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Best of Barney Vinson

Gaming Guru

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Ask Barney

5 December 2002

What are the safest bets I can make in the casino?

Betting the pass line with odds at craps; the even money bets at roulette (red, black, even, odd, 1st 18 numbers, 2nd 18 numbers); video poker with maximum coins; basic strategy blackjack; taking or laying the point spread on your favorite sports team; and bingo (believe it or not, it's the best game you can play for the money).

What are the worst bets?

Parlays and teasers at the sports book; proposition bets at the dice table; any bet at keno; the joker bet on the Big Six; betting that $1 on the progressive jackpot at Caribbean Stud; betting on a tie hand at baccarat; the five-number bet at roulette (0, 00, 1, 2, 3); and nickel slot machines. Casinos generally keep as high as 20% of the "drop" on nickel machines compared to around 3% on a dollar machine, and here's the reason why. Three percent of a dollar is 3 cents; 20% of a nickel is 1 cent. In order for the casino to make the same percentage on a nickel machine, it would have to hold 60%! At 20%, you're getting off easy.

Funny story. A young lady walked up to a Big Six wheel, which is the game where the dealer spins a big wheel and the players bet on where it's going to stop. The lady gave the dealer a $20 bill, and the dealer gave the lady $20 in chips. "Excuse me," the lady said with a frown. "Don't I get darts?" She thought it was a spinning dart game! Well, I shouldn't laugh. That'll probably be the next big game in Vegas.

I saw an $8 chip at the Luxor. What gives?

The Luxor issued the $8 chip in honor of the Chinese New Year. (Eight is a lucky number in China.) You should have bought one. Chip-collecting has become a popular and sometimes profitable hobby, and an $8 chip is truly unique. Some chips have really sky-rocketed in value, including the $25 chip from the El Rancho ($125), the 50-cent token from Caesars Palace ($12), and the $1 chip from the old S.S. Rex gambling ship ($375). Other good collectibles would be the George Burns commemorative chip from Caesars Palace, and chips of any denomination from the Dunes, Sands, Hacienda, or any other casino that goes under.

Beware of casinos that are now issuing $10 commemorative chips. Remember, these chips are only costing the casinos about 45 cents apiece, and that's about all they'll ever be worth. Why would a casino issue a $10 chip? Unscramble the following letters to learn the casino's motive.

R E G D E

Where should I play?

If you're trying to rack up points on your slot card, or get credit for the time you play at a table game, you should concentrate on one casino--preferably where you're staying. If you want the most for your money, play in downtown Las Vegas or in one of the city's neighborhood casinos. Slots are looser, proposition payoffs are higher, and food is cheaper. It's also crowded and noisy, and most of the patrons are wearing hard hats. That's why I prefer relaxing in my penthouse apartment overlooking the Strip, and having my valet make my bets for me.

Should I bet more when I lose?

No, no, NO! As I explained in my books (Las Vegas Behind The Tables, Chip-Wrecked In Las Vegas, Casino Secrets, Gone With The Wind, A Tale Of Two Cities), only bet more when you are winning. Otherwise, why would the casino have table limits? Most experts will tell you to be patient; never double up to catch up; and manage your money properly. The most popular money management system is going up one unit every time you win, and then going back to your initial bet when you lose.

After all, if you're gambling with your money, you're really gambling. If you're gambling with the casino's money, any game is a lot more fun.

Where's the worst place to play a slot machine?

I would never play a slot machine in a bar. These machines are usually screwed down so tight that you couldn't get any money out of one with a jackhammer. A point to remember, though, is that in Nevada no slot machine can hold over 25%. So figure that most slot bars will keep the max. You're already inside drinking, so they're not too worried about you staggering somewhere else.

What about penny slot machines?

Penny slot machines are making a comeback, thanks to innovative slot manufacturers dreaming up machines with multiple pay lines. In fact, the Gold Spike in downtown Las Vegas has a whole bank of one-cent video poker machines. The most you can hope to win on one, though, is a whopping $7.50--which is what it's going to cost you in cab fare to get to the Gold Spike.

If a slot machine advertises 90% payback, does that mean I should wind up with $90 if I invest $100?

Technically, yes. The problem, though, is that most players will re-invest that $90, and now you're down to $81 (multiply $90 by 90%). If you try a third time, again on the average, there's around $73 left. After seven cycles, that $100 has shrunk to $49, or more than half of what you started with. So although the payback percentage is accurate, it can be misleading.

Why aren't there any clocks in the casinos?

There are clocks in the casinos; you just have to know where to find them. In most casinos, you simply enter the coffee shop, exit through the kitchen door, then walk down a dimly lit stairway to the basement. Now go past the wardrobe department, the purchasing office, and the first aid room. Off to the right you'll see the time office. Inside is a clock where the employees punch in and out. It'll give you the correct time.

How much money does the Las Vegas gambling industry gross each month?

The average win is about $330 million a month, or $137,500 an hour! Remember, though, that out of that profit come operating expenses: employee salaries ($975) and owner salaries ($32.7 million).

Barney Vinson

Barney Vinson is one of the most popular and best-selling gaming authors of all time. He is the author of Ask Barney, Las Vegas: Behind the Tables, Casino Secrets, Las Vegas Behind the Tables Part II, and Chip-Wrecked in Las Vegas. His newest book, a novel, is The Vegas Kid.

Books by Barney Vinson:

> More Books By Barney Vinson

Barney Vinson
Barney Vinson is one of the most popular and best-selling gaming authors of all time. He is the author of Ask Barney, Las Vegas: Behind the Tables, Casino Secrets, Las Vegas Behind the Tables Part II, and Chip-Wrecked in Las Vegas. His newest book, a novel, is The Vegas Kid.

Books by Barney Vinson:

> More Books By Barney Vinson