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Best of Mark Pilarski

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"Stingy" slots, "tight" videos, and that ever-trusty pass line

29 December 2006

Dear Mark: Are not slot machines programmed to pay off a particular percentage of money bet, and then after a jackpot has been hit the machine will tighten up and not pay out a jackpot until one has not been hit for a long time? Rachael S.

Part of your question gets a yes, Rachael, in that a slot machine is programmed to pay off a particular percentage. However, a jackpot is equally as likely to be hit on any given spin, regardless of the length of time played or past results. We can't amend the laws of probability, which dictate that the longer the machine is played, the closer it will come to its target payoff. But every spin is completely random.

Dear Mark: Someone recently sent you a question, which referred to "tight" video poker machines. Do the casinos program a video poker machine in a way that limits good hands? I was under the impression that video poker was the same as playing five-card draw with a deck of cards, with the deck being continually shuffled. I understood that the casinos made their money mainly by improper play and tighter pay schedules. Am I correct in my assumptions? Daniel N.

You are dead on, Daniel. It is poor play by patrons and ignored pay tables that return far less than true odds that allow the casino operators to sleep easy. Insomnia can occur when players play correctly and seek out the best pay schedules available.

Dear Mark: If, as you claim, the don't pass is a slightly better bet than the pass line, how come so few people bet on it? Calvin S.

There are a couple of reasons, Calvin, probably the biggest being that most players don't even know that the don't pass wager is a slightly better bet. Also, those who place their wagers on the pass line do so because they enjoy the camaraderie of rooting for the shooter to make his or her point, and not for the house winning when the seven appears.

It is certainly more fun to go with the crowd than against it, and for what? — the minuscule difference of a 1.40% casino advantage on the don't pass versus 1.41% on the pass line bet.

Dear Mark: After the point was established, I made (by mistake) a second pass line bet. The seven rolled before the point and I lost both wagers. Is this fair, even if the dealer realized what I was doing? A.A.

The dealer isn't employed by the casino to mentor player competence.

What you did is legal, that is, making a pass line bet at any time. Obviously, you now realize that you should never make a pass line bet or add to it after a point is established, since once a point is thrown the odds of winning drop significantly depending on that point.

The dealer would have slapped your wrist had you reached in and tried to snag your second pass line bet because once a point has been established, that wager is considered a contract wager, and must stay in place, win or lose.

Contrarily, on the don't side, you can, but you should never remove a don't pass bet after a point is made since there are more ways for a seven to appear than for any point number. This is why you cannot add to a don't pass bet after an established point, because it would favor the player.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: "I think, I think, that the whole magic power of gambling lies in its essential purity from endeavor, in its absence of guilt." -- Mario Puzo

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.