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Best of Mark Pilarski

Gaming Guru

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Treat casino chips as hard earned cash

13 August 1999

Dear Mark,
Why is it that when I bet real cash instead of swapping for chips, I'm frowned on by the casino? Gerry G.

A casino goal, Gerry, is to create a fantasyland experience for its patrons. One wily way is to devalue your money by having you bet chips instead of legal tender. Think of the deceptive nicknames chips have. A $5 chip is a "nickel" and a $25 chip a "quarter." Your best self-defense is to continue to bet with your own greenback. This way you'll always realize its genuine value.

If you do turn your bankroll into chips, take a moment and carefully think about the exchange. You must always treat chips as hard-earned cash-like the money you save for your child's college tuition, mortgage payments or your retirement.

Dear Mark,
In many of your answers you reference 9/6 video poker machines. How do you know if a machine has a 9/6 payback? I hoped I asked that correctly? Sandie M.

In earlier columns, Sandie, the message was perfect but the messenger wasn't. Ding-dong me, I sometimes forget my reading audience hasn't been in the gaming business for 18 years. Sorry.
A 9/6 payback is your return for a full house (9) and a flush (6) with one coin inserted. Your typical 9/6 Jacks-or-Better paytable will look like this:

Royal Flush 250
Straight Flush 50
Four of a Kind 25
Full House 9
Flush 6
Straight 4
Three of a Kind 3
Two Pair 2
Jacks or Better 1

And how does the casino tighten a Jacks-or-better video poker machine? Simply by paying out less for a full house and flush. This is why on a Jacks-or-better machine I ceaselessly recommend shopping for value by finding the highest payout possible for a full house and a flush.

Dear Mark,
Almost every weekend I visit the casinos in Joliet. My brother-in-law believes they tighten the slot machines on weekends because the crowds are much larger. How do I know for sure that a casino won't change the return on their machines. Dirk C.

Fear not, Dirk. Illinois, having rigid gaming regulations, requires two keys just to open a slot machine. One is held by a casino employee, the other by a state gaming regulator. This prevents changes in a machine's payout rate.

Dear Mark,
After reading a recent column of yours, I've realized that I've been making the worst possible bet on the roulette table. Furthermore, you also educated me on looking for a single zero roulette wheel on my next trip to Las Vegas. But how much was I giving away to the casino on the five number bet before you helped me see the light? Wrongdoer

Dear Wrongdoer (Lessons Learned would be a nicer name): The five number bet you were placing, 0/00/1/2/3 pays 7 for 1, with a return of .9211 on the dollar, or a house edge of 7.89%. Glad I could help you see the light.

Dear Mark,
What is the value of doubling down on a blackjack game? Am I not exposing additional money which I could lose to the casino? Ross S.

Sorry, Ross, I'm a huge fan of doubling down. Here's an opportunity where you now know what the dealer's up-card is, and the casino is allowing you to bet more money.

In blackjack, Ross, it's the natural blackjacks, splitting pairs and the ability to double down that bring your bankroll from red to black. If you're playing perfect strategy, not winging it, doubling down becomes the offensive strategy you use when the chances of winning the hand are better than the dealer's. Why? Because betting more when the casino is at a distinct disadvantage will increase your potential return more than if you were to just hit your hand.

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.