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Best of Barney Vinson

Gaming Guru

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Barney Vinson's World

21 June 2002

I know that many people in Las Vegas depend on tips for a living. My question is who do I tip in the casino?

Anybody who wears a uniform works for tips. People in suits usually don't.

How do I mark my keno ticket?

Blank tickets and crayons are supplied by the casino. Your ticket will not be accepted if you use ink, pencils, scorpion venom, or bat's blood.

Do I have to write a new keno ticket for each game?

Yes, unless you're playing the same numbers. In that case, just present your old ticket to the keno writer, and she'll give you a new one. Since keno is strictly a guessing game (and a long shot at that), I recommend playing the same numbers all the time. Or put it this way. What if you pick eight new numbers, and your eight old numbers come up in the next game? Now you know why the suicide rate is so high in Nevada.

What is a "Quick Pick?"

This is a keno ticket where you don't even pick your numbers. The computer does it for you. In other words, the computer picks the numbers while the casino picks your pocket.

If I win at keno, how long do I have to collect my money?

Before the start of the next game, which gives you about ten minutes. The exception is if you play 21 games or more (up to 1,000) on what's known as a "Multi-Game" ticket. Then you have one year to collect your winnings.

How much of the parking on the Strip is used by tourists, and how much is used by employees?

Believe it or not, 60 percent of the parking at Strip casinos is by employees. Authorities say it's the tail fins on the employees' 1965 Cadillacs that take up all the room.

Is cheating still a problem in Nevada casinos?

Cheaters cost Nevada casinos millions of dollars a year, $20 million alone just to slot machine cheats. In one recent year, Nevada casinos turned in nine tons of slugs that people had put in slot machines.

One gambler tried to loosen up a slot machine by squirting oil into the coin acceptor. When he pulled the handle, the door of the machine blew off, sending him to the hospital. He was treated for cuts and bruises, then left the hospital and went back to the casino. He wanted his cup of nickels back, which were on top of the machine he was trying to cheat!

Two elderly women read a newspaper story about a slot cheating method called "stringing." (A strand of thin wire is attached to a coin through a small hole, and the coin is yo-yoed until it triggers the machine's acceptance switch.) The women made their yo-yo of bright orange yarn, taping the yarn to the coin as they excitedly went to work. When apprehended, the two were astonished. They had read about it in the newspaper, they said, so for goodness sakes how could it be illegal?

Magnets were used on slots before new metal alloys made such trickery impossible. A cheat would place a magnet on the side of the machine, which let the reels float free. When a jackpot was lined up, he pulled away the magnet and — presto! One of these cheats was spotted working a machine. The security guards gave chase, and as he ran down the street he suddenly came to a screeching halt. The magnet he was using was so large that he accidentally magnetized himself to a lamp post.

A rare method used by cheats is stealing the casino's roulette ball and replacing it with another ball that has a tiny magnet inside. The cheater then attempts to control the ball's movement by means of a larger magnet he conceals near the wheel. One cheat had his magnet hidden inside a fake plaster cast on his arm. Unfortunately, the magnet was stronger than the cheat anticipated, and the ball leapt off the wheel altogether and stuck to his cast!

Here's another true story, this one concerning former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. In 1948, she was in Las Vegas on her way to visit Hoover Dam, and made a stop at the old El Rancho Vegas on the Strip. The casino owner invited her to play a 25-cent slot machine, but she had no luck whatsoever. The owner grabbed his slot mechanic and had him fix another machine so it would pay off eight out of ten times. "You're playing a cold machine, Mrs. Roosevelt," he told her. "Why don't you try this one?"

Soon the quarters were dropping into her tray and she was chortling with delight. She wound up cashing in $680, and never did visit Hoover Dam. She went to her death never once suspecting that she had been "took" in Las Vegas.

Should I ever play hunches?

Absolutely not. That is, unless you -- er -- have a really good hunch.

If I get five cards at blackjack without going over 21, do I automatically win?

No, even though it's a great idea. However, you win automatically at the Las Vegas Club in downtown Las Vegas if you get six cards without going over 21. You also win with six cards under 21 on blackjack machines — but beware of these mechanical monsters. Your bet is limited (usually 10 coins max), and you're paid even money for a blackjack, instead of 3-2 at table blackjack. That hikes the casino edge by 2.5%.

What is Nevada's Black Book?

The infamous "Black Book" is the list of persons (31 at last report) banned from Nevada casinos by the Nevada Gaming Commission. Recent entries include Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal, a one-time mob overseer at the Stardust Hotel, and Ron Harris, who was caught rigging jackpots on slot machines. Harris should have known better. He was an agent for the Nevada Gaming Control Board!

One alleged mobster showed up at his hearing dressed in a tuxedo. When questioned by gaming regulators as to his attire, he replied that he had never been invited to join anything before and wanted to show the proper respect. He wound up in the Black Book, too.

(From Barney Vinson's new book Ask Barney, Bonus Books, Chicago, Illinois.)

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