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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Deal Me In: '...And how about a smile, while you're at it?'

10 June 2011

Dear Mark: I was playing blackjack and a pit boss came up to a dealer and told her to “clean up her game,” then walked away. She looked a little unnerved when told that, but proceeded to deal without comment on what was said to her. What happened here? Tina S.

A call from upstairs, Tina, is most likely what happened.

Out of self-preservation, as well as to protect the general public, casino operators have plenty of security procedures in place to preserve the integrity of their games. Every employee in a casino has someone eyeballing his or her every move. Casino managers watch the shift manager, who watches the pit bosses, who watch the dealers, while the “eye in the sky” surveillance cameras watch everything.

Casinos spend a large amount of time, effort and money on this surveillance. Besides looking for cheats, security personnel also monitor the routines and patterns of casino dealers, like the way the dealer shuffles, deals and spreads the cards on the layout. Your dealer was possibly a trifle sloppy at spreading her cards – to a point where observation couldn’t identify them, automatically triggering the verbal reprimand.

Dear Mark: What are your thoughts of a betting system in roulette where you bet repeat numbers appearing because the wheel is malfunctioning? Cliff N.

What you are describing, Cliff, is that exceptional circumstance where the roulette wheel shows a bias caused by either its being off balance, the wood track is worn leading down to the numbers, or the frets between the numbers having slightly different tensions or heights. That said, I don’t know of a casino that wouldn’t safeguard itself against this by checking their wheels vigilantly.

Besides, the only way to spot a truly biased wheel would be for you to track thousands and thousands of spins. Just because your favorite number 22 shows up a half dozen times over the period of an hour doesn’t mean the wheel is biased.

Some roulette players make bets based on the electronic display showing the most recent numbers in the false belief that the wheel is biased, but I see roulette as a game of pure chance, with no player strategy that can overcome the built-in 5.26 percent house edge. Sure, Cliff, you can get lucky some nights playing birthday numbers, but casing numbers and thinking roulette is a game of skill is futile.

Dear Mark: When splitting aces, what is the correct payoff if you are dealt 10s to each ace? Austin C.

Assuming, Austin, the dealer does not have a blackjack or a matching 21 hand, anytime you split aces and achieve two 21 hands, the payoff is 1 to 1, or even money for each hand.

You only get paid 3 to 2 for an ace/10 hand if they were the initial two cards dealt to you. I specifically note 3 to 2 here because some casinos now offer a 6 to 5 (a payoff of $6 for every $5 wagered) game. It’s a game, Austin, you really don’t want to be playing on. The 6 to 5 game has a house advantage of 1.45 percent, almost triple the house edge the casino carries on an eight-deck shoe.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: “If I were you, I would not bet. But if you must bet – BET!” —William I’Anson (d. 1881), Advice to his eldest son from racehorse trainer Biographical Encyclopedia of British Flat Racing, 1978
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.