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# I'll bet dollars to donuts it will never hit

30 June 2003

Dear Mark,
A casino in Reno has a cash-your-paycheck video poker machine with a big payout of \$1,000,000 for a sequential royal flush. The machine has been there for about four years with no winner. What are the odds of ever hitting the big one, and can the machine be set to miss it? Joe Q.

Question your way, Joe. Which do you think is easier? Hitting a sequential royal flush, or hitting 6 solid of 51 numbers in your typical state lottery? You would be wrong, Partner, if you think hitting a sequential royal flush is easier.

Let's crunch the numbers: The chances of hitting a 6/51 lottery are 18,009,460 to one. For an ascending royal flush in any suit, they are 77,968,800.

If it is suit specific, for instance, it must be in spades, then the chances are one in 311,875,200.
As to the latter part of your question, there wouldn't be a need to program a machine to never deal a royal when the chances of its occurrence are infinitesimal. Either way, not only has no one hit a sequential in four years, I am willing to make an eat-your-hat wager no one ever will. Sombreros preferred, hold the tabasco; takers get back to me pronto.

This "gimmick" bonus is nothing more than a marketing scheme to induce cashing your paycheck at their joint, and then, while you're so close, registering for one-armed-banditry 101. And while we're in an academic mood, how tall would a stack of 311,875,200 dollar bills be, and what would it weigh? Prizes for the worst answers.

Dear Mark,
You possibly answered this following question incorrectly: True or false: The joker is always wild in Pai Gow Poker? Jason C.

Your answer was; "The correct answer, Jason, is false. In Pai Gow Poker, the joker acts as a special card, yet not as a wild card in every scenario. The joker's only uses are as an ace, or as a wild card to complete a straight, a flush, a straight flush, or a royal flush."

I agree with your answer, Mark, however, kindly be advised the joker is always wild in the underground houses in New York's Chinatown (since banned) and the casinos in California. Wilson M.

Of course, Wilson, you do understand that because this column runs nationwide, at times I will need to generalize and omit or suppress blind pig action played in the fetid grottos of the earth. I do appreciate, though, the heads-up on Pai Gow Poker action in California.

Dear Mark,
Often, I notice you recommend making a pass line wager. Seldom do you recommend making the don't pass bet. Isn't the don't pass a better wager than the pass line? Danny S.

Yes, Danny, the don't pass bet (seven rolling before the point) is a "marginally" better bet — a 1.4% casino advantage versus the Pass line's 1.41 percent. But, I have always enjoyed the kibbutz esprit of a live craps game, you know — all us sweating infidels against the establishment, together, trying to beat the oh-so-cool house.

By betting the don't, you become one of them, a renegade sneering at the majority, hoping the seven wields its ugly face, wiping the rest of us out. Boo hoo to you!

While I'm at it, Danny, if you become a don't pass bettor, never scream out, "Come on, seven!" Betting against most players is bad enough, but rooting against them and gloating after a win is terrible table etiquette that will not get you to paradise.

Gambling quote of the week: "A slot machine never talks back to you (although some of the newer ones do talk to you), never criticizes your play, and never cusses you out. Sounds like the kind of friend we'd all like to have." -The book, Gambling For Dummies

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Mark Pilarski

As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.
Mark Pilarski
As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.