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Deal Me In: Sloppily placed chips might not cut it

12 September 2014

Dear Mark: After a Saints preseason game the other night I went to Harrah's in New Orleans. I played poker most of the night but as I was leaving I played a little roulette. It was late, and there were only two other people playing at the table. I placed my bets on several numbers but on the third spin, I hit a 17. The problem came when the dealer paid me. She paid me like a split. The chip was not even across the line it was only touching the line. I argued it was a straight bet, so she called the pit boss over and he saw it her way. I've lost at a casino plenty of times before, but I never left feeling cheated. I have never had this happen before since most dealers will square up any chips put down sloppily. Am I crazy? Nathan V.

Of all the table games that I dealt, Nathan, I thoroughly enjoyed dealing roulette the most. In addition to finding it the least stressful to deal, I loved the light conversation with patrons between spins. Heck, just about every recipe I have, from the Eggplant Parmigiana at Original Joe’s (San Jose, CA) to the Anchor Inn’s (Buffalo, NY) chicken wings secret sauce are written on the back of a drink coaster, coming from some Chatty Cathy employee who worked there.

Still, after the Saints game, I first envisioned a packed casino with a jam-up roulette table to boot. On these frenzied games, you get to see how the dealer works his or her magic with so many chips placed in what at first would appear to be a muddled mess. When I dealt 10¢ roulette in downtown Reno, a bazillion chips would appear on all the corners, split possibilities, with straight up bets that towered a foot high. Fortunately, each player gets a distinctively colored chip when “buying in” which helps to avoid confusion and disputes.

Yes, Nathan, I agree, when the game is not chaotic, and particularly in your case with just two players at the table, dealers should try their best to clean up the layout before the next spin. Nonetheless, Nathan, the accurate placement of all your chips is still your responsibility. If the number you want to bet is covered with chips, it is permissible for you to stack your chips on top of the others like a barber pole. This is another reason each player has his or her individual colored chips. Also, when the size of the table may make it difficult for you to reach some of the betting areas, simply put your chips on the table and ask the dealer to place them on the appropriate spot for you.

As for the ruling from the pit boss, it is strictly a judgment call. You weren’t cheated, and in your case the decision was most likely made without malice. You will never get total consistency from all pit bosses as to any decision, as some would award the patron the straight-up payoff; 35-1, whereas others would assess that your wager is not placed dead center on the number, so the split payoff, 17-1, is what you will receive.

In the three joints where I dealt roulette, just touching the line with your chip in two of the three was considered a split bet. When I was a pit boss, had you complained, I would have looked at your past performance, noted that you were playing a straight-up wager on that particular number during previous spins, and paid you accordingly. Moreover, even if you were not on that number beforehand, I probably still would have paid you anyway figuring we’d get those 18 additional chips back on the next spin.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: “The roulette table pays nobody except him that keeps it. Nevertheless a passion for gaming is common, though a passion for keeping roulette tables is unknown.” – Bernard Shaw
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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.