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Ask the Wizard #115

I would like to encourage your readers to continue to utilize their favorite betting system. They all work. We’ve never lost long term on any of them. Of course when I say "we" I mean those of us who work in the casino.

Mark, a casino manager

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Can you tell me the traditional Las Vegas colors for $1,000, $5,000, & $10,000 chips?

Ray F.

To answer your question I turned to Barney Vinson, author of Ask Barney: An Insider’s Guide to Las Vegas. He replied, "The colors of large denomination checks vary from casino to casino, just so they stand out more. At Caesars, $500 checks are pink, $1,000 checks are yellow and $5,000 checks are brown (they’re called chocolates)."

If a person is playing one of the 5-cent ticket machines, and while making a 9 line bet, a winning combination comes up. . . if they had bet 1 line, or 45 lines instead, would that same combination of symbols have come up, or does each type of bet and amount carry its own set of combinations, probabilities, and house percentage payoffs? In other words, if a person is betting 1 line for several spins, and then when they feel that the machine is about due to hit a combination pay off, they start betting a few 45 lines. Is this a good strategy, or are they just fooling themselves because the 1 line set of combinations, and the 45 line set of combinations are two totally separate things?


For purposes of determining the game outcome the slot machine does not consider how many lines you bet or how much per line. The only thing that matters is the exact nanosecond you pressed the spin button. Random numbers drawn at exactly that time will determine the outcome, since the machine is picking numbers even when you’re not playing.

Do multi-denomination video slot machines have only one payback percentage for the physical machine, or does each denomination have its own par sheet and payback percentage characteristics?

"Anonymous" .

Each denomination can be set to its own payback percentage. On many IGT machines you can tell if they change the return percentage by whether or not the symbols on the screen change when you change the denomination.

I live next to a local casino that doesn’t use 50-cent chips for the Surrender Option so I get back more than half when I place an odd-numbered bet. In particular the surrender value of a $3 bet is $2. What is the effect of this rule and what are the strategy changes, if any?


This is a great rule! Only losing one-third of your $3 bet by surrendering adds 2.25% to your expected return. You didn’t tell me the other rules but if we assume a house edge of 0.5% before the surrender rule then the player edge afterward would be 1.75%. Here are the hands you should surrender on based on a six deck game (hit or stand on soft 17 doesn’t matter).

  • Player 6 against 10.
  • Player 12 or 13 against dealer 9, 10, ace.
  • Player 14 or 17 against dealer 8, 9, 10, or ace.
  • Player 15 or 16 against dealer 7, 8, 9, 10, or ace.

The only hand you would normally split that favors surrendering is 8,8 against a 10. This advice only holds true for a $3 bet. The value of surrendering diminishes as the odd-numbered bet gets higher.

What is the optimal strategy for the Plinko game on the Price is Right?

"Anonymous" .

From left to right the prizes are $100, $500, $1000, $0, $10000, $0, $1000, $500, $100. I would need to know the exact configuration of pegs on the board to do a perfect analysis but just eyeballing the board (see link above) I strongly feel the player should drop the puck directly over the $10,000 prize. Although it is bordered by two zeros all other prizes pale in comparison to the top prize. So the player’s strategy should be to maximize the probability of the top prize by dropping it directly above. To confirm to deny my hypothesis I did a search and there are lots of links devoted to the study of this game. This ( is one of the better ones, which agrees with my conclusion. It states in part that the expected value of dropping the puck in the middle is $2557.91, on either side of the middle is $2265.92, and tapering off as you move away further from the center.

How does a table game player go about getting comped?

"Anonymous" .

First get a player card, the same kind that go in the slot machines, from the Player’s Club desk. Then when you sit down at a table game take out your player card and give it to the dealer when you buy chips. The dealer will hopefully alert the pit boss that you have a player card and he will start to rate you based on your average bet, length of play, and sometimes your skill level.

I live in NJ about two hours north of Atlantic City. Do you have an idea as to where the closest European Roulette Wheel to someone in my part of the country is?

"Anonymous" .

There are lots of single zero wheels in Atlantic City. Most of the casinos there have them, but at a $25 minimum.