Two Stories – Gambling With An Edge

I have two brief things that came up recently and are worthy of writing about, but neither is sufficient to fill up an entire blog. So, I stacked them together. Hope you don’t mind.

New Rules

I was playing dollar 9/6 Double Double Bonus, with four progressives. I hit the aces hand for $844 and to my surprise, the machine locked up. I’d played at this casino previously and jackpots less than $1,200 never locked up. But it did today. I had earlier in the session hit $400 and $250 jackpots and those didn’t lock up, but $844 did.

When the floorman came, I asked if this was a new procedure casino-wide, or if this particular machine was mis-programmed somehow. He told me it was a casino-wide policy, requested by the employees in the hope of possibly generating more tips. The pandemic has been really hard on the staff.

I don’t like this policy, but I’m not going to complain about it or create a scene. It will cost me five minutes every now and then. I didn’t tip.  Resetting the payout for aces back to $800 only cost about 0.15% and the other numbers were high enough to make things worthwhile, so I continued to play. 

I’ve previously played at casinos–Palms and Eastside Cannery, among others–where for a time they locked up the machines at $1,000, trying to squeeze tips out of quarter royals. These moves were always unpopular with the players, and both casinos removed this policy after a month or so.

I can understand a casino wanting to take care of their employees, but they need to take care of their players too. The pandemic has also hit us.

Starting to get the Eye

I was the only one playing a progressive, and I was there for four hours. I didn’t hit the top jackpot, but had hit several of the lesser ones and it was still a positive play. However, the jackpot I hit four hours in (still not the biggest one), was enough to turn the play negative, so I left.

Shortly before I hit the last jackpot, some sort of slot supervisor came and stood right next to me, writing down the size of all of the progressive amounts on my machine. He could have done this on any of the other machines, but chose to do it standing uncomfortably close to me.

I’m not sure what he was doing. It could be that they were trying to understand why I was playing for four hours. It could be that they were sending a message that my play was unwanted or close to being unwanted.

So, what to do? 

I could be kicked out at any time, of course. It has happened before at casinos. It will probably happen again. The first step is to do what I can to make this as costless as possible. This is a casino where you earn points that you can download as free play on your machine. If I’m restricted and can no longer play off the points, they might redeem them in cash at 50¢ on the dollar. Which is probably legal according to their slot club rules.

I didn’t have a ton of unredeemed free play, but I had enough that losing 50% unnecessarily of it would be irritating. So, I came back the next day on a different shift and played off what I had. It wasn’t a point multiplier day, and the game was no longer worth 100%, but it was worth well over 99% and on the amount I was playing, it didn’t matter much. Consider it cheap insurance.

If I don’t end up being restricted, well, no harm done. I’ll just start building free play again from zero. But if I do get restricted, I won’t lose 50% of what I had earned. 

And, like most things in gambling, I needed to make my decision before I knew the actual result. If it turns out I’m not restricted, then some would say it was a wasted trip to go and cash out. But I can’t know if I’m going to be restricted until I’m actually restricted! So, I have to make an educated guess in advance and live with it.

Note that today I’m saying giving up a buck or two (plus the time and cost to get there) is okay to save $300 or so. A few weeks ago, I wrote that I’d wait a minute to earn an extra dollar when I was risking about $300. So how are these cases different?

It has to do with the probability of something bad happening. In the case a few weeks ago when I waited for a progressive meter to turn over an extra dollar, it was 8,000-to-1 or so that I wouldn’t lose out by waiting. This time, it might be closer to 10-to-1, or even shorter odds, that I’ll lose out if I don’t spend that buck. That makes all the difference to me. Every case is different, and you have to do it by feel each time, but those are the kinds of considerations that cross my mind before I make the decision.


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