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Disclosure of slot return percentages not guaranteed

Dear Mark: Are casinos required by law to inform the customer what the slot return percentages are for their slot machines? Mary Ellen P.


Because slot machines hold some of the highest percentage returns for the casino, yes, Mary Ellen, consumers should be granted those numbers so they can shop for value by comparing percentage returns. Unfortunately, Mary Ellen, it strictly depends on the state where you are playing.


Disappointingly, some casinos are NOT required by their state to release information on slot machine percentage paybacks; other states break down casino returns by geographic area, and in some states, it’s easy to find out the average slot payback percentage on all slot machines for an individual casino. It’s posted right in the newspaper.


Nevertheless, no matter where you play, every slot machine has an accounting system built in that contains the data needed to make that hold percentage calculation. Whether the casino releases that information to the general public is based on whether the state requires it to, or not. 


Dear Mark: Basic strategy states that when you have a soft 18, and the dealer is showing a 9, 10, or an Ace, you are supposed to hit that hand. If I have more than two cards that make a soft 18, should I continue to keep hitting? Zach S.


You are correct, Zach, that when you have a two-card soft 18, basic strategy dictates that you stand against a two, double down versus a three through six, stand if the dealer is showing a seven or eight, and hit against a nine, 10 or ace. Having a soft 18 consisting of more than two cards doesn’t change that strategy. You should continue to hit it. 


Yes, Zach, it does seem odd, but you are still slightly better off by hitting a soft 18 with multiple cards than you would be by standing pat. 


Dear Mark: Based on your suggestion, I avoid machine-shuffled blackjack games. Fortunately, where I play, they still offer some hand-shuffled games; both cards that are dealt face-up and face-down.  What is the casino’s rationale for cards being dealt face-up? Rob B.


I am glad, Rob, that you are heeding my suggestion of avoiding automatic shuffling machines. Even though the built-in edge the casino holds on your play is the same whether shuffling is by hand or by machine, with machine shuffling the game is played at a much faster pace – more hands dealt per hour – to as much as 25% more hands per hour. Why give casinos those extra hands per hour when they already hold an edge on your play?


As for the rationale behind the cards being dealt face-up, once again, it speeds up the game. Dealers can instantly announce hand totals without themselves handling the cards. Another reason, Rob, is for security purposes, in that it eliminates the potential for cheating by a player marking or switching cards.


 Gambling Wisdom of the Week: “Look high, look low, and we see that gamblers actually form the majority of the world's inhabitants.” - James Runciman, Side Lights (1893)

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