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Best of Donald Catlin

Gaming Guru

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Vegas Visit

2 January 2010

This past November my wife and I visited Las Vegas in order to attend the fall gaming show known as G2E (short for Global Gaming Exposition). The show was overwhelming as usual and this year had one additional attraction: the keynote address was given by Rita Rudner. Funny! But this article is not about the show.

Mary (my wife) and I stayed at the Mirage for three nights and then at the Palms for three nights. We stayed at the Mirage for two reasons: the Blackjack and Terry Fator. We stayed at the Palms for the Video Poker. Let me explain.

The Mirage has one of the best Blackjack games that you can find on the Strip (Las Vegas Boulevard). There are four tables located near the cage's casino credit window that are double deck, dealer stands on soft seventeen, and double after splitting is allowed. These tables are $25 or $50 minimum depending on the time of day. If you can afford these stakes these games have a house edge of approximately 0.19% when using basic strategy. I didn't see much basic strategy when I played though; rather a lot of card counting, which was tolerated.

The Palms was somewhat of a disappointment this year. The 15/8 loose deuce games that were across from the security desk and the jokers wild kings or better games that were at the east end of the casino were both gone. (See my June 1st 2007 article Video Poker at the Palms - it no longer applies). Also many of the 9/6 Jacks or better games were gone. The only good news is that there are still about twenty 9/6 Jacks games in both quarter and dollar games available. There are also plenty of 10/7 double bonus game available. Although this latter game returns 100.17% to the player with perfect play, perfect play is really, really difficult and I suspect that is why these games are still around. One interesting note about this game. Right across from the entrance to the buffet is a bank of 10/7 double bonus machines that have a progressive jackpot. Usually when a machine like this is linked to a progressive jackpot the payout is lowered to 9/7; not so in this case.

While at the Mirage we went to see the Terry Fator show. I had heard good things about this show and was not disappointed. The guy is fantastic. He is not only a superb ventriloquist but he can sing (without moving his lips) and he is a really funny comic. I would recommend this show to anyone whatever the cost of the ticket. When the show ended he got a standing ovation that lasted at least two minutes.

Every now and then I like to watch the illusionist Chris Angel on A & E on my home TV. He has some really mind boggling tricks and is quite the showman. Thus Mary and I decided to catch his show 'Believe' at the Luxor. Big mistake! He has coupled his illusions with a Cirque de Soleil troupe and the result is three or four illusions coupled with a lot of other stuff that is out of context and makes no sense. Here is a case in point. During the show a white rope descended and a girl in tights came down the rope doing some acrobatic moves. I wondered to myself what sort of illusion this was going to lead to. When the girl got to the stage, she simply walked off to the wings and was gone. Blink, blink; what was that about? When the show ended Chris got a seated non-ovation. I turned to the couple next to us (from London, England) and asked how they liked the show. Worst show they had ever seen, they answered. So, avoid this one.

One final note. If you are in Las Vegas and have wheels, take a trip to Hoover dam and look at the bridge they are building south of the dam over the river. It is a huge arch and when the roadway is finished it will be 1000 feet over the river water. As things stand now, US 93 from Las Vegas to Kingman, Arizona is now routed over the dam. Since 9/11 large trucks and vans, however, are not allowed on the dam and are routed through Laughlin. There are security checks before the dam and even if you are driving your own van or RV you have to stop and be inspected. This produces long lines and delays at these checkpoints. When the bridge is done US 93 will be routed across the bridge and there will be four lanes to handle all the traffic to Kingman with no delay.

So where is the mathematics? Wait till next month; see you then.


Don Catlin can be reached at 711cat@comcast.net

Donald Catlin

Don Catlin is a retired professor of mathematics and statistics from the University of Massachusetts. His original research area was in Stochastic Estimation applied to submarine navigation problems but has spent the last several years doing gaming analysis for gaming developers and writing about gaming. He is the author of The Lottery Book, The Truth Behind the Numbers published by Bonus books.

Books by Donald Catlin:

Lottery Book: The Truth Behind the Numbers
Donald Catlin
Don Catlin is a retired professor of mathematics and statistics from the University of Massachusetts. His original research area was in Stochastic Estimation applied to submarine navigation problems but has spent the last several years doing gaming analysis for gaming developers and writing about gaming. He is the author of The Lottery Book, The Truth Behind the Numbers published by Bonus books.

Books by Donald Catlin:

Lottery Book: The Truth Behind the Numbers