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Deal Me In


Plan on a long dry spell between top-line jackpots

Dear Mark: Can you explain to me why I no longer get anywhere near the number of top slot jackpots that I once got in the past? Sandra R.


By past, Sandra, I am assuming that your slot play consisted of the “old style” reel machines. Those machines had physical limitations as to the number of reels and stops per reel, which created a limited number of possible outcomes. That total number, often referred to as a slot cycle, can be in the tens of thousands on a three-reel machine. Today’s multi-line slot machines have no physical limitations, creating slot cycles in the tens of millions.

So, Sandra, what this means is that when playing multi-line games, there is less volatility, which equates to additional smaller jackpots, but the chances of hitting a top-line jackpot are greatly decreased.


Dear Mark: On the video poker game Triple Bonus Plus, four aces, when 5 dollars are played, is worth $1,200. Since this is the threshold for IRS purposes, wouldn't it make much more sense to reduce it by a dollar and make it $1,199? The people I have talked to about this stand in agreement with me. The game would have fewer delays, and gamblers would have fewer W-2G statements each year. Bobby F.


I stand with you, Bobby. The $1,200 threshold needs to be adjusted, considerably upwards.

For decades now, it sits pat at $1,200. Dollar players usually have that much invested in a slot machine before they hit anything sizable, and then they have to pay taxes on top of that, which ends up creating a loss on those four Aces you mentioned.

Yes, making those jackpot wins at $1,199 would stop those mandatory W-2G tax forms required by IRS regulations. Better yet, Bobby, based on the value of today’s dollar versus yesteryear, $5,000 - $10,000 would be a more applicable figure to initiate IRS paperwork. Will the IRS make my suggested change to alleviate work for the casino and give the grinding player a break? Don’t bet on it!

As for you stating “gamblers having fewer W2-G’s,” unfortunately, this does not mean they are off the hook from paying taxes on a $1,199 win. Taxes are due on all wins regardless of whether you are issued a W2-G or not. The set point of $1,200 only ensures that at least some gamblers are forced to declare some of their winnings.

Mentioning the difference between tax avoidance and tax evasion might be appropriate here. Tax avoidance is the legal use of tax laws to reduce one's tax burden. In the eyes of the IRS, failure to report a $1,199 jackpot is escaping payment by illegal means, or better stated, tax evasion. Just sayin’.

Your tax liability is between you and the IRS. This columnist is not going to offer up a cavalier, “oh, fuggedaboutit; you won’t get caught” recommendation. Instead, Bobby, I suggest you should keep an accurate diary of your gambling winnings and losses for income tax reporting purposes.

Revenue Procedures 77-29 require that the taxpayer maintain an accurate diary that supports evidence of both wins and losses. Make sure your diary includes the type of gambling activity, location, and a statement of the amount won and lost. As well, Bobby, with slot machine play, be sure to keep the time, date, and a slot machine number.


Gambling Wisdom of the Week: “At gambling, the deadly sin is to mistake bad play for bad luck.” – Ian Fleming Casino Royale (1953)


Is Chuck-a-luck worth chucking?

Dear Mark: I have some recollection of a casino table game that featured a metal cage in the shape of an hourglass that contained three large dice. The dealer would invert the cage causing the dice to tumble and come to rest, revealing the winning combination. The game had some resemblance to 3-card poker with payoffs based on the outcome. Do you know of this game, where it is played, and who was this CHUCK guy anyway? Leigh H.


Chuck-a-luck, also known as Birdcage, originates from an old western cowboy game called Sweat Cloth. In British pubs, Chuck-a-luck is dubbed Crown and Anchor as the six sides of the dice are decorated with diamonds, hearts, clubs, spades, a crown and an anchor.

Chuck-a-luck is a simple dice game in which the player has various wagering opportunities on the outcome of the roll of three dice. The game’s gambling apparatus consists of three over-sized dice in an hourglass-shaped cage known as the birdcage and a table layout with several betting options.

After the bets are placed, the birdcage is flipped several times by the dealer with the result displayed once the cage stops moving and the dice drop and rest.

Wagers are paid based on the possible combinations that appear on the three dice. Those bets include:

Numbers Bet: Here you bet on any single number (1-6) and are paid according to the number of dice that land on your chosen number. If you bet on number "6" and one die shows a 6, you are paid even money (1 to 1). If two dice come up with a "6", you are paid 2 to 1. If all three dice appear  "6," you are paid 3 to 1, although on some layouts it can be significantly higher.


Field Bet: The “field wager” is a bet that the sum of the values on the three dice comes to 3 through 7 or 13 through 18. This bet pays even money (1 to 1). If the dice total is 8 through 12, you lose.

High Bet (Over 10): A bet on "high" is a wager that the sum of the three dice will be over 10. A High Bet pays even money. If the dice total is less than 11, you lose, and, if all three dice are the same (three-of-a-kind), you also lose.

Low Bet (Under 11): A bet on "low" is a wager that all three dice will be under 11. This bet pays even money. If the aggregate of the dice is over 10, you lose. Again, you also lose if a three-of-a-kind appears. This wager can also be labeled Under 10/Over 11 with the same payoffs.

Any Triple: A bet on "Any Triple" is a wager that all three dice will be the same. This bet pays 30 to 1.


Chuck-a-luck can sometimes be found at carnivals and casino night fundraisers for charities. The last place I remember seeing the game in a casino environment was in 2012 at New York-New York in Las Vegas. Today, it is not showing on their web site under table games or in Steve Bourie’s excellent American Casino Guide, although possibly the game could still be there.

As for “who was this humanoid Chuck guy,” whoever you want him to be, Leigh, as the common name “Chuck” has no influence on the name of the game.

Finally, Leigh, Chuck-a-luck, with a house edge that averages 7.5 percent, is a game that, hopefully, all Deal Me In readers would chuck.


Gambling Wisdom of the Week: “The dice goad like hooks and prick like whips; they deceive and torment. They are coated with honey.” – Better's Lament, Rig Vada Hyme