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Deal Me In

Monday
Jan032011

Easy on the eyes

Dear Mark: I tried to peruse your past columns, but didn’t find this particular answer.  I didn’t read every single one (yet), so please forgive me if you have already answered this question. Why are the dice in most casino’s red with white spots? Nelson S. 

Prior to exiting stage left the Green Felt Jungle, I came into a large collection of over 1,000 pair of dice from just about every casino in Nevada. Your question gave me an opportunity to crawl up in the attic and see exactly what I had.  

The lion’s share had various shades of red, but at least 20 percent represented a variety of colors like gold, blue, green, pink, purple, tangerine, black and amber. All the dice had white spots (pips) regardless of the body color. 

Pips on dice are white and sized purposely for ease in recognizing the pattern formed. The color red for dice makes it easy to see, read and call from the stick position against a green layout.

The white pips are always flush, offering the assurance of true uniformly distributed random numbers. To guarantee perfect balance of the dice, the depth of the different spots varies. The single one spot is drilled six times deeper than any of the six spots on the opposite side. The holes are filled flush with a paint of the same density as the acetate used for the dice, with equal weight-to-volume relation so the dice remain in balance. Dice makers who cut dice do it in lots of five or six deal in tolerances of .0002 inch, with imperfections discarded, again, making the random nature of a dice throw a dead certainty. All dice are then stamped with a matching serial number to prevent a cheater from sneaking in an alien cube.  

The bottom line, Nelson, is that dice are the hardware used for randomly presenting numbers in the range of one to six, with each of those values being equally likely. Their colors are typically red and pips white because that color combination is the easiest to read on a crap table.  

Dear Mark:  I won a $5,000 plus progressive slot jackpot (proof that these slots DO pay off!) a couple of weeks ago.  A nickel machine, no less!  When I went back a week later, I went looking to play the same slot machines (there were a bank of four that were the same) and they were nowhere to be found.  They weren't in the place where I had played them, and I walked all over the casino looking for them with no luck.  What's going on? I am just curious why they have removed them. Linda H.

Slot machines, Linda, are preprogrammed to pay out a certain percentage on a random basis notwithstanding all kinds of "fluke" streaks—good and bad—appearing. What the programming does is tell the casino operators that after countless decisions, “X” amount of money will be earned by the casino and lost by the players.

Although your jackpot probably didn’t tip the scale for removal, all machines still need to show reasonable results or their eradication from the floor is inevitable. A slot machine’s performance is measured by two factors: the volume of coins wagered daily (“coin in”) and the amount collected daily by the casino (“win”). If a machine’s performance wanes ever so slightly, a slot manager could decide a change is needed in the slot mix.

Sure, you won big, Linda, and yes, a superstitious slot manager might have yanked that bank of slots, but I would lean a little more toward the theory that the bank got the heave ho because it wasn’t delivering the results the casino was looking for.  

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: “The people who think they can wind up ahead of the races are everybody who has ever won a bet.” - Ogden Nash, Pocket Book (1902-71)

Monday
Jan032011

Sound of Silence

Dear Mark: Maybe it’s me, but you just don’t see or hear jackpots like in the past. But here’s the interesting thing. The paybacks of where I play, according to Strictly Slots, which publishes slot returns percentages, are about the same. Any thoughts on this? Gerald C.

Taking the slot paybacks reported by your state gaming commission and published by Strictly Slots at face value, consider, Gerald, that you are seeing and hearing fewer jackpots compared to yesteryear, because most casinos today operate with ticket system machines. The “sounds of winning,” thrummed out by those loud metal drop bowls that caught the slugs when your slot was paying off, are of times past. These deep pans made a heck of a lot of happy noise when the coins dropped, creating the misimpression that people were winning, and winning big.

Also, Gerald, with ticket system machines, the slot usually doesn’t lock up and set off its jingle for a win of under $1,200; otherwise, everything less is added to the credit meter. Hand pays and hopper fills have also been reduced considerably with ticket machines.  

The sense of great luck created by the clatter of falling coins is really nothing more than an illusion designed to stir interest in playing slot machines, but suggestible players mistake these audible events for increased jackpots.

Dear Mark: Last week you wrote that a royal flush occurs about every 40,000 hands. I’ve had a few over the years, besides, we have decent machines (9/6) where I play that keeps me in the game longer to get one. Well, Saturday night I hit my first, naturally dealt royal flush on a dollar machine. Didn’t even have to hit the hold button. What are the odds of that happening? It has to be way more than 40,000 to one. Jim D.

On a 9/6 Jacks or Better machine -- 9/6 meaning a video poker machine that pays nine for the full house, six for a flush -- a royal flush appears, on average, once in every 40,390 hands. Ah, but that natural royal -- that’s a delight that occurs only once per 649,740 hands. There’s nothing better than no toil and a hand pay of crispy $100’s.

Dear Mark: If a dealer places the dealt cards into a shuffling machine immediately after each hand, is there any advantage to a player who uses a card counting system? How about a player who doesn’t? George R.

Even though continuous shuffling machines do NOT affect the odds of the game, they are of NO advantage for the counter, basic strategy player, or any player for that matter. What continuous shuffling machines and non-continuous shufflers alike will do is to cause the average player to lose more, simply because more hands are dealt per hour.

Unlike dealing a hand-shuffled game, the dealer never has to break to shuffle cards. With a built-in edge against the average player, along with an increase in the number of hands dealt, the casino enjoys more of an opportunity to whittle away at your wallet.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: “I am not the least interested in the game, nor in whether I win or lose. I am only interested in whether or not the amount is large enough to be noticed.” - Andre Citroen (d 1935) French motor-car tycoon