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Deal Me In


Are players falling in love with this machine, or is this just a passing attraction?

Dear Mark: I have a comment on the recent column where the questioner asked, “Is there any chance that the slot machine senses a new player has not been at a particular machine for a specific period, and then pays off initially, then stops paying? Is this guy serious? A slot machine that can “sense?” Does he live on planet earth? Sorry, but I HAD to give you my 2 cents worth. Jerry P.


Hey now, Jerry, let’s be polite. First, he was a she (Joy); and there could be some merit in her thinking that “a machine that can “sense” an incoming player. There are such machines, sort of, or at least many players believe so.

The machines I am speaking of, Jerry, are manufactured by SHFL entertainment, Inc. (previously named Shuffle Master) and are called Table Master. These slots use a video representation of a life-sized cybernetic dealer, such as an attractive, young lady, placed at the center of a fully automated table game.

When these cyber dealers are on a dead game, they are in tracking mode and can appear to be looking around for some player to park their rear in one of the five player stations. If you walk by and verbalize what every dealer that ever pitched a card hears daily, ‘Are you hot or cold,’ it can’t hear you, nor can this virtual dealer respond to any of your physical or verbal commands, YET!

However, once you are playing at the table, they do verbally prompt you to bet or fold, take insurance, or, depending on the game, any other command needing a decision on your part.

I have spent hours observing players on these games communicating verbally with the dealer. It gets quite hysterical. Some players actually respond to the looks and personalities of these virtual dealers. It is one thing to have an affection for a machine that offers a decent return, another when players develop a love interest in an avatar. There's “into you,” and then there is “head-over-heels gaga.” I have seen female Table Master virtual dealers tip a man over that edge.

As for playing blackjack on a Table Master machine, straight up, I like – not love – them. With favorable rules like surrender, doubling and split variations that favor the player, your percentage return with smart play can be the same as that of a fair live table game. To boot, I have seen this game offered for as little as a buck a hand. For pleasurable play, that is a sizable gap versus a $25 minimum live table game on a Saturday night.

There is a downside, though. On a Table Master game, expect double the number of hands dealt per hour. Involving what’s called "incremental game speed," the more often you are exposed to the built-in house advantage on a Table Master blackjack game (i.e. the more hands you play per hour), the faster the machine eats up your bankroll.

What the future holds for interactive slots for players willing to give up their hard-earned money is anybody’s guess. But, Joy’s belief that a machine can sense that a player has just climbed aboard is considerably closer to reality than you might think.

Ever been in a bathroom with faucets that turn on when you put your hands in the sink, towel dispensers that spit out towel when you wave a hand in front of them, lights that turn on with motion and off when there is none, or toilets that flush when you stand up? 


Gambling Wisdom of the Week: “Fortune brings in some boats that are not steered.” ­– William Shakespeare


No bluffing needed

Dear Mark: The Michigan Lottery offers a game called PokerLotto. It includes a draw poker hand from the machine against a poker pay table. Then, there is a 7:30 pm drawing in the evening where if the cards on your ticket match the exact poker hand shown on TV, you win $100,000. My question regards the second chance of winning. To me at least it makes the game exciting, otherwise, I would not play. Does the second chance of winning make for a good bet? Nancy C.


PokerLotto, Nancy, is simple enough. You start by visiting your lotto retailer to get a printed PokerLotto ticket. Each play will cost you $2. Five easy-pick cards are then randomly selected from a standard 52-card deck and are printed on your ticket. If the five cards drawn create a winning poker hand, you can instantly win “up to” $5,000. If not, your same cards participate in a nightly drawing for more prizes, like that $100,000 you mentioned.

So, what are the odds of your poker hand matching that of the nightly drawing?

There are 2,598,560 possible five-card combinations in a standard 52-card deck. That makes your second chance of winning one in 2,598,560. Those are pretty long odds, Nancy, especially when a $100,000 payout is nowhere near that figure. 

The Michigan lottery coins PokerLotto as “two great games in every hand.” I disagree, not only because of the very long odds of matching five-of-five cards but also because the probabilities on every other winning hand versus the payout, make for a tough beat.

Granted, we are encouraged to believe that it is okay for the lottery to rob us blind because so much of the money goes towards a good cause; still, Nancy, I would recommend passing on PokerLotto.


Dear Mark: Roulette can be won in the following manners. One, every spin need not be bet (there are bad times and good). Two, Red-Black, Even-Odd, and High-Low will eventually break you. Three, if you have more than three repeats (back-back) numbers in last 20 rolls, walk away. Verron M.


Let’s begin, Verron, with “every spin need not be bet. There are good times and bad.” Because every spin is a random event, nobody knows the whereabouts of where that ball is going to drop next. Yes, you are correct that there are hot and cold cycles, but, unfortunately, only Nostradamus can predict those future hot and cold runs. See also my answer to three.

As for advice on #2, all bets on a double-zero roulette table hold the same 5.26% house advantage, with one exception: the five-number bet (0, 00, 1, 2, 3). The casino edge on that wager is 7.9%. This house edge does not discriminate against your mentioned wagers of black/red, even/odd and high/low, or a single chip on Black straight up. 

Number 3, Verron, does have some merit. Although each spin is an independent event, if you are not physically gambling, you are not losing money. The 5.26% house edge cannot work against you if you don’t have chips spread on the layout. 

Leave it to the Greeks, Verron, to believe that gods influenced the outcome of games of chance. 


Gambling Wisdom of the Week: "Researchers have discovered that rats are very similar to humans in many ways, except they are not stupid enough to purchase lottery tickets." – Dave Barry