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Best of John Grochowski

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A shuffle through the Gaming Mailbag

29 October 2002

Q. I go to casinos about once a month and the following is the fourth time this has happened to me. I won a jackpot of 720 coins (quarters), five minutes later won another 300 coins and five minutes after that another 300 coins. An attendant came to put a bag of coins in the storage bin below the machine and while doing this he inserted his card in the players club slot. When he left, there wasn't another payoff for the next 15 minutes. My question is, did he somehow reprogram the machine when he inserted his card?

P.T., via e-mail

A. The attendant's card is just to confirm he is authorized to open the machine. It does not reprogram anything. That there was no payoff for a while afterward is just coincidence. If you play a lot of reel-spinning slots, you know there are far more losing spins than winners--as many as 20 losers for every winner on some machines. Losing streaks are just a natural outgrowth of the odds of the game.

Q. If we have to pay taxes for all wins above $1,200, what are the rules for people who play $100 or $500 slots? It seems that if they hit just single bars they would be over the $1,200 level.

Watching shows on the Travel Channel and seeing these people bet many thousands of dollars on each hand, I wonder, do they have to pay taxes when you see that they win millions on a weekend trip?

D.B., via e-mail

A. Internal Revenue Service rules are the same, no matter what the slot denomination. Casinos must have a player sign a tax form on any win of $1,200 or more.

For high-denomination players, it is essential that they keep a tax diary so that they can deduct losses up to the amount of wins. The diary should include date of play, the casino, the machine number, amounts of buy-ins and amounts of cash-ins.

Keeping proper records and deducting losses should take care of federal tax burdens for such high-limit players, as long as they itemize deductions, but states such as Illinois that do not allow gamblers to deduct losses on their state taxes pose a whole different problem. Under Illinois tax regulations, high-denomination players can lose tens of thousands, even millions of dollars and still have to part with huge sums at tax time. It's a system that is badly in need of updating.

Q. I hit my first royal flush last month, holding a Jack and King of clubs and miraculously getting the other three cards. I had begun to doubt the possibility of getting one, since I've been trying for about three years with no success. That includes seven or eight trips to Las Vegas.

It seems I'm constantly bombarded with low pairs on the initial deal. I'm holding them and getting not much back. I've grown weary of the whole thing and am wondering if I'd be better off holding two face cards--at least occasionally--as opposed to the two 7s that seem to always remain a pair of 7s.

T.H., via e-mail

A. Congrats on your royal! Royals occur only once in about 40,000 hands--about 80 hours of play for an average player--so long streaks without royals are possible. It's not unusual to go 160 hours between royals, or even 240. On the other hand, they can crop up close together--I've twice hit two in the same day.

As for your strategy questions, keep holding those low pairs. I'm assuming you're playing Jacks or Better and/or Bonus Poker since you don't like the games in which two pair pays only 1-for-1. In Jacks or Better, holding the low pair brings an average return of about four coins per five wagered, while holding two high cards of the same suit returns only about three coins per five wagered, and two high cards of different suits brings about 2.5 coins per five wagered. Whichever you hold, the hand is a net loser, but you'll pull enough two pairs, three of a kind and the occasional larger hand when holding the pair that you'll lose less than if you hold two high cards.

Recent Articles
Best of John Grochowski
John Grochowski

John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

> More Books By John Grochowski

John Grochowski
John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

> More Books By John Grochowski