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Ask the Slot Expert: Knowing the rules at the Olympics and in the casino

11 August 2021

The Olympics just ended. It's too early to take a victory lap, but it looks like the Japanese have put on a major international event and not a super-spreader event. They did it with frequent testing, prohibiting Covid-positive athletes from competing, contact tracing, isolating athletes after exposure, and mask wearing except when competing.

And even when competing. Three Brazilian volleyball players wore masks while playing. This and the lack of mask-related illnesses despite the near-universal wearing of masks should put an end to the claims that wearing masks is unhealthy. If those Brazilian volleyball players could play while wearing a mask, everyone can wear a mask while pushing a cart through the grocery store or sitting at a slot machine pressing the Spin button.

The Japanese weren't kidding about the mask requirement. Even the line judges on the beach volleyball court were always masked.

As I wrote last week, I like the Olympics because I get to see sports I don't normally watch. And because I don't normally watch any sports, that's pretty much all of them.

Sport Climbing combines strength and problem solving. BMX Freestyle cycling has riders doing seemingly impossible stunts. Rhythmic Gymnastics answers the question: What if they gave medals to Cirque du Soleil?

I had watched Track Cycling at past Olympics, but I don't remember seeing the events at this Olympics before. The six-lap Kierin is run with a motorized pace cycle leading the pack for the first six laps. It's like running the Indy 500 with the pace car for the first 250 miles.

The Omnium is a four-race event, but NBC showed only the last race, the 80-lap Points race. The riders kill time for 90% of the race. Every 10 laps someone rings a bell. The riders sprint around the track and the first four riders to cross the line get points. The pace can be so leisurely during most of the race that the winner, American Jennifer Valente, was able to win the race despite crashing. (Another great recovery: Dutch runner Sifan Hassan got up from a fall during the women's 1500m heat (track) and went on to win the race.)

Crossing the finish line first in the last sprint doesn't make you the winner. Another cyclist may have more points. It's like giving Indy's Borg-Warner Trophy to the driver who led the most laps.

How do you make Omnium's Points race even more confusing? Double the number of riders and make it a tag-team race. The official explainer page on the VeloNews site calls it a relay race, but I didn't get the impression that there was a regular passing of the baton. There was no baton, of course. One rider yielded to another using a roller-derby slingshot maneuver.

I think they should give the medal to anyone who can explain the race.

Speaking of giving medals to those who really deserve them, Kevin Hart said it before I could publish it. They should really give the medals to the horses in the Equestrian events, not the riders.

Before the Olympics started, I felt that it was time to get rid of the Equestrian events. The horses are not able to consent to participating in the events.

The horses looked majestic jumping over the colorful, whimsical obstacles. But I wondered if they felt ashamed for prancing during Dressage. Some horses did refuse to jump, so maybe some of them do enjoy jumping. Because some horses balk and refuse, maybe they are in effect giving consent.

At the end of the coverage of the cross-country jumping, Rebecca Lowe, the daytime in-studio host, said there is a sad post-script to the event. Swiss horse Jet Set was injured during a run and had to be killed.

Equestrian must go.

As I understand it, NBC had its own cameras for coverage of some events and used the Olympic Broadcasting Service's pool coverage for others. Indoor volleyball is one of the events for which NBC used the pool. The commentators said as much when there was a timeout called during one of the women's games and they said, "Let's listen in on Karch Karaly."

The pool video and audio, however, went to the other team, which did not speak English. The commentators said something like we have to take what they give us.

In a later game, the pool did show us Karch. The feed inexplicably was on him as he moved his head back and forth following the ongoing play. The coverage cut back to the court just in time to show the line judges raise their flags.

About 20 years ago, the various volleyball governing organizations switched from side-out scoring (you can only win a point if you are serving) to rally scoring (it doesn't matter who served; whoever wins the rally wins a point and the serve). Sets moved along quickly without any endless loops of the serve passing back and forth with no change in the score.

The only thing I don't like about rally scoring is that some sets -- and some matches and even some medals -- were won on a service error. For example, I'm one point away from winning and you have the serve. You serve it into the net or out of bounds and I get the winning point.

