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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Deal Me In: More and less than you think

25 July 2008

Dear Mark: I was looking at your Web site and figured you were a good person to ask. I have noticed that when people are wining a lot, casinos switch dealers on them. Why do they do it, and why in the heck do pit bosses walk around with clipboards marking stuff? Rossco C.

Telling you that dozens of dealers go on a break every 20 minutes for an hour's work to commiserate over rude and obnoxious players while wolfing down the cafeteria chow probably won't satisfy you, but it is one answer.

The answer you are probably looking for is that the dealer change is often erroneously credited by superstitious pit bosses (and players alike) with ending a player-favorable streak of cards, but it's actually the players' seeing more hands per hour that modifies their luck.

Pit bosses like to push in a dealer whose pitch and pay-and-take is Speedy-Gonzales-fast, a seasoned dealer who can handle high-limit action, and deal more hands per hour. Their reasoning is that the more blackjack hands that expose you to the house's built-in odds edge, the faster Speedy G. will obliterate your bankroll. I do want to mention here, though, that switching for this reason is done far less often than you think.

What's on the clipboard? Nice you should ask: Notes monitoring chips flowing in and out on the games in the pit, dropped $100 bills, fill slips, notes of patron play, even comments that you would freely give while gabbing with a pit boss. If you happen to mention that you've got a dog named Chip, the pooch could well appear in a database upstairs. Give up your wedding anniversary date, and you might even see two coupons for a trip to Hoss's All-you-can-eat buffet in the mail two weeks ahead of time. Uncanny skill I had when I played pit bull; making you talk and talk and talk, and once I sucked Chip's name out of you, I could get anything else.

At shift's end, the bulls take their final strolls with clipboard in hand, count down the trays and get relatively accurate tallies as to that shift's wins or losses. Yes, Rossco, casinos do lose in an eight-hour shift, and more often than you think.

Oh, and as the pit boss hands off the clipboard to the incoming shift's pit boss, he or she will share verbal notes as well, like, "Watch Rossco on T-7. He's in only $200 and beating the crap out of us."

Dear Mark: I usually take 200 times my bet for video poker and still usually go home broke. Does this seem possible to you? David K.

Any time you play on a negative expectation game, there is no reason why you can't go home busted.

Let's crunch the numbers, David, and just see how, when you play a game that pays back less than 100%, which is pretty much every video poker machine, it can and will eventually eat your entire bankroll.

Let's say you play a quarter machine at $1.25 per hand, nibbling into your $250 bankroll (200 times your initial wager gives you a $250 bankroll). If you were to play that through your bankroll 10 times, the total action from that bankroll would be $2,500.

Let's also say that the payback of that particular video poker machine during your gambling timeline was only 90%, which is well within the expected range for playing 2,000 or so hands. Your total win would be $2,250, which is $250 short of your action played, which leaves you, unluckily, going home broke.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: "If you play enough poker, your life is a cabaret of spectacularly bizarre events." --Steve Badger

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.