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Player Questions if he is a Freak of Nature

Author: Mark Pilarski

Dear Mark: I think I must be a freak of nature. I have played slots 50 times, and perhaps two of those times I left the casino with somewhere between $20 to $40. The other 48 times I have done nothing but lose big-time.

There was one time when I went to the casino with an elderly teacher friend of mine and sure enough the lucky lady won $300. At the same time I had lost $50. So my generous friend gave me $20 and again I lost. She gave me yet another $20, which I promptly lost also. Of course, she got tired of giving me $20s. And who could blame her.

Another time, I was playing on one machine, for at least an hour, with no luck at all. I decided to move over and try my luck on the next machine. Pretty soon an elderly woman came along and sat down at the machine I had previously been playing and within 20 minutes she won a $400 jackpot. The casino Gods just will not let me win! Mark G.

Mark, let me share some of the casinos' dirty little secrets with you. I begin with secret #1: Slot machines can have a bloodthirsty appetite and they can attack your bankroll with a ferocity akin to a school of piranha consuming a cow.

Now let’s talk about your playing timeline - the 50 times you have played slots. That is a relatively short time Mark, especially playing slot machines, which are notorious for being the toughest game in the house to beat.

And this leads me to what I believe is your problem. It is what's called, "The Grind."

Let's suppose you are playing on a slot machine that is programmed to return 88% of the money wagered back in wins. If you cycled through a $200 bankroll, which can easily be done in a matter of minutes, you could expect “in theory” a return of $176.

Which now leads us to dirty little casino secret #2: The casino knows full well that “you ain’t goin’ nowhere.”

The casino knows with nearly 100% certainty that you will replay that $176 and for that they will happily give you $155 in return. Now when you go on to play that $155, your return will be $136. Playing through the $136, will get you back $120 and so on. With that kind of math working against you, Mark, you’ve got some nerve trying to end up a winner.

It’s understood, that this is based on play at a machine with a pre-programmed computer chip set to return a certain percentage back to the player as wins. But, can you see how the casino is grinding away at your capital Mark?

Now here’s casino secret #3. The casino is NOT in the business of gambling. It is rather, in the math business. On pre-programmed slot machines that give the house a certain percentage return, you are the only one doing any gambling. True, you may occasionally be the one who gets greater than an 88% return. But let's face it, you will probably be one of the countless players who are contributing 12% to the casino.

Casino secret #4: The casino LOVES winners. Winning customers are the most important asset in the world to someone who is involved in selling a chance. Winning players will tell future losers of their good fortune. And Mark, as Alexander Pope wrote in An Essay on Man, 1732 - Hope springs eternal.

That huge house advantage on slot play will always grind away your bankroll at a lickety-split pace. The more time you spend front and center at a slot machine, the greater the casino’s chances of grinding your bankroll right out of existence.

So in the end Mark, you can consider your play normal, and not some unusual, unexpected, and unnatural phenomenon.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: “It is not uncommon to see a lady in her bridal gown, married moments ago by a minister in full Elvis regalia, furiously working the slots with a Marlboro clenched between her teeth.” – Rod Wiser, Casino Player