Maybe a team should be able to win set points, or at least match points, only when it is serving. But that does go against the philosophy of rally scoring: a team gets a point when the opposing team is unable to get the ball over the net.

On some plays I was sure that I counted a team making four contacts with the ball. The blocker touches the ball as it flies by and then the team hits it three times.

Our vantage point isn't nearly as good as the referees'. There were many times that they saw contact when I didn't see it. Maybe I was seeing a contact that really didn't happen.

I did my own Official Video Review using the rudimentary frame advance function on my DirecTV set-top box. Stepping through one play, I could clearly see the direction of the ball change after passing a blocker. Either she has telekinetic powers or she touched the ball. The team then played the usual three hits to get the ball back over the net after the deflection. Definitely four touches.

The curse of the Internet is that it makes it so easy to spread misinformation. The blessing is that it is possible to get information that I wouldn't have known how to get otherwise, like the FIVB Official Volleyball Rules.

The answer is in the rules. A team is allowed three hits to return the ball. A block contact is not a hit. "A block contact is not counted as a team hit. Consequently, after a block contact, a team is entitled to three hits to return the ball."

You have to know the rules. In volleyball and in the casino. Jean Scott always told me to read and understand the rules of every promotion.

I saw many people who didn't follow this advice a few weeks ago when one of my regular casinos had a special gift giveaway. You always have to read the rules for gifts because the rules may be different for some people or some gifts.

In another chain's ad announcing a month's gifts, it said you could earn the gift after playing a certain number of points. When my play had fallen off at this chain, that was also the rule printed in my mailer. But I've been playing more there lately -- gotta requalify for the upper tier in the slot club -- so my mailer for that month said that I could get one gift free and play to earn a second gift.

The mailer with the special gift giveaway made it clear that this gift was different. It was in a separate box from the regular gifts on the gift page in the mailer. It was printed in a different color on the calendar. Even if you could get the weekly gift without playing, most (all?) players were going to have to earn some points before they could claim this gift.

While I was waiting in line, I saw a number of people leave the promotions desk empty-handed . When it was my turn, the rep swiped my card and started to say something before saying, "Oh no. You're okay."

I said that I had played more than the required number of points. I asked her how many people tried to claim the gift without playing, She said, "A lot."

I said that I didn't see how the casino could have made it any clearer. Separate box. Different color. Big text that said, "Earn 1000 points and you keep the points."

She said that she could use my help telling people how the play requirement wasn't a secret.

Casino promotions change all the time, but especially now that casinos are trying to find the minimum they can give away and still keep players coming back.

You gotta read the rules.


Question: Loved your spot-on column regarding the virus!

As a retired professional Civil Engineer I wonder how this anti group was raised up. Facts over gossip and manipulating the narrative to fit personal opinions will win out every time in the long run.

P.S. The Indian casino here did away with social distancing, but still require masks and no smoking. Maybe a little soon for the first change, but the current crisis was not that expected back then.

Answer: Thanks for the kind words.

There was much I left out from my recap of the public comments in the Clark County Commissioners' Emergency Meeting. Like, "You're ignoring the science. You only die if you have comorbidities."

Well, except for Broadway star Nick Cordero, 41, who had no underlying health conditions. And Michael Lang, 18, and Yasmin Pena, 18. They all died last year.

Too long ago? We have better treatments now? February 8, 2021: New data shows young, healthy adults dying more often from COVID-19 in Mecklenburg

It's possible that we're going to continue to have these surge and remission cycles and the concomitant periods of stronger and looser mitigation efforts.

Nevada's current pandemic playbook says that masks will be required in a county as long as it has substantial or high community spread.

With visitors coming from areas with varying levels of vaccination and transmission, I wonder whether Las Vegas will ever not have substantial or high community spread.


Question: A question you won’t answer. I have asked this same question of others who also will not answer it.

Your stand on wearing masks and it should be mandated for everyone and everyone should get the vaccine.

When did I become responsible for your healthcare? If you have a heart attack, and I supposed to pay for your ER and hospital bills? If you get cancer am I supposed to see you take all your treatments? If you get diabetes, am I supposed to make sure you eat the right foods in the right amounts?

