Putting gambling and "luck" into perspective

Dear Mark,
I am writing a paper on luck for a college logic class. You once wrote of individuals who had won the lottery more than once. Granted, that is lucky, but has there ever been an individual who was crowned the "luckiest person" in the world? Rachel G.

Luck and logic-now there is an oxymoron if ever there was one.
Sorry, Rachel, I know of no such list of luckiness. My favorite benchmark of providential fortuitousness has to be that of Vesna Vulovic. In 1972, Vulovic was a 22-year-old flight attendant on a Yugoslav Airlines DC-9 enroute from Stockholm to Belgrade when a bomb planted by Croatian terrorists exploded on board the plane at 33,330 feet. All 27 aboard perished except for Vulovic, who by chance was the only person in the tail section of the aircraft when it fell to earth from six miles above. The rear portion of the airliner stayed intact and took a life-saving bounce by hitting a snow-covered mountain slope at a favorable angle. Vulovic lived to tell about it.
I doubt you can get luckier than that.

Dear Mark,
I was in Las Vegas recently and made it a point to find the 9/6 jacks or better video poker machines. At one place I even found a 10/7 machine but noticed that it only paid even money on two pairs. Most of the 9/6 machines paid two for one on two pairs. Is this a case of the house giveth and the house taketh away? Jim D.

Good eye, Jim. Jacks or better machines are often categorized by their payouts on the Full House and Flush lines. These are the lines the casino alters to increase and decrease the house edge. Like you, many players feel they have found a bargain when they find a 10/7 machine. But on closer examination, you'll note a bit of casino charlatanism as the even money payout for two pair lowers your return by almost 5 percent. These machines should be avoided.

Dear Mark,
Now that we are retired, my husband and I love to travel and enjoy going to different casinos in the different states we visit. Could you please recommend a guide which lists all the different casinos by state? Mary K.

By far, the best all-inclusive guide of casinos nationwide is Steve Bourie's, American Casino Guide. Updated yearly, the 1999 American Casino Guide indexes every casino/resort in the U.S., plus all the toll-free phone numbers, web sites and e-mail addresses. Bourie also lists which casinos give away the Fun Books, the marketing department's phone number so you can stay on top of slot clubs, more than 200 pages of casino gambling tips, techniques and winning strategies, a comprehensive listing of room and suite rates, riverboat cruise schedules and cost, buffet prices and detailed maps. Additionally, you get more than $900 in valuable casino coupons.
You can find the 1999 American Casino Guide at all major bookstores for $14.95, or call Bourie direct at (800) 741-1596.

Dear Mark,
This is how I accrue my "gambling money." I never spend change. I throw all my change into a bag at the end of the day and periodically roll it and take it to the bank and exchange it for bills. This is my "play money" when I go to Las Vegas or Lake Tahoe. All my winnings add to this fund, and conversely, losses also come from this fund. Just thought I would pass along this tip. Craig S.

You're singing from the right pew, Craig. Loose change gambling is responsible, disciplined gambling. I applaud you, Craig, for gambling with money "you can afford to lose."