So what's all the hoopla over Megabucks?

Dear Mark,
Recently Megabucks surpassed the current record of more than $11 million dollars. A few questions please. First, is there an easy way to find out the current progressive amount without going to a casino? Second, do you get paid half up front and the remainder over the next 10 years? Finally, when it approaches record levels, should I join the excitement and run out and play? Lois H.

Lois, I have never quite understood the frenzy when the Nevada Megabucks jackpot rises to a level where some fortunate soul rewrites the slot jackpot record book. Granted, it is a new milestone for IGT's MegaJackpot systems, but most players don't realize that Megabucks is a tougher beat than most state lotteries. Additionally, you also have to buck up three dollars (3-coin bet) versus your one dollar donation to state education. And what are the true odds of hitting a Megabucks bonanza? 16,777,216 to one.

For those in the dark, Megabucks is an IGT (NYSE: IGT) MegaJackpot slot system that connects 747 machines in 136 Nevada casinos to a primary jackpot that builds from a base amount of $5 million. Now I don't care which state you live in, but I will wager dollars to donuts that all state lotteries have had more winners and given away more money than IGT's Megabucks. So what's the big deal? No hidden camera investigation here, just PR department without peer that hypes the hysteria.

You also asked, Lois, about following current jackpot totals. All IGT Nevada MegaJackpot systems totals are available by calling tollfree 888-448-2WIN (888-448-2946).

Finally, Lois, Megabuck winners do not receive a chunk of change up front; instead, International Game Technology, the Reno-based slot machine maker that created and operates Megabucks, pays the winner in 25 annual installments.

Dear Mark,
What is the specific house edge when taking odds on a crap game? Tom S.

Here are the percentages in favor of the house for pass line and come bettors when you take full advantage of various odds bets.

Pass line (Come) no odds 1.41%
Single odds 0.85%
Double odds 0.61%
Triple odds 0.47%
Five times odds 0.32%
10 times odds 0.18%

Minus being a sophisticated card counter, taking odds on a pass line bet is the absolute "best bet" in the house. The odds themselves have a casino advantage of zero. A highly recommended wager.

Dear Mark,
What is a "Duke" in craps? Leo S.

A "Duke" is a monster hand on a crap game, which all but casino owners wish would go on until the end of time. "He shot the dice forever in the name of John Wayne," a dealer would say after a lengthy roll concludes.
Those of us fortunate to work the south end of Lake Tahoe know a "Duke" as employee Steve Ditchkus, who worked at Bill's Casino. Unfortunately, our loss is someone else's (players, fellow employee's) gain, since he's moved on to work for Harrah's in Topeka, Kansas. I wish I had 2000 words just to share the fun times we've all had working, playing, gambling, etc. with Steve, but suffice it to say that if someone were to write a book on gambling at Lake Tahoe and didn't mention "the Duke," they wouldn't have done their research.

Dear Mark,
Do the casinos really care if you win? Jake M.

Win or lose, it makes no difference to the Lord's of Chance-just as long as you're a player. Preferably a loyal returning player willing and able to give it all back.