Why am I responsible for YOUR healthcare???

Answer: I suppose you have health, home or auto insurance. Where does the money come from to pay a claim that exceeds the premiums that a policyholder has paid? From the other policyholders.

That's how hazard insurance works. The cost of a policyholder's catastrophic event is spread over all policyholders.

In any case, you are changing gears from manners to money from one paragraph to another. I don't see how a mask requirement is equivalent -- or even analogous -- to paying another person's medical bills.

You are not responsible for directly paying for a stranger's medical bills or ensuring they follow doctor's orders.

But you do have a responsibility to not potentially put someone else's health in danger even if you're willing the roll the dice for yourself. You can't drive while impaired. You're not supposed to exceed the speed limit. You can't smoke where it is prohibited.

If you were sick, you wouldn't share food or utensils with the people you live with. You would take steps to try to prevent them from getting sick. And if you were living with the sick person, you would take steps to prevent yourself from getting sick too.

We're in the midst of a public health crisis, a pandemic. We all have a responsibility to do what we can to keep transmission levels low. We all have to protect each other's health.

I hope I have answered your question.


Here are the latest figures from https://www.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#cases_totalcases.

Totals Weekly Increases
US NV US NV
Date Cases  Deaths  Cases  Deaths  Cases  Deaths  Cases  Deaths 
 08/10   35,991,203   615,778   366,584   6,040   819,524   3,987   7,652   122 
 08/03   35,171,679   611,791   358,932   5,918   622,832   2,279   7,489   81 
 07/27   34,548,847   609,012   351,443   5,837   652,251   2,394   8,347   79 
 07/20   33,896,296   606,618   341,096   5,758   169,933   1,478   3,351   28 
 07/13   33,726,363   605,140   339,745   5,730   181,047   1,959   4,982   33 
 07/06   33,545,316   603,181   334,763   5,697   75,104   1,373   2,234   27 
 06/29   33,470,212   601,808   332,529   5,670   87,507   2,057   3,020   24 
 06/22   33,382,705   599,751   329,509   5,646   75,420   2,157   1,930   22 
 06/15   33,303,285   597,594   327,579   5,624   95,797   2,293   1,560   17 
 06/08   33,207,488   595,301   326,019   5,607   114,250   3,762   2,271   21 
 06/01   33,039,238   591,539   323,748   5,586   123,333   3,709   991   27 
 05/25   32,969,905   587,830   322,757   5,559   174,125   4,234   1,676   26 
 05/18   32,795,780   583,596   321,081   5,533   223,966   4,230   2,301   27 
 05/11   32,571,814   579,366   318,780   5,506   303,856   4,687   2,541   33 
 05/04   32,267,958   574,679   316,239   5,473   343,348   4,908   2,559   40 
 04/27   31,924,610   569,771   313,680   5,433   383,163   4,958   2,747   65 
 04/20   31,541,447   564,813   310,933   5,368   464,556   5,072   2,590   36 
 04/13   31,076,891   559,741   308,343   5,332   480,061   5,321   2,986   57 
 04/06   30,596,830   554,420   305,357   5,275   448,935   7,124   3,084   38 
 03/30   30,147,895   547,296   302,273   5,237   439,510   6,793   939   63 
 03/23   29,708,385   540,503   301,334   5,174   388,928   7,446   1,863   53 
 03/16   29,319,457   533,057   299,471   5,121   381,695   8,362   3,078   81 
 03/09   28,937,762   524,695   296,393   5,040   480,902   11,573   2,413   83 
 03/02   28,456,860   513,122   293,980   4,957   463,356   14,129   2,835   75 
 02/23   27,993,504   498,993   291,145   4,882   451,083   13,923   2,406   162 
 02/16   27,542,421   485,070   288,739   4,720   602,906   21,411   4,149   198 
 02/09   26,939,515   463,659   284,590   4,522   779,305   21,828   5,444   244 
 02/02   26,160,210   441,831   279,146   4,278   1,007,777   22,004   7,249   249 
