QUESTION: I have a comment on the recent column where the questioner asked, “Is there any chance that the slot machine senses a new player has not been at a particular machine for a specific period, and then pays off initially, then stops paying? Is this guy serious? A slot machine that can “sense?” Does he live on planet Earth? Sorry, but I had to give you my two cents worth. Jerry P.

ANSWER: Hey now, Jerry, let’s be polite. First, he was a she (Joy); and there could be some merit in her thinking that “a machine that can “sense” an incoming player. There are such machines, sort of, or at least many players believe so.

The machines I am speaking of, Jerry, are manufactured by SHFL entertainment, Inc. (previously named Shuffle Master) and are called Table Master. These slots use a video representation of a life-sized cybernetic dealer, such as an attractive young lady, placed at the center of a fully automated table game.

When these cyber dealers are on a dead game, they are in tracking mode and can appear to be looking around for some player to park their rear in one of the five player stations. If you walk by and verbalize what every dealer that ever pitched a card hears daily, ‘Are you hot or cold,’ it can’t hear you, nor can this virtual dealer respond to any of your physical or verbal commands, YET!

However, once you are playing at the table, they do verbally prompt you to bet or fold, take insurance, or, depending on the game, any other command needing a decision on your part.

I have spent hours observing players on these games communicating verbally with the dealer. It gets quite hysterical. Some players actually respond to the looks and personalities of these virtual dealers. It is one thing to have an affection for a machine that offers a decent return, another when players develop a love interest in an avatar. There's “into you,” and then there is “head-over-heels gaga.” I have seen female Table Master virtual dealers tip a man over that edge.

As for playing blackjack on a Table Master machine, straight up, I like – not love – them. With favorable rules like surrender, doubling and split variations that favor the player, your percentage return with smart play can be the same as that of a fair live table game. To boot, I have seen this game offered for as little as a buck a hand. For pleasurable play, that is a sizable gap versus a $25 minimum live table game on a Saturday night.

There is a downside, though. On a Table Master game, expect double the number of hands dealt per hour. Involving what’s called "incremental game speed," the more often you are exposed to the built-in house advantage on a Table Master blackjack game (i.e. the more hands you play per hour), the faster the machine eats up your bankroll.

What the future holds for interactive slots for players willing to give up their hard-earned money is anybody’s guess. But, Joy’s belief that a machine can sense that a player has just climbed aboard is considerably closer to reality than you might think.

Ever been in a bathroom with faucets that turn on when you put your hands in the sink, towel dispensers that spit out towel when you wave a hand in front of them, lights that turn on with motion and off when there is none, or toilets that flush when you stand up?

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: “Fortune brings in some boats that are not steered.” ­– William Shakespeare

Mark Pilarski is a nationally syndicated gaming writer. Visit him online at or follow him on Twitter @MarkPilarski.

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