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Smile through the pain, that confuses them

3 August 2012

By Mark Pilarski

Dear Mark: When losing, should you move to an adjoining machine figuring if my machine is cold, the one next to me might not be? Larry M.

Moving, Larry, doesn't necessarily mean you will win elsewhere. Every spin, on every machine, is random. Besides, the machine’s programming for its payback, and reel layout, is the usually identical on a neighboring machine, so you pretty much have the same chances of winning or losing, jumping from one machine to another.

Within any casino slot mix, most machines of a matching denomination and style tend to be close in terms of long-term payback. For example, side-by-side IGT Hell's Bells will have a similar return. Your odds will remain the same on every spin regardless of what has happened in the past on machine A or its neighbor.

In searching for slots that have better long-term paybacks, you need to buck up to higher denomination machines, or slots, which cater to locals, not those that satisfy the appetite of tourists.

Dear Mark: I really enjoy and look forward to your weekly Detroit Free Press column. However, in the July 26 column, I feel you missed one very important rule, which is to never play in a game that pays 6 to 5 on a blackjack. Always look for a game that pays 3 to 2. Lately, during my trips to Vegas, I have noticed that there are more games that pay 6 to 5, especially where they are dealing one or two decks. Jim T.

Correct you are, Jim, albeit frequently I have written on shunning such a game, but I should have added that obligatory warning.

As a refresher, if blackjacks pay only 6-5 instead of the common 3-2, avoid the game. The cost to the player on a 6 to 5 blackjack game is just far too prohibitive. The casino advantage on said game comes in at 1.4 percent, which is more than the entire house edge against a basic strategy player.

Unfortunately, the 6-5 blackjack game is becoming a common sight, especially with single and double-deck games. Now I am seeing 6-5 payoffs on six-deckers, even on Continuous Shuffling Machine games. Deal Me In readers should pledge to avoid 6-5-blackjack games. Make your voices heard.

Dear Mark: Does it really matter how cards are shuffled between the different machines? Bob R.

I assume, Bob, you are referring to a casino using a Continuous Shuffling Machine. Well, Bob, even though the built-in edge the casino holds doesn’t change on a CMS, the game is played at a much faster pace -- more hands dealt per hour -- so you plan on losing more loot.

A CSM randomly shuffles the discards after every round that's played, which makes for a faster game, as much as 25% more hands per hour. That speed increase also chomps at your bankroll at a Pac Man pace.

As for non-continuous automatic shufflers, they too will cause the average player to lose more – again, simply because more hands are dealt per hour.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: "There is but one good throw upon the dice, which is, to throw them away." —Author Unknown
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.