Dear Mark: Why do casinos have jackpots on their video poker machines that pay $1,199? That seems like an odd jackpot number. Trish H.


Think, Trish, of a $1,199 jackpot as the Lords of Chance doing you a favor.


A blast from the past typically on video poker machines, that $1,199 bonanza is $1 shy from you getting a mandatory tax form. At $1,200, the casino is required by the IRS to have you sign a W-2G before they can pay you. At $1,199, you avoid the paperwork. Although there is still a tax liability on all casino winnings, the $1,199 windfall is between you and the IRS.


Now for those of you might want to ask a slot attendant to be paid a $1 less on a $1,200 royal flush to dodge a W2-G, I’d say, “Not a chance.” Here’re two reasons why: accounting – the pencil pushers upstairs like things balanced – and collusion. Again, granting all gambling winnings are technically taxable, Uncle Sam getting wind of a publicly traded company on the NYSE in cahoots with players trying to avoid paying taxes would be jeopardizing a casino’s gaming license.


A little side note about “things balanced.” I worked for a time in the cashier’s cage, where at the end of a shift, you totaled out the casino cage. In essence, you count down every dollar within the casino walls. We’re talking millions here. If an incoming shift supervisor is $0.10 off, they can plan on running a tape until they find it. Yours Truly, being dyslexic, ended up acquiring blistering speed on a 10-key adding machine by forever searching for that dime.


Dear Mark: What do casinos do with the old slot machines they are no longer using? Steve H.


It depends on, Steve, if the casino bought them outright, the manufacturer placed them in the casino to share profits, or they are leased. If they come from the manufacturer or leased, both parties will come and scoop them up. If a casino outright bought the machine, the casino will sell the machine after its useful life to a slot wholesaler or distributor, or, it finds its way to the slot graveyard in the basement.


If you were looking to purchase a particular machine, I would recommend searching for it on the Internet, especially on eBay.


One caveat, Steve. Many states do restrict private ownership of slot machines. You might want to check that out first.


Dear Mark: On a Jacks-or-Better video poker machine, is it ever advised to break up a high pair? For instance, I have a pair of Queens, but I also have four cards to a Royal Flush. What is the correct strategy here? Also, how much am I giving away if I play three or four coins instead of the full five coin amount? Daniel L.


Basic strategy, Daniel, dictates that you should always break up a pair of Jacks, Queens, Kings or Aces for a one-card draw in preference to a four-card straight flush, four-card inside straight flush, or a royal flush.


Players who play short of the maximum number of coins, be it one, two, three or four coins/credits, have a theoretical of 98.05%, considerably less than the near zero house edge you would have with perfect play and full-pay 9/6 machine.


Gambling Wisdom of the Week: “With the casino and the beds, our passengers (Virgin Airline) will have at least two ways to get lucky on one of our flights.” – Sir Richard Branson