Fiscal ruin possible when you select the wrong machine

Dear Mark,
Well, now that you've got me "Hooked on Winning" (I bought your tapes, good stuff), I have a follow-up observation and a question. I took a well-deserved day off from work yesterday and hit the two Indian casinos here in Connecticut (Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun). My goal was to restrict myself exclusively to video poker. First, you are right on the money in your observation that you have to LOOK for a 9/6 machine, at least in the 25¢ and 50¢ denominations. I found a 25¢ 9/6 machine "buried" in a bank of machines at the Mohegan Sun and had real good luck with it. I encountered my first 8/5 progressive machine at Foxwoods, but I was surprised to see it was NOT a jacks-or-better machine. Rather, it was a two pair or better machine. So instead of having a payoff with just a high pair, a player needed two pairs to get a return. Is this typical of an 8/5 progressive machine or would you say this is player adverse? Mike K.

Take copious notes here, Mike. Two words describe the above-mentioned machine at Foxwoods-RIP OFF.
It is called an 8/5-video poker machine because of the 8-for-1 payoff for a full house and 5-for-1 payoff for a flush. Getting paid for a high pair (jacks-or-better) is an absolute necessity when playing video poker.
On a traditional jacks-or-better machine you will hit a high pair, two pair and three of a kind at a rate of 41%. Expect no return 55% of the time. As for just the high pair, its relative frequency occurs every 4.75 hands, or 21.053% of the time. Why, Mike, give the casino an additional 21%?
You need the jacks-or-better to keep you in the game. Needing two pair for a return is giving the casino a license to steal from the non-informed player.

Dear Mark,
I am making my annual pilgrimage to Las Vegas next month. On my last two trips I believe I have paid exorbitant room rates-$89 a night. Both times the casino hotel wouldn't bargain on these high prices. I prefer not to get stung for a room, figuring they are going to get my money at the tables anyway. Any suggestions? Stephanie G.

I have booked at least a dozen trips to Lost Wages with Las Vegas Reservation Systems. Their toll free number is 1-800-222-0892. Las Vegas Reservation Systems guarantees the lowest prices at all the hotels, plus they offer air packages and car rentals. You can even book on-line at their internet web site ( As for Las Vegas Reservation Systems being the absolute cheapest, I can't say for sure, as I haven't verified their guarantee. I can state that over the past two years I've never paid more that $39 for a room, which is well below the rack rate.

Dear Mark,
In years past, Atlantic City casinos used to invited my play with not only a free bus ride to the Shore but a bucket worth of coins to get me started. Seems lately the casinos are getting tighter and tighter with their customers. Are they? Marty S.

Yes, Marty, what you perceive is correct my friend. Those rolls of nickels to induce initial play are evaporating as the amount of money the casinos give bus customers spirals downward. Today, AC casinos pay an average of $16.54 to customers bussed in from outer markets, down from the low $20s last year.
It could be worse, Marty. When you have the only game in town like Casino Windsor in Canada, duping $40 out of patrons for valet parking seems appropriate to casino management. Or how about a sole riverboat casino that monopolizes a market? You not only get squat but charged to grace their gambling joint.
So granted, Marty, though you're $4 lighter in the bucket, you still have to love a casino that pays you to play.