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Deal Me In


Most loss leaders are long gone

Dear Mark: I have been practicing my Deuces Wild video poker skills, looking to accomplish that perfect play. The online casino I was practicing at today has the suggested card(s) hold feature by default. You can't shut it off. Here is my problem. As you tell us, if dealt two deuces, hold them and no other cards. I agree that is the right thing to do, but this game holds the deuces and whatever card is in the next left-most position. Of course, I click to turn the hold off on that 3rd card before drawing, but I am wondering why the casino software does this… honest mistake? Different school of thought, or, is it a way to dupe the unwary player? Katt B.


Because you are playing at an unregulated online casino, Katt, it could be all three. Or, possibly a programmer who does not fully understand the correct playing strategy when the machine initially deals two deuces.

The essential thing to remember when playing Deuces Wild video poker is that the four two’s (deuces) in the deck are not just wild; they are unrestrained in power, and can be substituted for any other card, for any rank, in any suit.

You want to discard the remaining cards to make room for supplementary cards that could include an additional deuce or two. By drawing more deuces, you increase your odds of winning more video poker jackpots by making more combinations possible.

With your initial two deuces, the rule of thumb is to always draw three unless you find yourself dealt any of these keeper hands.


Wild royal flush


Straight flush


Four-to-a-royal flush

Consecutive suited cards, 6-7 or higher


Dear Mark: Please permit me one last comment re; Vegas "resort fees", etc. The fact is, as you pointed out, Vegas has become a significantly expensive destination complete with $ 3.50 for a bottle of Pepsi, a $12 bowl of oatmeal, or a cold beer for $8. With this 'new' Vegas, Corporate America has brought about $20 cab rides, $24.99 breakfast buffets, the aforementioned "Resort Fees", and 6/5 blackjack. Of course, this is not just limited to Las Vegas. Casinos all over the US benefit from spiking prices, while requiring gamblers to put their IRA into action just to be 'comped' a dinner. I'm glad there is someone out there like you 'keeping it real' for the novice gambler, and Vegas neophytes. With the demise of the Stardust, Sands, DI, Frontier, and many others, a new regime is firmly entrenched, and the Gen Xer's, and most people under forty have zero clue to what an expensive place Vegas has become. S.S.


As my gaming career winds down, I am grateful that I was fortunate enough to have worked during that overused, but appropriately stated phrase, "the good old days," – the Stardust, Sands, DI (Desert Inn), and Frontier notwithstanding.

Your final assertion, though, interests me the most; “…the Gen Xer’s, and most people under forty have zero clue to what an expensive place Vegas has become.” A eureka thought if ever there was one.

My Millennial son gets it, only because unlike most of his age group who grew up on McDonalds Happy Meals, he was weaned on the Crystal Bay Club’s coffee shop counter eating 99¢ breakfasts. It was near mayhem when they raised the price to $1.49.

So yes, I do buy into your belief that your typical Gen Xer is unaware of what WE had before corporate monetized every square inch of a casino property. I hope that your above commentary finds its way onto their 4-inch iPhones, because as you state, correctly, it seems to be happening everywhere.


Gambling Wisdom of the Week: “Whenever you switch from Deuces Wild to Jacks-or-Better, the first four of a kind will be Deuces.” —Skip Hughes


IRS proposes altering slot machine reporting requirements

Dear Mark: If the automatic W2-G reporting on a slot machine is for a jackpot of $1,200, does that hold true for higher denomination machines as well? Bill W.


Yes, Bill, and it may get worse. The IRS is now floating a plan for a bigger share of your jackpots: the meager ones.

At present, the fortuitous player winning a $1,200 jackpot will find that the machine automatically shuts down until a casino employee arrives with your W2-G.

Earlier this year as part of an expansive rewrite of gambling tax law, the IRS put forward the idea of lowering the mandatory reporting minimum for slot machines to $600. Uncle Sam figures that since, by law, gamblers must pay taxes on every dollar they win at casinos, bingo parlors, racetracks, even an informal football bet with Uncle Louie, the IRS might as well capture more with a lower jackpot threshold.   

Those $600 jackpots will not only trigger a tax form, but if you play another hour or two, your taxable winnings will probably be long gone by the losses you incur, and your tax liability will still be outstanding. A reportable jackpot may not even offset your losses from when you sat front-and-center on that same machine one hour prior.

Certainly, Bill, you can keep track with meticulous records of your losses to offset any winnings, but few, if any, casual gamblers do.

Personally, I do not support, or expect, the $600 reporting threshold to make it into any final ruling. If anything, I believe the W2-G limit should be raised to at least $2,500. I will keep you abreast, Bill, of any change to the gambling tax law.


Dear Mark: Long time reader, first time writing in. I am going to Las Vegas in October – my first trip - for the World of Concrete convention at the Las Vegas Convention Center. With tens of thousands of us non-gamblers showing up, I am curious to know if the casino can flip a switch to make the machines hold more, or, if that is not possible, swap out the machines to ones that are tighter. Also, what are some of the expected returns that I will find on slot machines on the Strip where I am staying? Marv B.


No, Marv, there is no magic switch that’s flipped from some secret undisclosed location, nor chip or machine swapping happening to hornswoggle unsuspecting conventioneers out of more dough.

The only time that a machine is swapped out is when management believes it is underperforming or decides to convert the machine to a newer or more popular model. Believe me, Marv, it is no bang-bang deal when they do.

There is a litany of lengthy sequential steps the casino has to take in most gaming jurisdictions to change the percentage return more in the casino’s favor. With thousands of machines on the floor, it is not cost-effective for casinos to vary the payouts on weekends, holidays, and yes, Marv’s concrete convention. Unquestioning tourists are safe, for now.

As for the hold percentage averages for the Las Vegas Strip, they are approximately 11% for nickels, 6-7% for quarters, 4% for dollars, and 3.5% for five dollars and above.


Gambling Wisdom of the Week: “How the IRS views gambling is a murky, swampy, stinky cesspool, so wide that it's extremely difficult to maneuver around." – Jean Scott