Putting Bills Into a Machine

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Before playing a video poker machine, I typically load it with $500 or $1,000 in bills or tickets. I do this for a number of reasons:

  1. I keep records of how much I win or lose each day. It’s easier for me to remember round numbers. If I’m playing a $2 game, ($10 a play), it’s common to be up or down several hundred dollars in a session. If I add another hundred-dollar bill as needed, it can be difficult to remember whether it’s four or five of those so far.

    For each additional bill, I could record it on my phone (I use the Notes app on my iPhone), but I can keep thousand-dollar increments straight more easily. If I go in for $3,000 or more in a session, I write each $1,000 play as I go.

  1. For a time-sensitive play (such as 5x points during Monday Night Football), I want to have premade tickets. It’s time intensive to insert hundred-dollar bills one at a time. If I put them into the machine I’m playing, sometimes the bill acceptor fills up during the play, robbing me of valuable playing time. So I’ll create $1,000 tickets on a slot machine. If that starts to get close to being full (I can easily hear this), I’ll just cash out of that machine and move to another. I might start my play with five or ten $1,000 tickets in my pocket.
  1. Some casinos, like the South Point, pay off all jackpots in cash. They do not use ticket-in-ticket-out tickets. When I was playing $1 Ten Play Quick Quads ($60 per play), W-2Gs were fairly frequent and the amount of cash I had in the machine was always emptying out — whether I was winning or losing. For one of those plays on a day I planned a long sesion, I’d begin with multiple $2,500 tickets in my pocket — perhaps $20,000 to $40,000 worth. 
  1. If there’s a vacant machine immediately to my left, I’ll play the game with my right hand only and feed bills into the adjacent machine until I reach an appropriate-sized ticket — or I run out of bills. Vacant machines on my right don’t work as well due to the location of the bill acceptor, but I can usually switch to the right-most machine and now the empty machine is on my left.
  1. Sometimes casinos will create and sell you premade tickets — sometimes $1,000 — sometimes any amount you like. I’ve used this option several times in the past. I know full-well that if I give them $20,000 to start with an ask for tickets, my name is going on a CTR (Currency Transaction Report). This does not concern me. I file as a professional gambler, get a large amount of W-2Gs, and will not be under suspicion as a money launderer.

None of what I’ve just said should surprise regular readers of my columns. The reason I’m mentioning it again is a friend of mine, a strong player, was musing out loud about the number of players he sees playing one $20 bill at a time. If they build it up to $100 or more, they’ll cash out, put it into their pocket, and insert another $20 bill. My friend was questioning why players do this.

I can think of two major reasons, coming under the general headings of Money Management and Security. For those of you who read this column on the www.gamblingwithanedge.com page, there is plenty of room for comments. Please feel free to add to my list of reasons. Perhaps an entirely new reason. Perhaps a nuance to a reason already mentioned.

  1. Money management. Most players play under circumstances where the house has the advantage. These know from bitter experience that they will usually lose. Every time they run out of credits and have to insert another bill or ticket, this gives them an opportunity to leave the machine. Sometimes they actually do leave the machine. They know that when they have lots of credits still on the machine, they rarely think about leaving.
  1. Security: On most machines, people walking by can tell how much money you have in credits. If someone sees you have, say, $2,300 in credits, they may well take note of what you look like and are wearing and consider meeting you later in the parking lot. A person with $80 in credits wouldn’t run the same risk.

I assume these people aren’t keeping accurate records of their gambling (Most people don’t). It’s possible for people to accurately record their cash-on-hand before they enter a casino (perhaps $384), and then count their money when they leave (perhaps $214). In this case, simple arithmetic tells them they have lost $170 (assuming they didn’t spend money on anything other than gambling.) It’s not hard to record this number — but most people don’t. For me, I would have started with $1,000, ended with $830, and recorded the -$170 figure. And then moved along to a different casino. 

I further assume, perhaps incorrectly, that these people are more concerned with today’s score and not paying too much attention to their year-to-date or lifetime-to-date scores. 

We all know people for whom it is like pulling teeth to open up their wallet and bring out a $20 bill. For these folks, it’s probably money-in-the-bank for them to enter only one bill at a time. It simple hurts too much for them to keep putting twenty after twenty into the machine. 

For me, my score at this casino today is just a number. I’ll record thousands of minus numbers and thousands of plus numbers throughout the year. There’s not much emotion attached to this process. BIG numbers, either plus or minus, generate some emotion out of me, but relatively small numbers barely register at all. 

If my annual score is negative, especially two or three of those years in a row (Which hasn’t happened yet, but might in the future.) that requires some self-evaluation. I’ll deal with that when it arises, if it does. I can see how people whose scores are negative four years out of five can adopt a totally different set of rules for themselves than I do.

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