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Best of John Grochowski

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Near misses and the bucket list

27 October 2013

QUESTION: On my bucket list is some day receiving a W-2G form [required by the IRS before players can be paid jackpots of $1,200 or more].

Here are some of those naive questions:

I understand $1,200 and above as taxable income and must be reported. However, what about the gambler that wins $50, $200 here and there and just maybe amounts to $1,200 or over for the year? What percentage of the gamblers report that on their 1040 or do they need to?

Can you also explain the win/loss statement some casinos provide? What about the ones that don't? I read, other than the obvious money put in the machine etc., the ID number of the machine must also be included on reports. Really? I have yet to see winners at a casino with a pen and paper writing down those numbers.

ANSWER: In the situation you describe, very few players report those small wins that add up to $1,200-plus. The IRS holds that all gambling wins are taxable, but most players report only the W-2G jackpots.

Casinos are not required to provide win-loss statements. Those that do, do so as a service to their customers. It's for the benefit of players who itemize deductions on their taxes. The IRS permits you to deduct gambling losses up to the amount of wins. If you've had $10,000 in wins but $18,000 in losses, you can't deduct all $18,000. You can deduct only losses equal to your $10,000 in wins.

The IRS does not see the casino statements as definitive, or even adequate. If you're going to deduct losses on your taxes, the IRS wants to see a diary showing time and game played, right down to the ID number the casino puts on each slot or table. Players can use the casino statements as guidelines, and the IRS isn't going to challenge every return that simply uses the statements to back up losses. However, if you are audited, the IRS is going to want to see the additional evidence you would provide in a gambling diary.


QUESTION: For several weeks now, I've been just missing the royal flush -- usually getting a flush or a straight. Sometimes I have two or three near-misses on the same machine within five minutes. This usually happens on Double Double Bonus games.

I know about random number generators, but I keep missing the royal flush several times a night over a period of many weeks. Isn't this too many near misses? Your comments would be greatly appreciated.

ANSWER: That's normal. There are A LOT more near misses than there are hits. Royal flushes are rare hands, and we only get one an average of once per 40,000 hands, and it's possible to go much longer without one. In a stretch of 80,000 hands, the most likely outcome is two royals, but there also are significant chances of receiving zero or one royal, or three or more.

I once went through a stretch of two years without a royal while playing at least a couple of hours a week. Las Vegas Advisor publisher Anthony Curtis asked me how my gambling outcomes were going, and I told him I was holding my own in blackjack, but losing in video poker. He said not to worry, that the big hands would come. By coincidence, I drew a royal flush that week, and two more within a month. The rarity of royals makes video poker a streaky game.

There are only four royal flushes in the deck -- one for each suit -- but there are 940 other combinations that include four parts of a royal. Your finishing hand will have four parts of a royal 235 times as often as it will have a royal flush. So if you’re on a streak with a lot of near-misses, it’s frustrating, but not all that unusual.
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:

The Craps Answer Book

> 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