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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Deal Me In: Prosperous gaffes do happen

2 May 2014

Dear Mark: I enjoy your column very much, mostly because you spent a lot of time on the inside. Here is my question. I was wondering if you have ever given away money to a player that did not deserve it. A dealer on a blackjack game once claimed it never happens, and yet, he overpaid me twice in two hours. I was wondering if you could share your thoughts on this. Ralph I.

Have I, Ralph, ever given away money to a player who didn’t deserve it? Oh, gosh yes! I have made my fair share of blunders, once involving a $7,000 overpayment. Aided by the eye-in-the-sky, the casino caught it and recouped their seven grand. Still, I received a non-paid week on the streets. A few more bloopers to come below.

First off, dealers can and do make mistakes. Whoever told you otherwise is full of it. True, most dealers get quite skillful at reading the patterns on the cards with proficiency. So counting errors, with experience, become rare. But these guys and gals deal more than a half million hands a year, so they will make unpremeditated errors over the course of that time, both on the player’s credit and debit side of the ledger.

Casino management is supposed to be on the lookout for dealers making paying errors, and it is their responsibility to correct these transgressions. It is “their” job to monitor “their” pit and make sure that “their” dealers are following the right dealing protocols and paying off bets correctly, not yours. So, Ralph, you got away with a couple freebies. That’s fine. From a retired blackjack dealer’s perspective, I was always appreciative of the player who corrected my pay mistakes and handed back the money. I still play by those principled rules to this day.

Now those two dillies I promised.

I taught myself blackjack by pitching cards into a hat, and practiced shuffling, dealing and the pay and take on an ironing board. On my first shift, I made the dim-witted decision that if you split aces and got two face cards, you just got yourself two blackjacks, so I paid accordingly. I was actually paying this unmerited royalty on split aces for most of my first shift until an old-time pit boss noticed my generosity and corrected me at the break. Some joints might have sent me packing, but perchance he probably thought that I had the potential to do the job a chimp could do.

The other was where I wittingly over or under paid a player.

Dealing 10¢ roulette in downtown Reno, we would get a lot of Chinese players via a charter bus service out of San Francisco who would jam up a game with chips as nothing you could ever imagine. As 8 is the most prosperous of numbers in Chinese culture, it is considered a highly lucky number and is worked into daily life as much as possible. The roulette table was one such place, times ten. It was always mathematically interesting when a kazillion chips would appear on the 8 from all the corners, split possibilities, and straight up bets towering what seemed like a foot high.

This required drastic measures to avoid a possible mathematical misadventure, or my job, so I once called over a pit boss – actually it was a shift manager passing through the pit – and in order to not look too much like a sap, I asked what he thought a particular payoff was. Pretending to know the correct payoff, he said, “Send out a dozen stacks, plus put a $5 chip and a 50¢ piece on the top.” I paid the bet as instructed. Although a patented move by another, not a bad “go to” action when this frazzled dealer of ten minds couldn’t figure out a ginormous payout. No harm, no foul, is what he figured, plus, we always seemed to get back all the chips in the end anyway.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: “I cheat my boys every chance I get. I want to make ' em sharp.” – William Avery Rockefeller (c. 1850) (John D.'s father)
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.