Gambling City

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A Courtesy or Something More Ominous

Author: Mark Pilarski

Dear Mark: Recently you addressed a reader named Danny, who, like me, prefers to play only on hand-shuffled games. I have noticed signage posted where you find hand-shuffled games, that say something like this: “As a courtesy to the other players, no mid-deck entry." You never see this same sign at machine shuffled games. Do you think it is really a courtesy to the other players? Steve P.

I can see that, Steve, up to a point. A lot of players on a roll have a superstitious belief – mistakenly by the way – that if another player jumps in mid-deck, it messes up the flow of their cards, which in turn causes their luck to change.

However, not allowing a player to enter mid-deck (or “mid-shoe”) is also a security measure used by the casino to try to prevent "back counting." Back counting is when someone who is not playing at the table is counting down the deck(s) while standing near the game.

For example, two friends come up to a table and one sits down while the other stands behind him and counts cards. The friend who is lingering in the background doesn’t sit down to play until the card count becomes favorable to players in the game. By avoiding the time when the dealer has a higher chance of winning the hand (a lot of small cards remaining), the back counter only joins the game when there is an advantage to the player when there is a high concentration of high cards outstanding.

You won't see the placard you mentioned very often these days, since most games are now machine shuffled. Personally, I am old school enough to have the opinion that all players should be able to play when they want, including when this is a mid-deck (shoe) entry.

As for myself, when I approach a table with a hand-shuffled game in progress, especially if the players are wagering more than I plan to bet, I always like to ask them if they wouldn’t mind some extra company.

Dear Mark: Holy Moly! Where is this 10-7 video poker machine your reader wrote about? I have not seen any of those machines for 15 years, give or take, in the Reno/Vegas/California Indian casinos area. Graton Resort and Casino in Rohnert Park, CA has 9-5 machines. Gerry P.

That's just what I thought, Gerry! Almost anyway: I probably have used a stronger word than Moly.

For any readers who didn't see that column, here’s the bottom line. A 10/7 "Double Bonus" video poker machine has a bonus payout for four aces. With this particular paytable there is theoretically, a return, with optimal play, of 100.2 percent.

I did send that reader an e-mail and ask where he stumbled upon this 10/7 Bonus machine. He responded very politely and asked me not to reveal where that machine was located. He reasoned that if it was exposed through my column the casino might just remove it. Fair enough.

I think that the last time I saw a 10/7 Bonus machine was maybe five years ago in a Chicagoland casino. I figure though, borrowing a hawkism of the Chicago White Sox announcer Ken Harrelson, “She Gone.”

When it comes to video poker it is hard enough grinding it out against the house playing smart. But, that is not half as difficult as playing hide-and-seek with the casino and accidently coming across a decent-paying video poker machine.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: “No one will ever play that damn thing -- it doesn't even have a handle to pull." – Jay Sarno, Nevada casino entrepreneur, upon being shown a prototype of the first video poker machine.