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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Treasure-hunting nickel machines

13 October 2006

Dear Mark,
In pai gow poker, what is the rank of the joker when it applies to a flush? For instance, let's say my five-card hand consists of an ace, jack, seven, five and four of hearts and the joker to complete the flush. The dealer has an ace, queen, Jack, 4, and three of spades. Since the Joker can be used to complete a flush and also as an ace, wouldn't my hand beat the dealer's being that my ace, ace (joker), jack bets the dealer's ace, queen, jack? David N.

Your five-card flush hand, David, would still beat the dealer's, but you couldn't use the joker as an additional ace for your flush in hearts. You beat the dealer because the joker would be used as a king, which beats in your example the dealer's second card queen.

To complete a flush, (or straight or straight flush), the joker can substitute for any specific card not already in the hand, but not duplicate a card (e.g. two aces as above) with but one exception: an ace can be treated as a fifth-suit ace, which allows for the possibility of five aces.

Dear Mark,
I have the hardest time locating nickel machines in the casino. Is there a place where casinos typically place them? Helen M.

Unfortunately, Helen, there is no way I can tell you where your casino's slot manager places their nickel machines, since when it comes to slot mix strategy (physical placement of machines), no two casinos are doing it exactly the same.

Slot management places its machines strategically to maximize customer appeal and potential casino earnings, and one of their variables, coin denomination, can be blended into the casino floor in infinite variations.

The easiest way to locate nickel machines on the casino floor is to look at the lights on top of slot machines. Called candles, the bottom of the light is colored and that color can tell you the denomination of the machine. Typically the nickel machine candles are red, quarter machine candles are yellow, and dollar machine candles are blue.

Dear Mark,
When you come up to machine that you want to play, and you happen to find another players' club card in the machine, what am I supposed to do with the card? I gave a left behind card to a cocktail waitress walking by, and when the player came back looking for it, he was pretty perturbed that it wasn't still there. I thought I was doing him a favor, but I guess not. Debra E.

When I low-dose ginkgo biloba, I too forget to pull out my players' club card more than I would like to admit in this column.

Luckily, slot etiquette is that when a player forgets the player's card on leaving the machine, it is customary for the next patsy, I meant player, to place the other player's card on top of the machine for later retrieval. That's where I look for mine when I leave it behind.

Now if only I can only recollect which machine I was previously playing on.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: "…That is the best strategy to solve the problem. I mean, I – you – one has a stronger hand when there's more people playing your same cards." George W. Bush, WH Press Conference, October 10, 2006. (Actually, you have a stronger hand when your opponents don't play the same cards.)

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.