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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Deal Me In: The only armed queen in the deck often delivered

2 March 2012

Dear Mark: A couple of years ago, I played Pai Gow at the Encore together with my wife and daughter. We were getting ready to leave, and only played an hour at this table. A male dealer was able to correctly identify pairs of Queens, Aces, etc. for several players. These five cards came out of a chute and were dealt face down. The pit boss commented that it gave him the creeps. When I asked the dealer how he was able to correctly call the cards, he replied: “I read the paint on the paint on the cards.” This episode always stuck in my mind, and I have been searching for an answer ever since. So, my question: Have you ever heard this story before? Is it a trick or legit? Peter S.

Here is what I am certain is not happening, Peter, specifically, that the U. S. Playing Card Company is knowingly manufacturing jimmy-jiggered playing cards and that some darkly skilled dealer working for Steve Wynn at the Encore, privy to the deceptive practice, is “reading the paint on the paint on the cards.”

When my son attended the University of Cincinnati -- Go Bearcats! -- I had an opportunity to tour the manufacturing process at U. S. Playing Card Company, and I can tell you they are unmatched when it comes to producing a superior product used for all casino applications. As the preferred choice of casinos worldwide for over for over 100 years, they are not about to let their credibility go kaput because some inventive dealer claims to read the backs of BEE playing cards.

That said, it’s not impossible, Peter, to have some idea of upcoming cards. For example, back before card readers, in peeking under the hole card, some inexperienced dealers would unknowingly bend 10s, faces and aces upwards, causing them to have a different shape than the rest of the cards in the deck. Following a break-in dealer, there were times when I could see the disfigured state of the hole card, and know that a face or 10 was underneath. Sharp players would look for this “dealer tell,” and this information would allow them to "play the warps."

As for the creeped-out pit boss, he should have been doing his job, and that’s to protect the integrity of the game by being on the lookout for bends, crimps, bumps, scratches, inks, pigment and shade issues, anything that would jeopardize game security, and not letting customers believe the inmates (dealers) are running the asylum.

Now here is what I think was happening. Every dealer, especially the bored, follows certain cards from the deck, with a superstitious belief that they can call up a card at will. I certainly did; mine was Athena, the queen of spades, who used the epithet "Pallas,” the Greek goddess of war. If I were dumping the tray to a winning player who was not tipping, and I needed Athena to beat this stiff, I would call her out to bust the player, and snatch the chips in the circle with, dare I say it, delight. Likewise, when players doubled down both their bet and mine, and we needed a face card to secure victory, I’d loudly call on my lovely lady to deliver the goods. Time and again, it worked, and when it happened, the mystified look on a player’s face always made for a “how’d he do dat” moment. Answer, of course: “Pallas. She owed me one.”

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: ”The random number generator does not respond to violence.” --Melissa Fine, Strictly Slots magazine
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.