What’s the biggest slots payout ever?

Slot machines, or slots for short, offer straightforward, low-stakes gambling opportunities and are popular in casinos, land-based and online, throughout the world. The advent of so-called ‘progressive jackpot’ slots – in which a percentage of the money staked on each spin of the reels contributes to a jackpot kitty, which keeps growing until it is won – has meant that slot players enjoy the prospect of winning astronomical sums of money for a relatively small stake.

Indeed, the biggest slot payout ever came courtesy of an International Game Technology (IGT) Megabucks slot in Excalibur, Las Vegas, in 2003. One of hundreds of similar, state-owned machines in Nevada, all linked together to form the first wide area progressive jackpot network in the world, the Megabucks slot paid out a staggering $39.7 million (£31.6 million) to an anonymous 25-year-old software engineer from Los Angeles, who hit the jackpot after playing just three $1 coins.

In the world of online slots, the distinction of the biggest payout ever – in fact, another progressive jackpot, worth £13.2 million – belongs to 26-year-old British soldier Jon Heywood. In 2015, Heywood staked just £0.25 on a single spin of the wheel on the Mega Moolah slots game and became an overnight multi-millionaire. His life-changing win was subsequently certified by Guinness World Records.

What is a ‘bad beat’?

In poker, specifically Texas Hold’em poker, a ‘bad beat’ occurs when the player who is the overwhelming favourite, statistically, to win a hand, loses to an opponent who, initially, holds an inferior hand but, more by luck than judgement, draws one or more cards required to snatch victory.

One example of a bad beat would be a player who holds a pair of tens, or ‘pocket tens’, going ‘all in’ against, and losing to, an opponent who holds a pair of fives, or ‘pocket fives’; mathematically, the player holding pocket tens should win four out of five, or 80%, of such hands. Another example is the so-called ‘runner runner’ bad beat, whereby a player who is, statistically, unlikely to win a hand after the flop draws the right card on both the turn and river cards to complete a winning hand. A frequent example of this type occurs when a player draws running cards to complete an inside, or gutshot, straight; a gutshot draw on the flop offers an 8.5% of making a straight on the turn card and a 16.5% chance of making a straight on the river card.

A bad beat may be a damaging experience, financially and psychologically, but worse still is an extraordinary and, thankfully, rare bad beat known as a ‘cooler’. A cooler occurs when an extraordinarily strong hand, such as four of a kind, or ‘quads’, played correctly, loses to an even stronger hand, such as a straight flush. Bad beats, including coolers, are a painful, but nonetheless unavoidable, part of poker. From the point of view of the person suffering a bad beat, an unexpected loss, or a series of such losses, may cause a loss of confidence, but should really be treated as a temporary downswing, rather than a reflection of the ability, or strategy, of the player.

Who’s the most successful casino gambler ever?

Arguably, the most successful casino gambler ever is Anargyros Nicholas Karabourniotis, otherwise known as Archie Karas, or simply ‘The Greek’, who, in December, 1992, embarked on an unprecedented winning streak, known in gambling circles as ‘The Run’.

Reputedly arriving in Las Vegas with just $50, Karas borrowed $10,000 from a fellow poker player, which he quickly turned into $30,000 playing a form of stud poker known as ‘Razz’. Turning his attention to nine-ball pool, Karas played an unidentified individual for progressively higher stakes, up to $40,000 a game, eventually winning $1.2 million. Karas subsequently relieved the same individual of a further $3 million playing poker at Binion’s Horseshoe and, in the coming months, built his bankroll to $7 million.

Karas continued to play poker, for eye-wateringly high stakes, against some of the best players in the world, including the likes of Stuart ‘Stu’ Ungar and David ‘Chip’ Reese. At the end of a six-month period, Karas had won over $17 million. At that point, Karas began shooting craps at Binion’s Horseshoe, for $100,000 a roll, and kept on winning, eventually amassing over $40 million.

After two-and-a-half years, Karas’ luck ran out; in 1995, he lost approximately $42 million, predominantly on craps and baccarat. Between 1988 and 2013, Karas was arrested five times for cheating at blackjack in Nevada and, as a result of ‘numerous transgressions’, was subsequently included on the Gaming Control Board (GCB) Excluded Person List maintained by the Nevada Gaming Commission.

What is basic blackjack strategy?

Every casino game, including blackjack, has an integral mathematical edge, usually referred to as the ‘house edge’, over a player in the long term. In blackjack, the house edge for the standard, six-deck version is 0.64% but, by applying basic blackjack strategy, a player can reduce the house edge to the point where it is almost negligible. Regardless of some minor – albeit often strategically important – rule variations, blackjack is essentially a mathematical game, with a fixed set of rules, a fixed number of cards in the deck(s) and, hence, only a finite number of possible card combinations. Nevertheless, every playing decision has a direct influence on the outcome of a hand.

Basic blackjack strategy is a set of rules, determined mathematically, which allow a player to make correct playing decisions, thereby maximising winnings and minimising losses. Of course, the only information available to a blackjack player is the cards in his/her hand and the card that the dealer is showing, known as the ‘upcard’. However, by reference to a blackjack strategy chart, or matrix, which shows all possible card combinations, a player can take the action that gives him/her the best chance, mathematically, of winning any hand. To allow for rule variations, such as the option to ‘double down’ – that is, to double your original bet in exchange for a single card – after splitting two cards of the same value, some of the actions in basic blackjack strategy are dependent upon house rules.

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