A shuffle through the Gaming mailbag:

Q: Regarding your column, my advice, would be to tell the pit-boss that one of the dealers is displaying his hole card occasionally to the player.


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When I was going to college to become a mathematics teacher, I was working part-time at a local casino. The problem was I was young and foolish and got caught up between a couple of critters who lured me into showing them my hole card.

Well, within a short period of time, I was arrested for conspiracy.

Luckily enough, I decided to tell the judge(s) of my wrong doings, and thus did not receive a criminal charge against me.

I eventually became the high school teacher I wished to be. I never, ever played wrongfully again.

I am now 67 years old, retired, and 67-23 = 44 years wiser than if I had continued to show my hole-card.

A. Thanks for the note. Player-dealer collusion is taken extremely seriously, and a dealer who intentionally shows his down card can expect to be dealt with severely. So can the players with whom the dealer is in cahoots. I’ve not done a survey of every jurisdiction, but I’m confident that all regard player-dealer collusion as a felony.

This issue I wrote about a few weeks ago is fundamentally different. What does a player do if he spots a dealer who accidentally tips his whole card? The casino preference obviously would prefer that you tell the dealer or his supervisor. But the serious blackjack players I surveyed all said they would just use the information and say nothing.

It’s one of a number of knotty problems in casino ethics of the kind the Travel Channel spotlighted several years ago in a special called “Las Vegas: What Would You Do If …?” I was part of a crew Frank Scoblete put together to talk about issues such as what to do if the dealer overpays you, or if you find a chip on the casino floor. It hasn’t been show in a number of years, but if you ever get a chance to see it, it’s an interesting hour.

Q. We can all see that video poker is getting tougher. It’s not just that full-pay Deuces and 10-7-5 Double Bonus are all but gone, but now so many casinos have lowered the pay tables to a third and a fourth tier. Do players just not notice? Why do these bad games survive?

A. I once asked a representative of a game manufacturer if he thought players noticed the differences in pay tables. He said that only a small minority of players could distinguish the games at a glance, but that players noticed their bankrolls disappearing faster on the lower-paying games.

They might attribute it to the casino tightening the machine by making winning hands come up less often, or to the casino being an unlucky place for them. But players notice when their bankrolls are disappearing faster, and that affects where and how often they play.

But once players are in a casino, most don’t notice which have the higher pay tables. Given that reality, casino operators put lower-paying games on the floor because they can.

A former slot director of my acquaintance told me changes in casino ownership, upper-level management and goals contribute to the decline in pay tables. When he was working for an independently owned casino, he and his predecessor had 10-7-5 Double Bonus Poker machines at quarter and dollar level, with a progressive royal on the dollar games. When a large casino company bought the place, he was instructed to replace games that had been very successful.

“We made money on those machines,” he told me. “Players aren’t really good enough to beat them. Besides that, they were an attraction. They brought people in the door who might not have come otherwise, and some of them brought wives and husbands who played other games.”

That’s an argument he couldn’t sell to the new owners, who wanted to see every game hold its own. Why keep a video poker game that’s holding 2 percent when one in another part of the casino is holding 5 percent? For that matter, why keep a game that’s holding 2 percent when most of the growth in gaming is in video slot machines that hold 10 to 15 percent?

Nor do many operators work on that theory today. Lower-paying video poker has become a default position in most areas, and for it to change, operators would have to see players vote with their feet. So far, that hasn’t happened.

Look for John Grochowski on Facebook (tinyurl.com/7lzdt44); Twitter (@GrochowskiJ) and at casinoanswerman.com. Casino Answer Man runs every week.


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