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Deal Me In: Beware of Greeks bearing gifts

20 January 2012

By Mark Pilarski

Dear Mark: Why do roulette tables display previous numbers since the next number is completely random? If the house thinks people will try to play a system based on these previous numbers, it doesn't benefit the house anyway because it is still random. Gordon M.

Most casino roulette tables today have a lighted scoreboard that displays the numbers that have hit over the last 20 rolls. Truth be told, Gordon, the display is there for convenience and NOT, repeat, NOT to broadcast information that will help system players get an edge against the game. That being said, you would be surprised by how few roulette players really believe that a roulette spin is governed by or involves equal chance for each number appearing.

Roulette players love systems, and casino owners love system players. There isn’t a casino owner alive who wouldn’t happily send a limousine for a system player as long as said system-toting player had a certified bankroll.

System players try to crunch data from recent results to figure out where the ball will land next. What’s hot or what’s due is information that can easily be obtained by a system player by looking at the tote board. Of what predictive value is this historical information to the system player? Zip!

When I dealt the game, I found it amusing that system players loved to dispute with me the fact that a random spin at the roulette wheel is NOT one of those annoying representations of reality, but something they, or I personally, could influence. Even the Greeks, who had a weighty understanding of mathematics, didn’t believe in randomness or probability; instead, they believed the gods influenced the outcome of games of chance. Roulette is a game of independent trials. The wheel and ball have no memory. Past results do not -- cannot -- affect future outcomes.

What roulette players should be focusing on instead is picking the house edge against them. By that, I recommend you play on a roulette table that offers only the 0, and not 00. Playing on a single 0 game reduces the house edge to 2.7% versus 5.26% on the standard American wheel, which has numbers 1 through 36, plus 0 and 00.

Dear Mark: At Motor City Casino they have a table that every number but 7 can be a point. Do you know how this table configuration changes the odds? I have played it, and I like it, but I have no idea how this plays with the odds over a regular table. Richard M.

What you stumbled onto, Richard, is an offering called Crapless Craps or Never Ever Craps.

In this modified variation of a regular crap game, you do not lose on the come-out roll when the shooter tosses a 2, 3 or 12. Instead, it automatically becomes the point, just as 4, 5, 6, 8, 9 and 10 would be on a standard game. You also do not win if the shooter throws a natural 11. It too becomes the point. With these additional rules, the house holds a 5.4% edge on your pass line bet versus the 1.4% edge in a typical crap game. Prudent readers of this column would take a pass, not on the line, but on the game.

Gambling wisdom of the Week:

“Spock: ‘Random chance seems to have operated in our favor.’

McCoy: ‘In plain non-Vulcan English, we’ve been lucky.’

Spock: ‘I believe I said that, Doctor.”

--Star Trek, episode 206, Doomsday Machine
Deal Me In: Beware of Greeks bearing gifts is republished from GPWA.org.
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.