 01/26   25,152,433   419,827   271,897   4,029   1,312,565   23,385   10,324   250 
 01/19   23,839,868   396,442   261,573   3,779   1,317,119   21,318   11,324   279 
 01/12   22,522,749   375,124   250,249   3,500   1,790,345   22,660   17,217   294 
 01/05    20,732,404   352,464   233,032   3,206   1,499,561   18,435   14,655   233 
 12/29   19,232,843   334,029   218,377   2,973   1,258,540   15,460   12,493   186 
 12/22   17,974,303   318,569   205,884   2,787   1,656,411   18,537   16,472   239 
 12/15   16,317,892   300,032   189,412   2,548   1,494,763   17,247   18,825   229 
 12/08   14,823,129   282,785   170,587   2,319   1,375,502   15,483   18,418   175 
 12/01   13,447,627   267,302   152,169   2,144   1,114,175   10,286   15,942   121 
 11/24   12,333,452   257,016   136,227   2,023   1,197,199   10,784   14,130   106 
 11/17   11,136,253   246,232   122,097   1,917   1,099,790   8,501   11,115   65 
 11/10   10,036,463   237,731   110,982   1,852   767,645   6,838   8,868   68 
 11/03   9,268,818   230,893   102,114   1,784   588,207   5,809   5,936   35 
 10/27   8,680,611   225,084   96,178   1,749   492,026   5,585   5,238   (10) 
 10/20   8,188,585   219,499   90,940   1,759   401,037   5,053   4,501   48 
 10/13   7,787,548   214,446   86,439   1,711   351,270   4,886   3,910   48 
 10/06   7,436,278   209,560   82,529   1,663   306,965   4,962   3,232   36 
 09/29   7,129,313   204,598   79,297   1,627   303,616   5,136   3,058   54 
 09/22   6,825,697   199,462   76,239   1,573   288,070   5,370   2,196   82 
 09/15   6,537,627   194,092   72,043   1,491   250,265   5,404   1,825   65 
 09/08   6,287,362   188,688   72,218   1,426   282,919   5,638   2,734   92 
 09/01   6,004,443   183,050   69,484   1,334   251,790   5,291   3,237   104 
 08/25   5,752,653   177,759   66,247   1,230   330,411   7,889   4,076   125 
 08/18   5,422,242   169,870   62,171   1,105   358,071   7,463   4,973   114 
 08/11   5,064,171   162,407   57,198   991   365,353   7,203   5,776   117 
 08/04   4,698,818   155,204   51,422   874   418,683   7,532   7,367   109 
 07/28   4,280,135   147,672   44,055   764   460,996   7,042   7,130   91 
 07/21   3,819,139  140,630  36,195  674  463,682  5,395  8,181  57 
 07/14   3,355,457   135,235   28,744   617   422,861   5,102   5,607   57 
 07/07   2,932,596   130,133   23,137   560   351,367   3,394   5,006   24 
 06/30   2,581,229   126,739   18,131   536   278,941   6,406   4,367   26 
 06/23   2,302,288   120,333   13,764   510 
John Robison

John Robison is an expert on slot machines and how to play them. John is a slot and video poker columnist and has written for many of gaming’s leading publications. He holds a master's degree in computer science from the prestigious Stevens Institute of Technology.

You may hear John give his slot and video poker tips live on The Good Times Show, hosted by Rudi Schiffer and Mike Schiffer, which is broadcast from Memphis on KXIQ 1180AM Friday afternoon from from 2PM to 5PM Central Time. John is on the show from 4:30 to 5. You can listen to archives of the show on the web anytime.

Books by John Robison:

The Slot Expert's Guide to Playing Slots
John Robison
John Robison is an expert on slot machines and how to play them. John is a slot and video poker columnist and has written for many of gaming’s leading publications. He holds a master's degree in computer science from the prestigious Stevens Institute of Technology.

You may hear John give his slot and video poker tips live on The Good Times Show, hosted by Rudi Schiffer and Mike Schiffer, which is broadcast from Memphis on KXIQ 1180AM Friday afternoon from from 2PM to 5PM Central Time. John is on the show from 4:30 to 5. You can listen to archives of the show on the web anytime.

Books by John Robison:

The Slot Expert's Guide to Playing Slots