Skillful play, not timing, wins the day!

Dear Mark,
My husband thinks that if he "times" when he hits the draw button, it will improve his winnings. So instead of playing at the same speed, he will slow down or go faster, depending on how he feels that the machine is doing. Is there any logic to certain machines paying better if you play faster or slower? Vickie C.

Synchronicity may or may not have its time and place, but with video poker machines, it's doubtful. But your question, Vickie, did incite me to thought. In part because claims of paranormal powers have never survived under scientific scrutiny, the James Randi Educational Foundation has offered $1,000,000 to anyone who can demonstrate anything supernatural. Maybe if your husband's theories can withstand systematic examination, payday might be better than if he had that elusive royal flush. No one has yet claimed the 1,000,000, but we can hold a good thought for him. Star-charmed players (like your husband?) who trust their inner selves will win from time to time; but over the long haul, the player who plays on a higher paying machine, rejects whims, hunches and timing, and demonstrates playing skill by optimum choice of discards, will always do a great deal better.

Dear Mark,
In some of your columns, you mention the word "grind." What do you mean by that? Steve R.

In the language of casino gambling, Steve, grind can be used in a variety of ways. A grind player is generally a term associated with a low roller. A grind joint is a casino that caters to these low rollers. Then there is the grind down. This is where the casino eventually wins all the player's money due to the built-in advantage it has on all wagers. Finally, the grind system. This is any system used by a player that attempts to win small amounts frequently against the casino. Unfortunately, the latter is highly unlikely.

Dear Mark,
I was on a crap game recently, and the stickman kept yelling out "another continental breakfast." What was he talking about? Bob D.

Two rolls and no coffee. This is when the shooter rolls the point followed immediately by 7 out, line away. Not a cold breakfast, Bob, but a lifeless crap game.

Dear Mark,
Almost every weekend I visit the casinos in Joilet. My brother-in-law believes they tighten the slot machines on weekends because the crowds are much larger. How do I know for sure that a casino won't change the return on their machines? Randy C.

Fear not, Randy. Illinois, having rigid gaming regulations, requires two keys just to open a slot machine. One is held by a casino employee, the other by a state gaming regulator. This prevents changes in a machine's payout rate.

Dear Mark,
When playing blackjack, I have noticed that in some casinos, the dealer takes the up-card as his first card, and in some casinos the dealer's up-card is the last card dealt. Does this make any difference for me, as a player? Kim J.

Dealing the up-card first or last is strictly based on table procedures set by the management of a casino. Playing conditions are not influenced by the dealer's turning the first or last card.

Gambling thought of the week: "The subject of gambling is all encompassing. It combines man's natural play instinct with his desire to know about his fate and his future." Franz Rosenthal, Gambling in Islam (1975)