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Deal Me In: Give those cards a wash

24 August 2012

By Mark Pilarski

Dear Mark: I recently viewed a blackjack game where when the pit boss put new decks on the game, the dealer took all the cards, placed them face down, and started swirling them around in a circle. What is the reason for doing this? Dave L.

What you observed, Dave, was a card shuffling technique called "Card Washing," wherein the dealer spreads the cards on the table face down, and then proceeds to swish them about with his hands, using a circular, "washing" motion, before scooping them up to perform a typical shuffle.

As a youngster, Dave, you were probably exposed to a form of card washing with the game "Go Fish," when the deck is intentionally stirred up in a non-orderly pile known as the "pool" or "ocean."

Anytime you open a new deck of cards, they are pre-arranged in a specific order. One way to make sure that the cards in a deck are randomly distributed before the first card is pitched is to "wash" the cards.

What card washing does is to remove consistencies in sequencing that cards in new decks have, or that were produced in play prior to the upcoming shuffle. The casino wants to make sure that the distribution of cards is as random as possible by first washing, then shuffling, before dealing them.

You can see cards being washed at poker games between hands, and at blackjack and baccarat when old decks are taken from the game, and new decks are substituted in.

I once worked in a joint where we washed the cards after every completed shoe on both our baccarat and mini-baccarat games. I never found it bothersome to do, as it was an opportunity for casual conversation sandwiched between hands.

Dear Mark: I just got back from a four-day stay at the Bellagio and they had an interesting side bet on the crap table. On the come out roll, you could bet that 2-6 or 8-12 would all appear before any seven. You could also bet that all 10 numbers would come up before any seven. The payout was 35-1 for either the low or the high numbers, and for all 10 to come up payout was 176-1. The guy standing next to me rolled all 10 numbers before a seven was rolled. Great payouts all around. Is this, a player or a house bet? Mike F.

What you're describing, Mike, are three proposition crap wagers called the All Tall, All Small, and the All or Nothing at All.

Your bet is made at the beginning of the shooter’s roll. The All Tall bet consists of the numbers, 8, 9, 10, 11, and 12; the All Small includes, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6; and the All or Nothing wagers that the shooter will roll a 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, and 12 before rolling a seven.

Before the shooter's roll, you bet on any combination of the three. The payouts are 35 for one for the All Tall and All Small bets, and for the All or Nothing, a win pays 175 for one. If a seven wields its ugly face, even when the puck is not on a point, your bet loses and is taken down.

With that irregular winner, you witnessed, yes, Mike, this proposition wager initially seems to have a temptingly high payout, but it also comes with a significantly higher casino edge. All Small/Tall and the All or Nothing wagers have a near 8% casino advantage. When compared to the house edge of other excellent bets available at the crap table, it becomes a "Sucker bet," so I will not be recommending it as a play in this column.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: "Games of chance are traps to catch schoolboy novices and gaping country squires, who begin with a guinea and end with a mortgage." -- Author Unknown
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.