Gambling City

We are Cash Back

Contrary to Popular Belief

Author: Mark Pilarski

Dear Mark: I usually play slot machines. It seems on Saturday and Sundays they pay less than if I come mid-week. Do the casinos change the payback percentages on all their machines when the casino is busier? I was told by a slots employee that the $1 machines I normally play on return 95% of the money played. Is it incorrect to believe that when I show up on a busy weekend that the casino has already made changes to the percentage payback? Marge G.

One of the most widely held fallacies in casino gambling, Marge, is that casinos tighten their slots machines on weekends, Christian holidays, the Las Vegas Elvis Festival (July 10-13, 2014), or whenever it’s busy. Every slot machine has a built-in "payback" percentage set by the casino and approved by that state's gaming commission. So if the casino wanted to re-set that percentage, they would have to tender a proposal to the gaming commission.

That said, I would be derelict if I didn’t state that changing a slot payoff percentage can physically be done. To change the return of the slot machine, all a slot manager would have to do is change out the EPROM chip within. However, again, the conversion must be reported to that state’s powers that be. Exchanging hundreds, even thousands of EPROM chips in addition to the paperwork required to report those changes would be an inordinate amount of work for the casino to complete sandwiched between Thursday and Friday. Readers, contact me if any of you have ever seen this across-the-board swap done. I haven’t.

Also, Marge, you might be a little bewildered as to exactly what “payback percentages” means when it comes to “your” play. A 95% payback slot machine will pay 95% of the money back over time, but that doesn’t mean that if you put in $100, you are guaranteed a return of $95. It only means that the machine is set to pay back 95% over the machine’s extended gambling timeline, which is months, even years; not your limited four-hour stay.

Rather than “payback percentage,” which can be indeterminate, I much prefer the term "theoretical payout percentage" because the payout return is a calculated number based on an “infinite” number of pulls of the handle. In the interim, each spin of the reels remain a separate, independent event.

Dear Mark: When looking over the throngs of blackjack variations, what are some of the better rules that I should look for and what are some of the worst? Marty D.

When it comes to the dissimilarity of rules in blackjack from casino to casino, and even pit to pit, it is imperative to know which rules are of more significance than others, and which ones are disadvantageous to you the player.

These are the crucial blackjack rules that are most in favor of the player in rank of importance.

  • Early surrender
  • Doubling on any two cards
  • Drawing any number of cards to split Aces
  • Doubling allowed after pair splitting
  • Surrender
In order, here, Marty, are the blackjack rules that are most hostile to players.
  • Two or more decks
  • Dealer that hits a soft 17
  • No soft doubling
  • No re-splitting of Aces
Gambling Wisdom of the Week: In 1933 Wilson Mizner lay dying. He was fifty-eight and all his life he had been a gamester. "Do you want a priest? he was asked, during an interval of consciousness. "I want a priest, a rabbi and a Protestant clergyman," he managed to flash back. "I want to hedge my bets." – L. J. Ludovici, The Itch for Play (1962)