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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Anti-chicken strategy and get-poor-quick schemes

3 January 2005

Dear Mark,

Back in July you answered a question about a casino having a chicken versus a Tic-Tac-Toe game. You incorrectly state that there is an advantage to going first in Tic-Tac-Toe. With perfect strategy, all Tic-Tac-Toe games will result in a tie, regardless of who goes first. Steve H.

You are correct, Steve. Tic-Tac-Toe is a zero-sum game. If both players use optimal strategy, every game will end in a tie. And just to sweeten your observation, computer studies have shown that Tic-Tac-Toe cannot be won against a "perfect" opponent. So, how is it that Ginger, the erudite hen, playing for more than three years at the Tropicana, lost just five times, with her only advantage — i.e. casino advantage-being that she had first peck?

I believe it sorta depends on who is playing whom, and who's doing the thinking. Amazingly, few people who have matched up against Ginger in the $10,000 Tic-Tac-Toe Chicken Challenge appear to know optimal, or for that matter, any Tic-Tac-Toe strategy. That's why a novice, or even an intermediate, bettor stands little chance against Ginger, the well-educated, reward-trained bird that has earned a degree at the Boger Chicken University in Springdale, Arkansas.

Against any greenhorn, Ginger wins virtually every game because novice players characteristically make random moves and place a mark in any empty square. This lurch and hope system seldom wins.

Most Tic-Tac-Toe players are intermediate, reactive players, who typically try to block their opponent's three-in-a-row, or take any three-in-a-row opportunity they can, assuming that the House-Bird is falling asleep or going blind. The player that goes first (always Ginger) starts with an immediate 5:4 advantage (nine spaces to fill, of which she gets 5 while her casino-patron opponent gets only 4). Also, I have had the opportunity to observe an academy-trained chicken in action. By always going first, the chicken made skilled starting moves, always starting in the center or a corner, following that choice with four unbeatable blocking moves. The best her opponent can produce is a tie, which will only get you one thing against fowls with a college education; a fat big goose egg.

Dear Mark,

I ordered (Blankity Blank's) gambling system in November. I thought you could print it right off the website or download it once you pay your fee. There was also a CD that was going to be e-mailed. It is now almost Christmas and I have received nothing and was never able to print anything like it said. I have e-mailed and e-mailed and no response. My question is; what can I do? I am not going to let him get my money with no product, even if his system sucks, I still want it in my possession. Justin V.

Please understand, Justin, that though I wholeheartedly despise and condemn conman-fraud, I cannot use this column to clobber those possibly committing it, nor on a weekly basis expose suspected Internet scoundrels who flog imaginary get-rich casino schemes to a gullible public and stroll away with the money they haven't earned. I have made it quite clear in past columns that I am no fan of sure-shot systems for beating such games of luck. I have also recommended that readers hold on tight to their hard-earned money, as there is no system for slots, or any other casino offering for that matter, that can beat a game based on pure chance. Thanks, though, for bringing this con to other readers' attention. And best of luck in any efforts you may make through official channels to collar the miscreant and relieve him of your cash.

Gambling quote of the week: "I've noticed that a good poker player generally is a success in whatever business or profession he's in, or could be if he put his mind to it. Why? Because he understands people, and that's the foundation for success in this world." Maverick's Guide to Poker

Recent Articles
Best of Mark Pilarski
Mark Pilarski

As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.
Mark Pilarski
As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.