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Deal Me In: Yes, the casino wants an occasional winner

24 July 2009

By Mark Pilarski

Dear Mark: Why is it that when losing, so long as I keep playing, casino management is polite and courteous, but once I start winning, and winning big, I feel a change in attitude? Fred F.

Regrettably, Fred, there are some in casino management that sweat the money as if it were their own pirated loot. Deep down, they know, or at least should know, that your winnings over time usually flow back the casino's way.

Though I no longer toil within the casino walls, there are three facts related to your question that remain givens in gambling: 1) Casino operators realize they will suffer short term losing streaks. 2) The longer you gamble with the house's money, the more exposure you have to the casino's edge, and 3) winners tell losers where they won their money.

If the player's game is on the up-and-up, the casino shouldn't be hot and bothered when Freddy from Fresno wins a huge sum of money, even if Freddy started with a meager bankroll. It is not all that rare for a player to unleash a hundred dollar bill and run its state of health up to four digits, or even higher.

The way the house safeguards against financial ruin during a player's winning streak is to set table betting limits. It is the "house limit" that protects the casino bankroll against a lucky assault from Fred, Freddy or Frederica.

The house knows that the longer Fred gambles, the more exposure he has to the casino's inescapable casino edge. Your biggest advantage against the house, Fred, is to quit on your own terms, and not on the casino's.

As for your winning loads of loot and the casino not being so cheery about it, buried within their scowl, they know a few winners will slip past, even if every wager is designed in their favor. More to the point, Fred, is that casinos are retail establishments. If none of the customers had any chance of winning big, how long do you think they would be able to keep their doors open? Heck, they actually prefer a few winners, because winners tell the 90 plus percent who lose where they did the big winning.

Dear Mark: Recently, my brother obtained a Player's Card at a casino here in Reno. After playing the slots for a while he earned a free spin to win a prize; which was an Ace for his first card if he placed a minimum $25 bet at a blackjack table. He bet $25; his second card was a King; and he beat the dealer's two 10s. Obviously, he was pleased to win $37.50; but soon he was saying he should have placed a higher wager, because the free Ace was such a huge advantage. Do you agree? Wayne K.

The arithmetic says absolutely, Wayne, although $25 could represent the complete bankroll of a penny slot player, or just one hand of a blackjack player. As long as $25 is a bet that your brother could easily afford to lose, he might have gone a bit light, and here's why.

The sought-after hands of any blackjack player are those ace -10 "naturals." Unless the dealer also has a blackjack -- causing a push, and the chance of that happening are 450 to one -- these hands win 1.5-to-1.

Being that your brother's first card is automatically an Ace, on a multiple deck game, say for instance, six decks, 96 of the remaining 311 cards, (or 30.87% of the remaining pile) would have given him a snapper.

Note, Wayne, that the likelihood of a blackjack varies with the number of decks in a shoe, but sticking with the six deck example, the probability of procuring a blackjack is normally 4.749%, so you typically can expect a blackjack once in slightly over 21 hands. Comparing a 4.749% chance versus 30.87%, and getting paid 1.5-to-1, it shows, at least mathematically, that it might have been worthwhile for bro to have placed a few extra clams in the betting circle.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: "As I travel around the country and gamble in casinos, I'm constantly amazed and appalled by the ignorance displayed by many of my fellow players." --Walter Thomason

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.