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Best of John Robison

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Ask the Slot Expert: Bingo, blackjack and video poker - Part 1

22 January 2020

I had a busy weekend this past Labor Day. I had an invitation to play bingo at the Palms on Saturday and I was participating in a tournament that consisted of one session of blackjack and one of video poker at Red Rock on Sunday.

The weekend started with registration for the tournament at Red Rock. Then it was a quick ride on the 215 to get to the Palms for the bingo session.

The last time I played bingo was about 50 years ago in my great aunt's finished basement. There were bedrooms and a kitchen in the basement, so she and her sister lived downstairs -- my great uncle having died many years before -- and the upstairs was never used. We played for small stakes, but I never lost because my relatives would always give me money.

I had read about new electronic bingo card machines, so I was a little apprehensive about learning to use one of the machines. At the registration desk I asked whether there would be instructions before we started playing.

The lady at the desk said it was pretty simple. "The caller calls a number and you use this dauber I'm going to give you to mark the number if it appears on your card." Decidedly low-tech and not electronic. The hardest part was priming the dauber to get some ink on the sponge at the tip.

I was allowed to bring a plus-one but I went alone. She asked me, "One or two?"

I said, "One," surprised that she couldn't see that I was alone. I later realized that I was entitled to two sets of cards. She wasn't asking me the number of people in my party, but how many sets of cards I wanted.

Each set of cards consisted of 10 sheets of paper with six bingo cards printed on each page in two columns. Each page was used for multiple games and each game had to be played on cards on a particular page.

The callers went slowly at first to give the newbies a chance to get used to scanning their cards, but they picked up the pace as the session progressed. I noticed some experienced players were able to scan two sheets of cards in the time it took me to scan one sheet.

I have a newfound respect for bingo players. We had played some patterns in the basement games, but nothing as complicated as some of the patterns in the Palms bingo session. Most cards were used for more than one game (pattern) and that sometimes made recognizing when you were close to or had a bingo difficult. Once or twice the second pattern to be played on a page did not include some squares that were used in the first pattern, so you had to mark squares even though they weren't part of the current game's pattern. Fortunately, the callers told us when we should mark all squares and when we could just concentrate on the squares that were part of the pattern.

I thought the first pattern would be standard bingo, but they threw us right into the deep end with the hardway pattern -- bingo without using the free space in the middle.

Each bingo card on a sheet had a serial number. When a person thought he or she had a bingo, the folks running the session entered the serial number into the bingo computer and it checked the called numbers against the numbers on the card to determine if the bingo was legit. We had a couple of false bingos. I wasn't surprised. It was easy to make a mistake with some of the patterns.

Not only did I not get a bingo, I didn't even get within one square of a bingo. I wasn't really disappointed because there were probably more than 300 people there. I had a lot of competition. Plus, it didn't cost me anything and I wasn't shy with the snacks they offered.

Bingo started at 4PM. I had to be back at Red Rock at 6PM for a cash drawing for the participants who registered on Saturday. Earlier in the week I had had lunch with Jean Scott, her husband Brad, and two of their friends at the Steak n Shake at South Point. One of the friends worked at the Palms, so I asked her how long the bingo session would last. She wasn't involved with the promotion so she didn't know for sure, but she thought most bingo sessions lasted about an hour.

That's good, I figured. I would have an hour to get back to Red Rock for the drawing.

Five o'clock came and went and we still had two sheets to go, four maybe five games left. They went quickly and the session was over at 5:20. I had sat far away from the entrance doors, near one of the many monitors they had set up to display the numbers called. Like deplaning from the last row in an airplane, I had to get in line behind the other people leaving the session.

Bingo was held in a huge ballroom on the second floor meeting room level at the Palms. There was a huge crowd in the lobby waiting for the two elevators to make the short trip down to the casino level. I overheard some people say they were going to the stairs and followed them. The stairs let us out into a part of the building that I wasn't expecting. We weren't in the casino, but in one of the corridors leading to the hotel elevators. Fortunately, I had gotten familiar with many of the nooks and crannies of the Palms due to the many detours we had to take during the recent renovations.

It didn't take me long to get back to my car. There was no traffic on the highway and I made it back to Red Rock with 10 minutes to spare.

My luck continued and I didn't get called in the drawing. Maybe I'd do better in the tournament the next day.

I'll tell you about that next week.

John Robison
John Robison is an expert on slot machines and how to play them. John is a slot and video poker columnist and has written for many of gaming’s leading publications. He holds a master's degree in computer science from the prestigious Stevens Institute of Technology.

You may hear John give his slot and video poker tips live on The Good Times Show, hosted by Rudi Schiffer and Mike Schiffer, which is broadcast from Memphis on KXIQ 1180AM Friday afternoon from from 2PM to 5PM Central Time. John is on the show from 4:30 to 5. You can listen to archives of the show on the web anytime.

Books by John Robison:

The Slot Expert's Guide to Playing Slots
John Robison
John Robison is an expert on slot machines and how to play them. John is a slot and video poker columnist and has written for many of gaming’s leading publications. He holds a master's degree in computer science from the prestigious Stevens Institute of Technology.

You may hear John give his slot and video poker tips live on The Good Times Show, hosted by Rudi Schiffer and Mike Schiffer, which is broadcast from Memphis on KXIQ 1180AM Friday afternoon from from 2PM to 5PM Central Time. John is on the show from 4:30 to 5. You can listen to archives of the show on the web anytime.

Books by John Robison:

The Slot Expert's Guide to Playing Slots