential for $1 billion annually in casino play) number no more than 200 planetwide. So why do they play baccarat? Because of the game's intensity-40 to 60 hands an hour-and its favorable odds-under 1.25% for the house. I've seen single bets on a baccarat game at $100,000 a whack. Hoo ahh! Multiply that by 50 hands per hour and you have $5,000,000 in play that could possibly swing against the house. Too bad, so sad, the megabucks sheik from Saudi Arabia is glad.

Given the above factors, baccarat's high betting limits and favorable odds to the player, yes, John, it is a very risky and unpredictable game for the casino.

Dear Mark,
While playing blackjack, if the dealer miscounts the player's total and starts to pay off on a losing hand, is the player expected to correct the dealer? Lane B.

The short answer is no. You do not have to inform the dealer that he has made a payoff mistake. When I pitched cards, players never informed me that I had made an error (of course I'm exaggerating just a little bit, but that's how I remember it!).

Nevertheless, Lane, virtue, honesty, even altering your karma comes into play. Only you can decide where your integrity lies.

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.