Broward News

Steve Bourie, Casino Expert: Five Ways to Avoid Catastrophe

With the holiday season rolling in fast, everybody could use a few extra dollars in the bank. For some, that means cutting back on spending or picking up a second gig. For others, the move is to grab next month's rent payment, sacrifice some chickens to the right patron saint, and head over to the casino.

But there's a right and wrong way to squeeze money out of a local gaming joint. No one know this better than casino guru Steve Bourie.

For almost 30 years, the Hollywood-resident has studied the ins and out of casinos, breaking the whole deal down into math and probabilities. After running local blackjack tables by counting cards for a number of years, in 1992 he began writing the annual American Casino Guide, an intricate state-by-state look at a gambler's best bets for success.

"People are so lazy they really just want to go in there and pull a handle," Bourie tells New Times. "In reality it's more complex."

Bourie briefed New Times on a number of simple tips for seizing the advantage inside a casino, whether you're trying to earn a few more holiday dollars or just improve your usual play. 

1. Slow the Hell Down. We know, we know, you gotta make that paper. But even though you might want to wear your arm out pulling at a slot machine, eager is a bad game face at the casino. The more play you cram into an hour, the worse the odds for success. "One of the worse things in a casino is to play a fast game," Bourie says. This is pretty much true of all games, and keeping a careful eye on slight differences in pace of play at different tables
can make a big difference. For example, if you're playing blackjack, steer clear of tables with continuous shuffling machines -- they ensure the house deals out more hands per hour.

2. Stay Away from the Slots
. Each slot machine is tooled by the manufacturer for a certain number of winning and losing combinations. But there's no way for you to know whether you're sitting down at a statistical lemon or ripe prospect. Instead, Bourie tells players to hit up video poker. Because the game is based on the 52 card deck, there's a set limit to the number of unique hands that can be dealt in the game. "The odds of getting a full house are identical on every single Jacks or Better machine," Bourie says. (If you're dead-set on the slots, Bourie has two helpful YouTube videos on when the bet the max and 10 tips for stretching your bankroll).

3. Yup, Even the Cool Themed Slots. As much as you might want to saddle up to the Ghostbusters or Sex in the City or the Hangover or other pop culture-themed slots, don't. Bourie says those consoles usually have a lower payback because to the increased expense due to licensing costs.  

4. Pick the Right Video Poker Machine. Even though a video poker station is a better bet than a slot, you've got to be careful which one you drop change into. Because the game's odds are essentially set by the number of possible card combinations, different machines are calibrated to pay back at different rates for different hands. All you have to do is look at the pay screen to see what you're dealing with.  "Generally where casinos make the change is in the payoff of a full house and a flush," Bourie says. "If they want the machine to pay back less, they have to pay you less when you get that hand. So one machine will pay nine coins, one will pay seven, one will pay six." The different between the payouts means a difference in your chances for winning. "So if you have a 9 [full house]/6 [flush] Jacks or Better machine, the theoretical return on the machine is 99.54 percent."

5. Get Ready to Break Even. The painful truth about casinos? With all those odds lined up against you, the best you can probably hope to do is wrestle your dips and swells back to a flatline. That doesn't sound very appealing, but even someone whose channeled a tremendous amount of brainpower into these questions like Bourie knows the probability. Still, if you're serious about gambling, you should join the casino's player club, so all the time inside isn't for naught.  

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Kyle Swenson
Contact: Kyle Swenson