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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Some do's and don'ts before your trip to Vegas

10 September 1999

Dear Mark,
Next month I am flying to Las Vegas for the first time. Not only is it my first trip to Nevada but also my first visit to a casino. Any do's and don'ts you could recommend before I go? Mary S.

Here are some do's and don'ts, Mary, that everyone should know before they make their first flight to the mothership, Las Vegas. Learn them, live by them, and your casino experience can be very rewarding.

First, do decide ahead of time which games you are going to play and for what stakes.

Do plan other activities like shows, shopping, sightseeing, the health club or golf. Make it an enjoyable, entertaining trip, not all gambling .

Do comparison shop for the best buys on meals and accommodations.

Also, do comparison shop for bargains on the best rules and playing conditions for the particular games you're going to be playing.

Do monitor the status of your bankroll. At all times you should know where you are financially.

Do count your blessings. If you break even your first time gambling, that's a win in anybody's book.

Do check the many Las Vegas gambling guides found at newspaper stands for the best values and deals.

Finally, do keep up to date on both rule changes and different variations of your favorite game because casinos can, and will, change the rules all the time. The winning player is always the informed player.
On the flip side, Mary, honoring these don'ts should put you in a position of gambling without tears.

Don't bet over your head but only with what you can afford to lose.

Don't play with scared money.

Don't borrow money from friends to finance your gambling or try to recoup your losses.

Don't press your bets if you're on a losing streak.

Don't be superstitious. Knowledge is the key, not luck. Like I've said many times in this column: "The smarter you play, the luckier you'll be."

Don't waste your time on games or wagers where the casino has a house advantage of more than 2%.

Don't play any game or make any bet you know little about. Learn it first.

Don't drink excessively and gamble at the same time. Sip for pleasure, don't gulp for effect.

Don't be afraid to ask questions. Who's money is it? YOURS.

Don't be greedy. Be satisfied with a small win.

The above suggestions, Mary, should make your pilgrimage to the Mecca of gambling all that more enjoyable.

Dear Mark,
Do you, as an informed video poker player, ever ignore the strict rules of basic strategy? Jenny S.

The correct answer should be, NO, not me, NEVER. Basic strategy charts are derived not from some slick huckster selling his latest beat-the-casino system but by mathematicians and countless computer studies.
But, Jenny, I'll come clean here. There is one hand in which I completely disregard the correct betting approach. When dealt a high pair along with three cards to the royal, I say, the hell with basic strategy.
The research conducted by high-priced computer scientists tells you to keep the high pair. I go for the royal flush every time. The additional strength (expected value) of a high pair hand versus three cards to a royal is so negligible, I always jump on the chance, as remote as it might be, of hitting the elusive royal flush.

Dear Mark,
Who controls the payback of a slot machine, the slot manufacturer
or the casino? Jim K.

Today's slot machines contain a random number generator (RNG) that controls the payback percentage of each machine. When a casino purchases a slot machine it tells the manufacturer what percentage it wants that particular machine to return to its customers. That amount is pre-programmed into the RNG at the plant. A casino can always change the payback percentage, but it must go back to the manufacturer and have them reprogram the RNG.

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.