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Deal Me In: If it weren't for suckers, there wouldn't be any good bets

2 January 2015

Dear Mark: I confess that I have hardly ever gambled. Although I have been in casinos on occasion, I never even dropped a coin in a one-armed bandit. I did play poker when I was young.

In 1953 or 1954, I can't quite recall the exact year, while in the army in Korea, our unit was on alert to go to Vietnam to help the French who were catching hell from the Vietnamese. We were at the embarkation point for almost two days. A big boat with its front end opened waited to take us into another type of hell. We played poker. Over a 12-hour period I won $1,800 and then lost it all save 10 bucks. We never boarded that ship.

I guess the generals and politicians figured the French were on their own. I was a private, so they never thought to ask me how I felt. I remember someone telling me then (I think it was my platoon sergeant) that when you gamble with someone who knows the game better than you, it isn't a fair game. He said, “It would be better to put your dollars in a pile and set them on fire. At least your hands would be warm.” Which brings me to the third point: your marvelous article concerning "Horn, Yo bets aren't good for anyone."

I watched many a craps game both in the army and as a civilian among my rather duplicitous friends. I was always amazed at how fast the action was and how the suckers constantly lost their money to the better players.

Your articles should be made into a bible for any idiot contemplating the eclectic game of craps. Mike M.


I appreciate, Mike, both your gambling narrative and the different timeline you could have experienced regarding the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. Fortuitously, you didn’t have to go on a “three-hour tour,” à la Gilligan’s Island.

Most believe the genesis of the conflict was in 1955 when President Eisenhower sent the first military advisors to South Vietnam to train the South Vietnamese Army. In reality, it was in 1950 that the first shipment of American military aid was sent to the French colonial administration in Vietnam.

As for the game of craps, yes, Mike, it’s “eclectic,” but wide-ranging enough to offer some richly enjoyable entertainment, as well as three outstanding wagers to boot that I wouldn’t want readers to shun from their betting repertoire. The pass and come line bets, the preceding wagers with odds and placing the 6 or 8 all have a casino advantage of under 1.5 percent.

Unquestionably, Mike, I will forever preach staying clear from those proposition bets (the Yo and Horn, hardways, field bets, etc.) as some can have a house advantage as high as 16 percent. Avoiding the above will make you look like an expert amongst your “duplicitous” associates.

As for suckers, I believe Amarillo Slims said it best: “If you sit down at a game and don’t see a sucker, get up. You’re the sucker.”

I have always looked at the “easy mark” in a slightly different way. If it weren’t for “suckers” fattening the casino purse, the house would make the rules more unfavorable for the shrewd player.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: “Nothing is so unpredictable as a throw of the dice, and yet every man who plays often will at some time, or other, make a Venus-cast: now and then indeed he will make it twice and even thrice in succession.” – Cicero (106-43 B.C.), De Divinatione
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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.