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Best of Mark Pilarski

Gaming Guru

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Your ticket to three squares a day

27 August 1999

Dear Mark,
I know the following question I'm about to ask is illegal, but I'm still interested.
A small factory close to my home discards a circular coin-like metal that is exactly the same size and weight as the silver dollar coins used in a casino. If I were caught inserting the coins into a machine, what would happen? Anonymous

This ditty written by Ian Lewis best illustrates what will befall the ignorant found inserting slugs into a casino slot machine.

"Bad boys, bad boys, whatcha gonna do, whatcha gonna do when they come for you?"
The TV show "COPS" is filmed on location in the city of Las Vegas.

Dear Mark,
Why don't nickel machines return the same percentages as quarter machines? Sara R.

The main reason nickel machines have poorer payouts than quarters, and why quarters less than dollars is because the cost to maintain any machine-slot personnel, floor space, maintenance, etc.,-is exactly the same. Each slot has to yield a targeted number of dollars for the casino, so a larger percentage must be kept from the lower denomination machines to meet those goals.

Dear Mark,
Even when playing perfect basic strategy at blackjack where the house edge is nil, I still occasionally go home losing. Explanation please. Sheldon M.

Enter Pilarski's rule number seven of gaming: "The odds are even money that the light at the end of the tunnel is the headlight of an oncoming train."

It is called gambling, Sheldon.

Dear Mark,
Because you mentioned that slots operate using the same computer chip as a video poker machine, why not stick with slots as they are easier to play? Larry L.

True, Larry, the first part of your question is correct in that most of today's video games (video poker, video blackjack and video keno) are derivatives of slot machines and actually use the same microprocessor technology and random number sequences, but, video poker, blackjack and keno machines provide players with real options and choices that require an element of skill that regular slot machines don't. With this skill, you can hack away at the high house advantage that the average slot machine holds over you.

Dear Mark,
Why is it that you recommend learning and playing more than one type of game in a casino? Robert B.

By diversifying your playing portfolio and learning different games, when you do have a run of bad luck in blackjack, you can always try craps or video poker.

Dear Mark,
What exactly is the house edge? Lefty O.

The house edge is a mathematical percentage-always in the casino's favor-that the casino takes on each bet. This edge is the casino's true income and why they can build those high rises. For the house to pay for those construction costs, winning bets are paid off at less than true odds.

Lefty, consider it a payment for playing in their establishment, or, an entertainment tax.

Dear Mark,
A dealer once told me that the only way to "soar like an eagle" when playing baccarat is to bet ties after they appear. He claimed they always repeat in streaks. Was he correct? Bobby K.

Eagles may soar, but in this case it's better to gamble like a chicken because they don't get sucked into jet engines. By betting only on the bank or player hands, Bobby, you will avoid being recycled at Foster Farms. That dealer-induced tie bets hold a house advantage of 14.1%.

As for streaks, Bobby, the remaining cards in the shoe have no memory, hence, previous results have no bearing on what happens in the future.

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.