That certain uncertainty

Dear Mark,
Although a 6/5-video poker machine is not as good as a 9/6 machine, a slot attendant told me that the 6/5 machines typically hit more often, like high pairs. Was she really telling me the truth or pulling my leg? Michelle G.

Because every hand on every machine is a random, independent event, no slot attendant, or even the casino manager, has any "insider information" on which machines are ready to hit. Video poker, Michelle, is based on a random number generator (RGN in gambling parlance), which is part of the computer program the produces the cards that you see on the screen. This means that no matter what the payout schedule is, any particular hand is just as likely to appear on one machine as on any other machine of the same type. Consequently, you are just as likely to make a flush whether your machine pays 6 for 1 or 5 for 1 on this hand. The advice you got from the slot attendant telling you to look for low paying machines is not only worthless, but over time quite costly. *Note: The difference between a "9/6" and "6/5" machine is in the payout (per coin played) for a full house (9) and a flush (6), respectfully. Obviously, the 9/6 machine is the one to look for, among Jacks-or-better video poker machines, since it pays more than does a 6/5 machine for a full house and a flush.

Dear Mark,
I hit a slot jackpot on an Indian reservation. They issued me a W2-G tax form. Isn't an Indian reservation sovereign land and not under jurisdiction of US tax laws? Tom R.

You can label as you like the ground an Indian casino sits on, but your tax liability is based on total worldwide income, even that coming from sources outside of the United States, encompassing even Indian reservations, cruise ships and online casinos.

Dear Mark,
What do you think of the game No-Commission Baccarat? Is it a good bet since you are not paying a commission on the banker hand? Jim D.

Outwardly, no-commission baccarat looks very appealing. No-commission is a version of baccarat where the banker hand pays even money without the typical five percent commissions. But heads-up!, Jim: some casinos tweak their no-commission games by paying you only one-half your original wager on a winning total of six. This ploy gives the house a 1.62 percent edge on the banker bet, versus the 1.17 percent advantage they have on a normal baccarat game. When thatıs the case, stick with regular baccarat.

Dear Mark,
Could you please explain why there are betting limits are in a casino? Steve K.

Betting limits are set to establish both the minimum and maximum amount of money you can wager on one bet. You cannot wager less than the minimum nor more than the maximum posted on the table game. Betting limits varies from casino to casino, pit to pit and even table to table. I would be remiss, Steve, if I did not add that all players should only play on a game within their financial resources. Bumping up to a higher table limit than your bankroll can afford will be lethal to your wallet.

Gambling thought of the week: "Why otherwise would that dignified fellow dressed like a banker be sitting at a slot machine murmuring, 'Talk to me baby, I know you understand my needs.' " Roger Fleming