Assumptions can be costly

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I thought I would share this story with you and your readers. Just yesterday, I was in a casino sitting next to a woman who claimed she played all three coins when she lined up the three jackpot symbols. Only two registered. Because it was her first play, one fell into the tray, though she did not realize it. She missed a $10,000 jackpot and instead only received $500. The moral of the story is that you need to pay attention even when playing slots. Monica R.

As easy as slots seem-insert coins, pull handle, insert more coins-it is not all karma and kismet. You still have to be attentive to what you are doing, and that includes making sure all the coins played have registered.

The coin acceptor in a slot machine is a mechanical device; consequently, malfunctions can and do happen. There is no worse fate for a slot player than to find that the coin hung up in the coin receiver cost her $10,000. Because that third coin failed to register, Ms. Bad Fate was only eligible for the two-coin payoffs. Some casinos even have signs that read: “ATTENTION-It is the player’s responsibility to determine the number of lines lit before pulling the handle. Payoffs on lit lines only.”

The same also holds true for “Multiplier” slot machines. These machines allow you to increase your winnings proportionally by playing multiple coins. Most common multipliers are 2, 3, 4, and 5-coin machines, but have single paylines. You must make sure that the appropriate sections of the payout table are lit before you pull the handle. If not, you lose out, even if you think you played the right number of coins.

If someone fortunate enough to win a lotto jackpot dies before receiving all the scheduled payment, what happens to the remaining payments? I heard it all goes to the state. Jeff S.

Not if the late lamented winner has a will or freeloading relatives ready to pounce. True, some states will keep all the uncollected winnings, but that is if there is neither will or relatives.

In the state where I live, Michigan, the prize is paid out IN FULL. According to the Michigan Lottery Act, “The Lottery Bureau shall continue to make the remaining prize payments to the prize-winner’s surviving spouse and living children, in equal proportions, unless otherwise directed by the prize winner. If no spouse, children, or beneficiaries exist, the remaining prize payments shall be made to the prize-winner’s estate.”

You mentioned in a recent column that you don’t believe in systems. But isn’t card counting in blackjack a system? You have stated in the past that card counting is one of the only ways you have a definite edge against the house. Are you not contradicting yourself? Larry K.

Not really, Larry. Card counting (keeping track of the relative abundance of large and small cards remaining in the deck) is a rational use of the mathematical probabilities that result from the removal of cards from the deck. When low-valued cards dominate in the remaining unplayed deck, the house has the advantage; when high cards dominate the player has the advantage. It’s just that simple.

The mail order schemes I was speaking of advertised on the internet and elsewhere with windy but empty “guarantees” are sure-shot systems that help you tar-and-feather the casino. They aren’t designed for people capable of logical thought and put no strain on the brain cells.

Gambling thought of the week: “The majority of casino players leave too much to chance when playing in a casino. To put it bluntly, they don’t have a clue as to how to play.” -Henry Tamburin, gambling author

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