Playing bingo can be sound gambling

Dear Mark,
Horrific as it sounds, it seems that the only game I'm able to win at lately is bingo. The thing is, for a comparatively small amount of money I can get a pretty good return. It also makes a nice relaxing change of pace if I'm on a losing streak and need to slow down my losses but I just don't want to leave the casino yet. Agree? Rick M.

Most players don't realize it, but bingo is one game the casino offers that generally operates as a loss-leader for the house. Casinos can actually show a net loss by paying out more in guaranteed prizes than they take in. Now for those who think $5 is a hefty price for a buy-in, try a special non-cash game-yes, FREE-that casinos occasionally advertise.
Rick, you answered your own question correctly. Bingo does offer a great return and is a nice, relaxing change of pace if you're on a losing streak and need to slow down your losses.

Dear Mark,
I am planning my first trip to Las Vegas. The only game I play is Video Poker. Any recommendations on where to play? Annie C.

One of the great things about playing video poker, Annie, is that the casino actually tells you which machines are better than others. How? Just by reading the paytable displayed on the machine's faceplate. So who has the best paytables in Las Vegas? Have your cabby drop you off at the Stratosphere. By offering "certified" 100+ payouts on quarter machines, the Stratosphere may very well be, according to their claim, "the best place to gamble on the planet." My personal favorites are their 10/6 and 9/7 Jacks or Better machines. With perfect play, the 10/6 machine will return 100.7 percent and the 9/7 machine 100.8 percent. Throw in some slot club card perks, Annie, and the Stratosphere is actually paying you to gamble.

Dear Mark,
How do you judge one casino as being better than another? Missy D.

Tastes will always vary, Missy, but when I'm asked which is "the best" casino to play in, I'm particular. Yes, a casino offering a 99¢ breakfast special is enticing, a $3.49 prime rib buffet tempting, a comp to a Broadway musical is worth kissing up to a pit boss for, but my answer will always remain the same. I judge a casino "the best" by where gaming rules maximize a players chances of winning.
Examples: Single versus double zeros on a roulette table; blackjack dealt from a single deck with liberal rules like doubling on anything, resplitting and surrender; a crap game offering five or ten times odds in lieu of two-times odds; a mini-baccarat table with low limits; casinos that advertise 98.5% paybacks on their slot machines, then tell you which machines those are when you ask; and finally, my favorite, 9/6 video poker machines.
The other casinos? They can keep their 49¢ hot dogs and free coffee mugs. I suggest that if you're willing to find "the best" casino my way, you will have a much better chance of winning. And isn't that what we're really there for?

Dear Mark,
Who has the best shrimp in Las Vegas? Tom T.

I'm partial to a joint downtown called the Golden Gate. They're cheap-99¢-have no filler (generally 50 percent celery), and the servings are huge. You'll find these bargain shrimp cocktails in the deli near the rear of the casino. I'll be in Las Vegas next month to field-test these denizens of the deep, again, for the tenth time, to make sure I'm not giving out erroneous information.