May 1, 2007 -- Gamblers are a superstitious breed. They've created lots of myths about gambling, like there are ways to beat the odds and win -- if you just know the right strategy.
Of course, people do win money. But think about the odds. It costs bundles of money to pay for all the glitzy buildings, spectacular attractions, all those employees and all the fat profits that casinos make. They don't make that money by losing to you.
Location, Location, Location
Slot machines are the favorite game for most casino gamblers and they've inspired many myths. For instance, many players have theories such as one that casinos put their better-paying machines at the entrances or at the end of each row. That's what gamblers at the Borgata casino in Atlantic City said.
One man said, "They like to put them wherever there's high traffic so the people walking by see it and they go, 'Oh, I'm gonna play the slots because everybody's hitting.'"
"The higher-paying machines are closer to the aisles," one woman said. Another believes casinos do it to "draw more people in. I think it's an obvious strategy that they have."
"If that were the case, we wouldn't have anybody playing anywhere but the end aisles," said Larry Mullin, president and chief operating officer of the Borgata.
"You have the same chance of winning whether you're at the back of the casino, the middle of the casino, the north of the casino, the south of the casino, the fact is, you have the same chance of winning anywhere," Mullin said. "We need people winning everywhere in order to have people coming back here."
Other casino experts confirm it. It's a myth that the end of the aisle gives you an advantage. However, one truth is that the more expensive machines like the dollar machines pay out a higher percentage of what you put in than the quarter machines, and the quarter machines pay out more than the nickel machines.
A 'Cold' Machine Is Due to Get 'Hot'
Another myth is that a machine is "hot" or "cold" -- that eventually a machine is due to pay off.
"Sure, if you do play a machine long enough it's going to go through its hot and cold spurts," one woman said, pointing to the machines she and her friends were playing. "Right now these would be on a cold spurt, and we're all still sitting here playing. We're waiting for them to hit."
Her friend agreed. "Absolutely. I will sit there and put more money in. I'm afraid to get up because I feel like if I get up, the next person's going to win. So, it's kind of hard to walk away."
"The fact is, it's a myth," said the Borgata's Mullin. "The odds are the same every time you pull the handle."
That's because the slot machine's results are controlled by a computer chip called a random number generator. The random number generator generates numbers constantly. When you press the button, or pull the handle, you lock in whatever numbers were up then. It doesn't matter what happened the last 100 times. Each pull is a totally fresh start.
In fact even the handle pull is a joke. At one time, when slot machines were mechanical, the handle pull spun the reels. Those machines are long gone. With today's machines, the handle has no effect on what numbers come up. The spinning reels just provide suspense.
Know the Odds
There's no way around it. The odds will catch up with you if you play long enough. But you can improve your chances. If you play blackjack well, or baccarat, or you bet pass/don't pass in craps, casinos will keep about a dollar for every $100 bet.
A spin of the roulette wheel will probably cost you twice that. The slots are worse. Casinos keep an average of 2 percent to 12 percent of each spin. And the worst odds are probably Keno. The house keeps $25 out of $100 bet.
But casino odds are not nearly as bad as the government's "casinos": state lotteries. Here the house -- the government -- takes half your money. If a casino tried to do that, the government would call it a scam.