The odds of you beating the casino are 2 to 1 against

Dear Mark,
Why has the term "odds" been so closely associated with gambling? Terry K.

The laws of probability, Terry, on which odds are based, are as highly respected a branch of mathematics as geometry, trigonometry or differential calculus. Odds are used in business, science, military planning, mortality rates and virtually all human endeavors-including gambling.
Most gamblers don't realize it, but every time they enter a casino the odds are 2 to 1 against them no matter which game they play. First, you go to war with the casino, which has an edge on each and every bet, and second, we all must do battle with the ultimate demon-ourselves.
There is your 2 to 1 against.

Dear Mark,
In blackjack, why is it that when the deck is rich in aces and face cards it favors the player? Gary C.

There are two reasons. First, blackjacks will appear more often when there is a higher proportion of aces in the deck, and as you know blackjacks pay the player 3 to 2. Second, the dealer will bust more when he has a "stiff" (12 through 16). The player, given the same opportunity, would stand on stiffs, whereas the dealer is forced by the rules of the game to hit away and hopefully bust.

Dear Mark,
My friend believes that all roulette tables operate on streaks and you should only wager on numbers that have recently appeared. I believe, and I am sure you will concur, that he is full of it. I could use some help convincing my friend. Steve B.

A streak is nothing more than a backward glimpse at probability and should not be taken into consideration in most, if not all, gaming situations.
Roulette wheels, Steve, do not operate with artificial intelligence nor do they have any way of remembering which past numbers have hit. Each spin is an independent event that is not controlled by past spins.
Your friend's theory has zero merit.

Dear Mark,
Could you please explain how much the progressive meter rises on both your average slot and video poker machine? Jane B.

The rate at which the meter progresses upward is based on a pre-set percentage of all the money cycled through the machine. The meter rates will vary from machine to machine, casino to casino. If you are playing an individual progressive, expect an advance rate of five to 10 percent of the money played. Example: A dollar wagered, the jackpot goes up 10¢. Machines that are tied together, like a bank (carousel) or networked slots like Megabucks or Quartermania, involve a much lower progressive rate. In return, you are provided a mega jackpot-a.k.a. big, big bucks.
On your typical video poker machine, the meters rise on the average of between .25 and two percent with one percent being the industry average.

Dear Mark,
If I may, a quick history question. Who invented the slot machine? Ted G.

The first mechanical slot machine, the Liberty Bell, was invented in 1895 by Charles Fey, a San Francisco mechanic. Fey's machine housed three spinning reels, each decorated with diamonds, spades, hearts and one cracked Liberty Bell per reel. When the bells lined up, they produced your biggest payoff: 10 nickels.
If you are ever in Reno, Ted, the original Liberty Bell is on display at the Liberty Belle Saloon & Restaurant, on 4250 S. Virginia.

Dear Mark,
The video poker card that comes with your Hooked on Winning audio cassette series states that a 2-card royal (Ace, no 10) is a more powerful hand than a 2-card royal (10, no Ace). Why is that? Barney G.

A two card royal with an ace (jack of hearts, ace of hearts) is a preferable hand because if you draw an additional ace, you will get your initial wager returned for the pair of aces. Whereas if you were to draw a second 10, zilch is your payoff.