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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Free trip to the chow line for system player

2 February 2007

Dear Mark: I have been working on a system for roulette for the past six months. I have run it in practice mode for 5,000 individual spins on my computer, and 500 times on a live game. At present, I am showing a 2% edge against the house. What is your recommended amount of spins necessary to see if my system will work? Nate R.

For starters, Nate, there is no system that can beat the game of roulette over the long haul. The more practice spins you employ, and believe me 5,500 is far from enough, the closer the ratio of your current net win to the total amount bet will get to the house edge of 5.26%.

Some would suggest that by putting a betting system to the test, you would need to be romping in the neighborhood of at least 1 million to 5 million spins. I highly recommend not wasting over 1,000 days playing 24/7 watching a ball go round and round.

Here's the bottom line. Casino operators don't spend big bucks building mega-resorts so that some "system player" named Nate can come in to give them a whooping. As a matter of fact, show them a certified bankroll, tell them you've got a roulette system you'd like to try, and besides the limo ride in, you'll at least get your fair share of room, food and beverage, up to the point where your bankroll has shifted banks.

Dear Mark: With 6 for 5 for blackjacks becoming so prevalent, what is the correct strategy for playing the game? Sal M.

How about not playing at all, Sal. And — why so? — you ask. Because the house edge, where you are paid 6 to 5 for a blackjack is 1.44% under the normal playing conditions. This is simply giving far too much back to the house.

As you stated, Sal, the game has become "so prevalent," and that's because wide-eyed players continue to play it. And yet, I believe the blame doesn't fall mostly on the shoulders of the house, but on the blithely uninformed masses whose tail ends are shining up the Naugahyde stools while feeding this god-awful game.

Dear Mark: I was down to my last hand money-wise in blackjack and I was dealt an 11 and the dealer was showing a six. Obviously the smart move was to double down, but I didn't have any more money. You mentioned before in a past column to ask anyone you knew on the game if they wanted to front you, or wanted a piece of the action, but I didn't know any players on the table and was a bit bashful about asking. I took a hit, got a three, stood on it, and the dealer had a 10 as a hole card, got an eight and busted. What did I give up to the casino by not doubling down? Mary K.

What, no secret stash, Mary? Anyhow, you still only took one card and that had no effect on the outcome of your hand, nor would it have, had you had cash on hand and doubled down.

But to answer your question, the normal house edge in blackjack using basic strategy, which includes doubling when the opportunity presents itself, is usually 0.4% to 0.6%, depending on the rules. By not doubling down, you increase the house edge by 1.9%, so by not doubling, the overall casino advantage would be 2.3% to 2.5%.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week:

"The Vegas strip must contain more elegance and extravagance per square inch than anywhere in the known universe." --Rob Wiser

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.