A shuffle through the Gaming mailbag:

Q. I know you like a good story, and I have one from blackjack.

This guy buys in and puts his cell phone on the table, right in front of him. The dealer tells him he's going to have to put that away. He grumbles a little, then puts the phone in his pocket.

Guy plays a few hands, then one is dealt, and the guy's phone goes off and he darts off, a few feet away from the table, looks at his phone and comes right back. Dealer immediately calls over the pit boss, who calls no hand, tells the dealer to pick up the guy's cards and give him his bet back.

Of course, the guy complains, says he was just away for a second and he should be able to finish his hand. Pit boss says the rule is no cell phones, if he wants to be on the phone, leave the table. Player wants to argue, says he can't afford to miss business calls. Pit boss says then leave the table and take your calls.

Other players are trying to tell him the casino has to protect itself, that it doesn't know who the calls are from and it could be somebody trying to help him cheat. Player gets angry and starts yelling at everyone. A guy in a suit came over to calm him down, and security helped lead him away from the table.

Nothing like a little floor show with your blackjack.

A. Thanks for the story — I always appreciate these.

The possibility of using phones to cheat is one reason cell phones are banned at the tables. Another is that waiting for a player to take a call slows down the game. Casinos make their money through volume. Fewer hands per hour means less money wagered and smaller profits for the house.

Put your cell phone away until you leave the table, and catch up on your calls and texts then.

Q. My wife and I were visiting her parents near Kansas City, and we went to a casino. We were all playing slots together and I asked the waitress for a beer. When she brought it, she charged me for it!

I asked what was going on, and she said they had to charge there, that free alcoholic drinks were illegal. My wife and I play a lot in Atlantic City and some at Foxwoods, and have been to Vegas. I always thought it was part of the experience that you might lose money, but at least the drinks were free.

A. There are a few states where it's illegal for casinos to give free drinks, and Missouri is one of them. Illinois, Indiana and Kansas also are on the list.

This started with the legalization of riverboat gambling in Illinois in 1990, with the first casino opening in 1991. Most of the early riverboats did not have hotels, and even today, hotels are much smaller than casino hotels in Las Vegas or Atlantic City.

Going to a casino was basically a day trip — or an evening trip. When done for the day, most players drove home. The state did not want to put extra drivers who had been drinking on the road, so free alcoholic beverages were prohibited.

Indiana and Missouri followed suit when their riverboats opened later in the 1990s. Legalization of casinos and racinos in Kansas came later, with the Kansas Expanded Lottery Act of 2007. Free drinks are off the menu there, too.

Even where free drinks are legal, some casinos charge or limit comps to premium players. When in doubt, ask.

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