An Embarrassing Situation – Gambling With An Edge

I was playing dollar 10/7 Double Bonus at the Four Queens during a promotion. As always, before I started my play, I checked the pay schedule to verify that the game was what I was expecting. Casinos change games periodically and if the game has changed, I may well change the game I want to play there — or even decide the promotion is not worth playing.

After some time, my credits went to zero. This was not a big deal. It regularly happens. I reloaded the machine with some additional Benjamins and began to play again.

Soon thereafter, I was dealt three aces. I held them, of course, and drew. I remember thinking getting four aces would be nice. I was down a bit for the day and an $800 jackpot would put me ahead, at least for now. Continued play on this machine could easily eat up $800 and then some if I didn’t receive additional jackpots along the way.

The ace came in and, surprisingly, the machine locked up. What’s this? An $800 jackpot isn’t a taxable event and previously at this casino, didn’t lock up the machine. Some casinos do periodically make jackpots of this size hand pays, in the hopes of generating more tips for their floor people, but this casino hadn’t done that to my knowledge. Had that changed?

I looked again and saw the jackpot was for $2,000, not for $800. Along with the fourth ace, I’d drawn a deuce. I was playing Double Double Bonus, not Double Bonus. When I went to zero credits, the machine must have switched games. I had checked the game when I first sat down, but not after I went to zero.

To prevent this type of thing from happening, I regularly reload when I get down to five credits. So long as any credits remain, the machine won’t change games on me. But if there are zero credits, sometimes it happens.

It was not just DDB. It was 8/5 DDB, returning 96.8% when played well — which I was not doing because I thought I was playing a game where you hold flush kickers and prefer 4-card open-ended straights to low pairs.

Before this happened, I had not made a similar error playing a game this bad for probably twenty years. I’m really careful about checking every time. But this time it happened.

There are a number of players at the Four Queens who recognize me, and the four one dollar 10/7 machines are on fairly busy pathways. While the machine was locked up with the jackpot light blinking, several dozens of people passed by. If any knowledgeable players saw me hit a jackpot on a 96.8% game, they were gracious enough not to mention it. 

But it is unlikely that this happened. A number of players would have been all too happy to razz me a bit. I tease players (and other people) on occasion, and what goes around comes around.

I don’t blame the casino for this. If they are going to offer 10/7 DB, they need to make their money somewhere. Putting the default game on the box 8/5 DDB is one way to do this. They’ll collect from a certain number of not-so-knowledgeable players. I would have bet the farm that they would never have caught me in this. But they did.

This type of event is on my list of signs to look for to determine whether or not I can still play competently. I’m almost 75 years old, and mentally I’m not what I used to be. It happening once every 20 years is not particularly alarming. If it starts to happen regularly, I’m going to have to make some unpleasant decisions about my future play.

I was extremely fortunate that I found out about this while hitting a $2,000 jackpot. I could easily have gone on for several additional hands, playing the wrong strategy for that game, without realizing the game was so bad. Losing quite a few dollars before I discovered my error would be a far more typical result. It’s not that often that you get rewarded for mistakes, but this time it happened to me.

That jackpot made the difference between winning and losing on that particular trip. There are those who would say I should count my blessings. Not me. To me this might be a sign that I’m deteriorating. It’s not a pleasant thought.

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