This list does not yet contain any items.

Deal Me In


Show Me Your I.D., Please!

Dear Mark: I have asked around, but nobody can give me a direct answer. If you get a taxable jackpot, will an expired driver's license be sufficient as an ID? Mary P.


Whenever someone wins $1,200 or more, an ID is required for tax purposes because Uncle Sam claims a piece of the action. Thus, casinos today require proper identification (e.g. driver’s license, state-issued ID, Military ID or passport) before you are paid your rightful winnings. Additionally, your identification must also have your photo on it. Sorry, Mary, but your Costco card isn’t going cut it. If you can board an airplane flight with your ID, then it will probably be valid enough to claim your jackpot. 

Now if your good fortune lines up three treasure chests, and you cannot produce a valid form of identification, the windfall is still yours. The casino will photograph you and hold your loot in the cashier’s cage until you come back with some bona fide ID. 

Likewise, when the casino examines your identification it makes sure you are legally of age to play. The minimum age for gambling varies from State to State, but under-age gamblers will NOT be paid if they hit a jackpot. Besides being the law in all gaming jurisdictions, denial of a jackpot to a minor has been challenged and upheld in the courts.

Since a minor cannot claim a jackpot, or dish it off to someone of age to split it with later – the eye in the sky is always watching – the jackpot is never paid and the illegitimate winnings are added to the casino’s revenue. 

Besides producing a valid photo ID, you will also be asked by the casino for a valid social security or tax identification number. If you decide screw that, “I’ve got my rights.” then plan on 25 - 30% being withheld depending on whether the jackpot is more or less than $5,000.

Throughout my reply, Mary, I used the word ‘valid.’ Unfortunately, an expired driver’s license will be your roadblock from collecting your jackpot. Nevertheless, your money awaits you at the cashier’s cage, and a quick trip to the DMV for a license renewal should solve your problem.


Dear Mark: Does a slot machine recognize a difference between insertion of currency and credit slips? It seems I win more when I insert bills over using credit slips from my past winnings. Dan L.   


A slot machine does NOT re-program the random number generator to affect the outcome based on cash or credits played.   

The slot machine program within does not give one iota about the source of the money. A dollar credit that came from your inserting a ticket has just as much chance to win as a dollar’s worth of credits that came from your inserting a $1 bill.   

Yes, Dan, there is some computer programming within the bill acceptor, but, it is to validate the authenticity of the currency and to communicate to the slot machine the amount of the currency/credit inserted. 

Ultimately, all the slot machine program determines is that the player still has credits available on the meter when the spin button is hit. 


Gambling Wisdom of the Week: “People's hobbies (gambling) are more their measure than are their jobs. Never mind what they are forced to do, like fight wars or make a living or embrace the king's religion. It is what do they choose to do in their spare time, if they have any?” – Robert Byrne, Byrne's Book of Great Pool Stories (1995)



Doubling as James Bond for $5 a pop

Dear Mark: What are your suggestions to win playing Mini Baccarat? Keith W.

Like Baccarat, Mini Baccarat offers a very low house edge, and for the low roller it is one of the best games the casino offers.

With Mini Baccarat, only two hands are dealt, regardless of how many players are sitting tableside. Your only decision, Keith, is to wager on the Bank or the Player hand.

The rules are simple enough, the nearest to nine wins. Adding a third card is dependent on the total of the first two cards, and is done by the dealer based on predetermined rules. Although you can easily pick up the nuances of the game in mere minutes, when you come right down to it, you just chill and watch the dealer perform his or her craft. As a side note, it was my favorite game to deal.

The quality of these two wagers is exceptional, especially for those who don’t want to use their noggin. The casino advantage on the Bank hand is 1.17% and 1.36% on Player. The one other option you have is a bet that both hands result in a tie. Never, ever make that bet, as the house edge on the tie wager is 14%.

The casino holds an edge against your play no matter if you bet on the Bank or the Player hand, so any notion of “interminable winning” is illusory. It’s more like you will lose less money playing Mini-Baccarat than playing almost any other casino game. 

Here’s the math, Keith. If you were to play $5 a hand wagering on the Bank hand, even with a house edge as low as 1.17%, after seeing 200 decisions an hour, you would still end up having an hourly loss of $11.70. You can’t alter that loss, Keith. But for $12 and hour, free cocktails – Vodka Martini “shaken not stirred” – and some points on your Player’s Club card, what’s not to like?

One option where you can get a decisive break is finding a casino that offers a commission of four percent (compared to the standard five percent) on winning Bank hands. Here the house edge drops to .6%. I haven’t seen this opportunity in a long time, but if some reader knows where it exists, I’ll gladly pass it along.


Dear Mark: I live in Maryland, and I am starting to learn the game of craps. What is the best strategy for the game? Wendall


As frequently stated in this column, for the newbie, a Pass line bet (house edge 1.4%) and Placing the six or eight (1.5%) is what I repeatedly recommend. Since most readers are bone-tired of reading about those wagers, as an alternative to taking up any more real estate writing about these terrific bets, I suggest you mosey on over to my web site ( and use the search feature (upper right side) and type in Pass line or Place bets.   


Gambling Wisdom of the Week: “A gambler's acquaintance is readily made and easily kept – provided you gamble too.” – Edward Bulwer, Lyiton Pelham (1828)