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Dealer's batteries plugged in backwards

29 September 2006

By Mark Pilarski

Dear Mark,
I met a dealer who claimed that he could not only drop the ball within a certain section of the wheel, but on specific numbers. He even called out "get you bets down on the double zero because here it comes," and it actually hit, which leads to my question, do you believe that a roulette dealer can put the ball in a specific number, and should I follow his advice when he tells us where to put our chips? Russell M.

Now, Russell, do you really, really believe this particular dealer possesses such preternatural powers? Yes? Bad instincts!

With over a dozen years dealing roulette, I've got some miles on my odometer when it comes to spinning that ball, and yet, I developed neither the knack or know-how when it comes to putting the ball in a specific section let alone a straight out-number. Nor, Russell, do I believe it can be done with any marked degree of success by anyone, anywhere, and here's why.

For starters, the dealer spins the wheel counterclockwise but spins the ball into the track in a clockwise direction. But then as ball leaves its track it will more often than not hit one of the small metal buffers, strategically spaced in the lip of the wheel to ensure that the ball falls in a random way. As it zips off a buffer, it usually then hits one of the metal frets between the numbers and bounces up again before it finally lands in one of the 38 numbered pockets (Canoes) that make up the roulette wheel.

I won't mention the casino by name as you did in your e-mail, but I know for a fact (I once worked there) that it's a break-in joint for dealers, and if a dealer really, really had such a skill, he would simply find a confederate to make a bet wherever he planned the ball to land, and they would be rich. Of course he's not, and neither will you by following his advice.

Dear Mark,
At what win level must a player fill out a tax form for a video poker machine? Dusty R.

On any electronic gaming device win, or as in your case a one-hand video poker win, the threshold would be $1,200; from there up, the casino would require that you sign a tax form before it pays you.

Dear Mark,
My system for roulette is to monitor the wheel without betting, and when I see a trend of let's say red appearing five times in a row, I'll bet black on the next spin. Doesn't it make sense to begin playing the wheel by betting on black since it is now due to appear? Allen D.

On a fair double zero wheel, Allen, if the ball just so happened to land in red 99 times in a row, the odds that black would appear on that 100th spin would be exactly the same as on that sixth spin, 47.37%. Check the third word in this paragraph.

Dear Mark,
Always one card away from my first, I finally hit the first royal flush of my life this past weekend. What were the odds of me finally hitting one? Nancy H.

Typically the odds of hitting a royal flush are about 40,000-1, but that varies from game to game, Nancy, along with how you play the initial cards dealt to you. If you were playing Jacks or Better or Bonus Poker it would have been as mentioned above. If your royal were on a Joker Poker machine, it would have been 42,000 to one, Deuces Wild, 45,000 to one, and 48,000 to one on a Double Bonus Poker machine. Anyhow, happy congrats!

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: "In cards, you psyche 'em out, you shark 'em, you put the fear of God in 'em." --Puggy Pearson, 1973 WSOP winner (1975)

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.