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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Deal Me In: Spooks of the green felt

20 December 2010

Dear Mark: What would make a player take down his don't pass wager once the point has been established? I saw a player do this recently, more than once, without much success I might add. Lenny G.

My best guess, Lenny, is that you had your eye on a superstitious player and his point was either a 6 or an 8.

The casino jumps for joy when you take down your bet on the don't pass, because once these wagers are assigned a number, the player has an edge against the house. Yet, a few players on the don't can get skittish because they mistakenly believe that if the point is a 6 or an 8, it has about the same probability of showing as has a seven.

Not so. The 6 or 8 will appear, on average, five times in 36 versus six in 36 for the 7. The player probably removed his wager hoping for another number that didn't have the same frequency of appearing as the 6 or 8. Acting on a false notion, Lenny, it's mathematically unsound to pull a bet when the odds favor a 7 to materialize over a 6 or 8.

When I sat box on a craps game, I can't tell you how many times I heard from place bettors "Same Dice!" if a die flew off the table. If I chose to inspect the dice and didn't immediately put it back on the game, superstitious gamblers would yell; "Take down my bet" or "No action on my numbers." Their haunting belief or fear sings its own poetry: "Dice on the floor, 7 at the door."

The casino beats back superstition by the math working in its favor, or, as a last resort, believing in the same. The remedy for a hot craps table is tossing a penny under it -- that is, if it lands heads up. Tails, and you'll see a pit boss on all fours fetching that penny because the game is about to blow up in his face. Pixie dust (salt) over the shoulder works most of the time.

Better yet, when being killed by a hot roll of the dice, I dropped a rabbit's foot under a craps game to turn the tide. You may think it's a shaky course of action, but that foot hadn't been all that lucky for the rabbit.

Dear Mark: Playing perfect basic strategy on a 9/6 Jacks or Better machine, what percentage am I giving up if I don't hit a royal? It's been forever since my last one and was just wondering how much I'm losing out on. Billy F.

A royal flush, Billy, accounts for roughly 2 percent of your long-term return. If a 9/6 Jacks or Better returns 99.5 percent with expert play, plan on a royal accounting for 2 percent of that total. So, Billy, in that extended stretch that you have had between royals, you are actually playing a 97.5 percent game, more or less.

By "more or less," I am referring to the volatility you can and will experience playing any video poker machine. Give and take sessions happen, so being above or below 97.5 percent without your elusive royal is not uncommon.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: Nearly every gambler flatters himself that with just one more shot his luck will turn, and he will reap a rich harvest. Because of this delusion the Casino always wins in the end. - General Pierre Polovtsoff, Monte Carlo Casino, 1937
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.