Sometimes the best-laid plans of gamblers run afoul of odds and game conditions. The same goes for plans created on the spur of the moment.

A Three Card Poker player named Jill emailed in late February to say she’d just played at a table that included mini-royal in its Pair Plus payoffs.

Beginner’s luck exists mainly in our imaginations. First-time players are no more likely to hit a jackpot or otherwise win big than players on their second, fourth or 55th casino visit. In skill games, first-timers are less likely to win if they haven’t mastered optimal strategies.

Video poker is one of the most interactive casino games around. It keeps players involved with draw or hold decisions on every hand, and it keeps you in the game with frequent payoffs – given expert strategy, nearly 45 percent of hands are payers in 9-6 Double Double Bonus Poker.

Konami Gaming has never let the usual format of video slot machines restrict its creativity. There’s a place for a traditional grid of five reels, each three symbols deep, but early on in video slot development Konami discovered the joys of experimenting with hexagonal reel patterns, or play…

Video slots have been the major thrust of the slot machine industry for a couple of decades now. That doesn’t mean three-reel players can’t have a magical time, too.

Scientific Games is one of the giants among casino industry suppliers, a leader in slot machines, electronic table games, automatic shufflers, casino management systems and more.

International Game Technology’s Wheel of Fortune slot machines have been player favorites ever since the first three-reel version launched in 1996.

Slot machines come and go so rapidly that virtually every player has a list of old favorites that now are absent from casino floors.

Most of the slot machines I write about come from a few large companies – International Game Technology, Aristocrat Technologies and Scientific Games (which now holds both Bally and WMS) command the most attention, with Incredible Technologies, Konami Gaming, Everi and international giant No…

I’ve often mentioned Bob, my blackjack-playing friend and a retired high school math teacher. A little over a year ago, I also wrote about Mike, Bob’s son, a middle-school science teacher who was drilling himself on strategy for soft doubling.

When you see payback percentages listed for video poker games “with expert strategy,” players need to understand that betting maximum coins is part of expert play.

When readers relay tales of their gambling exploits, they’re almost always taking a victory lap. Everybody loves to relive their big wins.

The put bet in craps is not exactly one of the topics high on readers’ request list. Nevertheless, in one November week I received three emails requesting additional information.

From time to time, table games inventors ask if I’ll take a look at their games, whether just to add my input or for a little publicity. I can’t get to every game – if I did, this column would be strictly a new games report.

Way back in the 1990s, I met Brett at a seminar. He was a slot player — strictly three reels in those days — and he wanted to learn something about table games.

Casinos attract players from such a broad cross-section of the population that it would be surprising if they didn’t also bring a broad sample of quirks.

When my old blackjack-playing buddy Bob and I get together, the talk doesn't always center on the game of 21. We've known each other long enough that talking blackjack usually means rehashing oft-told tales.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way in May for states to legalize sports betting, New Jersey, Delaware and Mississippi have quickest off the mark.

Whenever I’m in a casino for the first time or the first time in a long while, I like to take a long walk around the casino floor to get the lay of the land.

Introducing a new table game to the public isn't as simple as hitting on a concept that's fun to play, gives the house a reasonable edge and convincing a casino to try it. There's a seemingly endless series of hoops a game developer must jump through.

Building a successful slot machine involves multiple elements. There needs to be an eye-catching theme and graphics to attract players, intriguing elements such as bonus events and jackpots and the right math to yield a mix of payout frequency and shot at a big payoff.

When I've relayed readers' stories of back-to-back jackpots, they've generally focused on big wins. A thousand dollars for a video poker royal flush qualifies; $2.50 for three bars on a three-reel slot or $1.25 that just covers your bet for a pair of Jacks, not so much.

Video poker players have long been told their chances of drawing a royal flush on any given hand are about 1 in 40,000.

In discussing Three Card Poker, I've often mentioned that the house edge on the most common Pair Plus pay table is 7.28 percent, while the original version had a 2.14 percent edge.

I never volunteer advice on strategy while playing in casinos, but the temptation was strong in early May when I found myself at a Mississippi Stud table where a new player — let's call him Bill — was being coached by a friend.

A long time ago, I attended a seminar in which Peter Griffin, the late mathematician and author of "The Theory of Blackjack," told the imaginary tale of Mr. Fourteen.

I’m not a superstitious sort. I don’t carry lucky icons, wear lucky clothing or perform good-luck rituals while I play. I’ve been known to egg on my brother Jay in his jackpot dance, probably to the amusement of surveillance rooms everywhere.