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Ask the Slot Expert: Fear of getting sick in Las Vegas

11 August 2020

Question: My biggest fear is I go to Las Vegas and then, when I try to fly home, I have a fever and the virus.

We need an insurance policy that will cover a forced stay in a city.

Until then, I will drive to a city like Biloxi for fun.

Answer: I was stuck in Las Vegas many years ago. There was a blizzard back east, scores of flights were cancelled, and I couldn't get a flight out for a few days. I don't remember exactly when this occurred, but I do remember having to wait in line for my turn to use one of the pay phones in the bank of pay phones at Treasure Island. That gives you an idea about how long ago it was.

We are generally poor at determining risk. I used to work with a lady who had two sons, one of whom I went to school with. Whenever they flew somewhere, they would take two separate flights. One parent with one son, the other parent with the other son. They wanted to decrease the probability that they would both be killed at the same time and leave their children without parents.

They took one car to go to the airport.

They were far more likely to be killed in a car accident on the way to the airport than in a commercial aviation accident, so they should have also taken two cars to the airport. They perceived the plane to be risker than the car, even though it's the other way round.

In the past, you probably didn't think twice about coming to Las Vegas during the height of the cold and flu season. I don't have any numbers on this, but you may have been more likely to catch the flu in a casino when there were no mitigation efforts than you are to catch COVID-19 today with masks, social distancing, and enhanced sanitization procedures.

Again, I have no data to back this up, so I could be completely wrong. I did catch a cough or a cold every other month or so for the first two years after I moved to Las Vegas.

I get where you're coming from. There's much to be said for sticking close to home for a while longer.


Question: The machines we play at an Indian casino have two cards, a yellow bingo card on top and a black card on the bottom. We understand the yellow card. What does the black card tell you? And does it make a difference if you change your bingo card before each spin?

Answer: The operation of a Class III slot machine is so simple compared with the operation of Class II machines.

A picture showing the two screens was attached to the email. The yellow card on top is a standard bingo card. The card underneath looks like a bingo card that has been pivoted (columns become rows) and elongated to have five rows of 15 numbers. At first glance, you might think that the B row has the B numbers that have been called, the I row the I numbers, and so on. I've seen similar displays in live bingo drawings, but that is not the case here. The big card does show the numbers that have been drawn, but the rows are irrelevant.

These are some of the numbers shown in the picture. Row 1: 15, 29, 39, 49, 68, 4, 27, 38, 48, 74. Row 2: 9, 25, 37, 53, 65, 1, 26, 35, 60, 75. Row 3: 14, 23, 31, 54, 71, 3, 18, 43, 46, 66.

If you take a close look at the numbers, there is a pattern. The first number is a B column number, then an I column number, then an N and a G and an O. The pattern is repeated for the second and third groups of five numbers on the row and for all of the following rows. If you could see the picure, you'd see that the first 40 numbers are yellow and the remaining numbers are white.

I can't tell what game was in the picture, but it's a VGT Class II machine. These machines operate differently from other Class II machines I've seen. You automatically get a new bingo card for each spin on these machines.

When the machine is in demo mode, it displays the different winning bingo patterns, how much they pay, and the maximum number of balls allowed to win on that pattern. For example, the inside corners pattern may pay 15 credits for a 3-credit bet in 38 balls called. That means you have to have covered this pattern within the first 38 yellow balls displayed on the called numbers part of the screen. You don't win if it the 39th number drawn completes the pattern on your card.

I watched a few videos showing VGT machines in demo mode on YouTube. All of the patterns had to be covered in 40 or under balls drawn except for the coverall.

When you press the Spin button for your next bet, you get a new bingo card. If you have a winning combination covered within the maximum number of called balls to qualify, you win. If not, there's always the next spin.

More white numbers are drawn as you play. I believe that these numbers are good only for the coverall because that's the only pattern I saw that can be hit with more than 40 numbers drawn. I also think that the system draws numbers until someone hits the coverall. Then the called numbers screen is cleared and the system draws eight quintets of bingo numbers to get a new set of first 40 numbers.

As for changing bingo cards, you don't have that option on these machines because you're already getting a new card with each spin. On machines that operate in the more conventional way and let you keep a card for as long as you like, it doesn't matter whether you change cards. Your odds of winning are the same on every card.


And now for something completely different:

Penn & Teller recently had a show in which they taught magic tricks that you could do at home. Ran'D Shine, one of the magicians on the show, did a trick in which he read the viewer's mind.

Here is the trick. See if you can figure out how it works. Send me your explanation and I'll post mine next week.

  1. Choose a major team sport. The screen showed drawings of a soccer ball, hockey stick and puck, football, baseball, basketball on his right and a baseball bat on his left.
  2. Note the second letter of the sport you chose.
  3. Now think of a fruit that begins with the letter.
  4. What is the last letter of that fruit?
  5. Now think of a breakfast food that begins with that letter.
  6. Were you thinking of eggs?

Here are the latest figures from https://www.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#cases. Perhaps these numbers will help the writer of the first question decide whether now is the time for a Las Vegas visit.

Totals Weekly Increases
US NV US NV
Date Cases Deaths Cases Deaths Cases Deaths Cases Deaths
08/11 5,064,171 162,407 57,198 991 365,353 7,203 5,776 117
08/04 4,698,818 155,204 51,422 874 418,683 7,532 7,367 109
07/28 4,280,135 147,672 44,055 764 460,996 7,042 7,130 91
07/21 3,819,139 140,630 36,195 674 463,682 5,395 8,181 57
07/14 3,355,457 135,235 28,744 617 422,861 5,102 5,607 57
07/07 2,932,596 130,133 23,137 560 351,367 3,394 5,006 24
06/30 2,581,229 126,739 18,131 536 278,941 6,406 4,367 26
06/23 2,302,288 120,333 13,764 510

The first diagnosed case in the United States was on January 21, 2020. According to the data above, it took the United States five months to have 2.5 million cases. It took only six weeks to have another 2.5 million cases.

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