QUESTION: I’m not sure if this is a casinos question or not, but here goes. In the solitaire game that comes as part of the basic software package on most computers, there’s an option for Vegas scoring. Do you know of anyone who offers solitaire as a gambling game? How does it work?
ANSWER: I’ve been going to casinos since the 1980s, and I’ve never seen solitaire offered as a casino game. I had heard of it in the 1970s from an older guy who claimed to have seen it in Las Vegas, but I’ve never been able to verify with a casino operator that solitaire was offered. Others have told me of it being offered at online casinos, but I have no details.
The game that was described to me in the pre-home computer days of the ’70s was pretty much the same as you see on your PCs or Macs today. You know the game, with seven stacks of cards on which you try to build columns of cards in descending value, king through ace, while alternating red and black cards. Above those stacks, there are spaces for four more stacks, each of which must be started by an ace and built in order of ascending value in the same suit. When you win a game, all 52 cards wind up in those four stacks, sorted by suit and topped by the kings.
In the game I played as a youngster with decks of cards and as played with standard scoring on computers today, after the initial stacks are dealt you get to see every third card in the remaining deck as you try to build the columns. You can go through the deck up to three times.
In Vegas scoring on the computer and in the gambling game I was told about in the ’70s, you could run through the deck only once. Supposedly, you paid $52 for a deck, and you’d get $5 back for each card you were able to build at the top, in the stacks you’d start with aces as they appeared. If you wound up with 10 or fewer cards up top, you’d lose money. At 11 cards, you’d win $3. Get all 52 up top, and you’d win $208.
To make it work as a casino game, you’d need a dealer for each player, if the players were going to be allowed to decide which cards to move into the columns or stacks. That would limit profitability. Alternatively, you could have multiple players betting while the dealer makes the moves. Even then, there would be many fewer hands per hour than on other card games -- it takes time to get through a solitaire deck. Table minimums would have to be high. Would there be enough players willing to bet on that watch-and-wait game?
Did this ever actually exist as a Las Vegas table game? I can’t confirm it. I only know that I had heard of it in this form before there were home computers with Vegas scoring on solitaire software.
QUESTION: My friend says that when you’re dealt a winning hand or have four parts of a royal flush in video poker, you should pull out your player rewards card before you draw. She says it’ll help your comps. Is that true?
ANSWER: No, it doesn’t help given today’s modern player tracking systems. The system registers your play when you hit the button to start the hand. It tracks your full hand, even if you pull your rewards card out before you draw.
A couple of electronic generations ago, when player reward systems were a little less sophisticated, video poker pros hit pulling the card as a scheme to save themselves a few bucks at tax time.
When they were dealt a potentially big hand, such as four parts of a royal flush, they would pull the rewards card from the reader. Then, if the royal came up, there would be no record of it in the rewards system, and they wouldn’t declare it to the IRS. Trying to hide winnings from the taxman is bad policy, a risky business that I never recommended to readers, not even when the practice was at its height.
Those days are gone, but I’ve also seen players pulling cards on modern machines. A player once told me “If the casino thinks you’re winning, they’ll cut your comps,” he said. “So I don’t let them know I’m winning.”
Comps usually are based how much you play, rather than whether you win or lose. Casino operators know that if you play enough, they’ll get their percentage. But the bigger issue here is technological. If you pull your player rewards card on dealt winners, or potential big winners, it does you no good. The play is tracked, the result recorded anyway.
You can’t fool the player tracking software into thinking you're losing on winning hands. Just leave the card in the machine and take the comps as they come.
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