Gambling City

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Finder's Keepers Losers Weepers?

Author: Mark Pilarski

Dear Mark: You always say check your machine for credits before you leave. Is it true that if I went to play a machine and there were credits left on it by someone I could get in trouble with the casino?
Beri W.

Called "sea gulling" in gambling lingo, it is illegal to specifically circle the casino looking for credits on a slot machine. Not even change on the floor. I've seen player impostors given the heave ho (the dreadful permanent 86) for making a full-time occupation of floating the casino looking for easy pickings. Fortunately I have never heard of an unsuspecting patron walking up to a machine with credits, playing them, and being shown the door.

Nevertheless, Beri, before you walk away from any slot machine, don't forget to press the cash-out button. Millions are lost each year by gamblers forgetting their stored credits (winnings).

Dear Mark: Though this question is not technically gambling related, I figured you might know the answer. In sweepstakes and contests, do you stand the same chance of winning even if you do not purchase the product (magazines) the company is trying to sell?
Sally C.

Sweepstakes, like casinos, by nature tap into the dark heart of the American Dream. Something for nothing! And because sweepstakes entries reach 8 in 10 households, with an estimated 108 million sweepstakes entries received from more than 80 million U.S. households last year, it makes for an excellent question.

Many people believe that if they buy merchandise with their entry they have a better chance of winning a sweepstakes. Not so, states the Direct Marketing Association, the Magazine Publishers of America and the Promotion Marketing Association. All legitimate sweepstakes entries have an equal chance of winning. Federal law requires that no purchase is necessary to win a sweepstakes prize, and legitimate sweepstakes never require any purchase or "deposit" to play or win. This policy is stated on every sweepstakes mailing from law-abiding companies.

Also note, Sally, that approximately four out of five sweepstakes entries are sent in without any purchase. Correspondingly, four out of five sweepstakes winners last year came from contestants who didn't purchase a product. But, Sally, I can't state enough that the operative word here is "legitimate." Fraudulent, illegal sweepstakes often require a payment or purchase. These lawless rip-off artists often use names similar to legitimate companies to confuse the consumer. Machiavellian or not, expect to find most sweepstakes entries inferring in large type that you're a "guaranteed winner," small type showing insurmountable odds and computer-generated language that sounds as if you were receiving a personal letter. That, Sally, is the nature of the beast.

Taking into account that your typical sweepstakes odds are a tougher beat than your state lottery, the only way you can avoid both crooked companies and exposing your Visa Platinum to solicited charges is to religiously follow this one cardinal rule. Enter, never purchase.

Dear Mark: I don't quite understand what is meant by a pay cycle on a slot machine. Does it mean that over one pay cycle, every possible combination on the reel will appear?
Melvin V.

Not quite, Melvin. The term "pay cycle" is a theoretic expression used to describe the number of plays required for the machine to display all the possible winning and non-winning combinations. But, because each and every spin is a random event, a machine won't hit all the possible combinations through any one specific cycle.

Dear Mark: In our office football pool, I place near the bottom almost every week. Any advice on what I can blame my continuous losses?
Randy V.

Sports betting is a combination of both skill and luck. Your wins, Randy, come from your superb handicapping abilities. Just blame your losses on a late game interception or fumble.

Dear Mark: I really enjoy your column on the internet, but I have yet to see a discussion on two new table games on the floor: Let it Ride and Caribbean Stud Poker. Obviously, if they have a house advantage above your recommended two percent, I'm not interested. So exactly how high is the house edge on these new games?
Dan C.

First, Dan, I must commend you for being the rare breed of gambler who looks at the casino advantage before making a wager.

The house edge for Let it Ride is 3.5% and 5.3% for Caribbean Stud Poker.
As for the progressive bonus side bets, the house advantage is 46 an 48 percent respectively.