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Best of Mark Pilarski

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From goon to moon on the good ol' Top Deck

15 June 2012

Dear Mark: I saw a guy outside the Cal Neva and he said it was his last day of pitching cards as he fanned a deck towards the moon. Something about the primates on the upper deck! Randy S.

It has been just a day short of a quarter-century since I dealt my last hand at the Cal Neva, but thank you, Randy, for allowing me to reminisce on some of the great times I had in gaming.

The upper deck reference is the Club Cal Neva's Top Deck: If I penned a narrative about the cast of characters who haunted the Top Deck 24/7, most would believe it couldn’t be anything but fiction. The Top Deck had 10-cent roulette, quarter craps, and 50-cent blackjack, and many unbalanced players – notice that polite term – to go along with that type of action. Like all break-ins learning to deal, I was happy to have a job, one I actually liked, although I lacked the psychology/sociology background useful if not necessary for the Top Deck. As for a "fanned deck to the moon," I also have an intimate knowledge as to what he was talking about.

The Club Cal Neva was, possibly still is, a casino where dealers take their cards off the game, and incoming dealers bring in their own cards. When pushed for a break, there was a procedure where you would run the deck down by collating cards in sequential order, which initially took about my entire 20-minute break, though eventually I had it down to less than 50 seconds. You would then place the cards in a slot that had a corresponding table number so a pit boss could examine their overall quality and protect against deliberate hanky panky. On his last shift, the dealer probably asked a pit boss if he could take his deck with him, and after running the deck down one final time, he walked out, flung the cards skyward, or as he so elegantly stated, "fanned the deck to the moon."

Dear Mark: When I start playing craps, I usually start by placing the 6 and 8. If the point is already the established number of 6 or 8, I place one and bet the pass line with odds on the other. If both bets have equal money on them, which is the better payoff? Harry H.

You, Harry, like many players, complement your pass line wager and odds with a place bet on the 6 or 8. That’s smart gambling, because a place bet is a wager with a small house advantage, 1.5 percent, and second, a place bet can be made on some crap tables for as little as $6. Therefore, if the point is a six, yes, it is common to accompany your pass line wager with an additional place bet on its kissing cousin, the 8.

With taking odds, you are making a supplemental wager to your pass line after the point is established. With this combination, you now have a pass line bet and odds packaged. Still, it can be a costly adventure, far more so than merely placing a number and may check into the amount of disposable cash lining your pockets. Taking odds can be an expensive proposition, especially when dealing in multiples.

So, pitting equally $30 placed on the 6, against $30 on the pass line with odds ($10 place, $20 for double odds), your place bet pays off at 7 to 6, or $7 for every $6 bet, making it a $35 payday. Whereas, $10 on the pass line gets you even money ($10) and your $20 double odds returns 6:5 on the 6 or 8, for an additional $24, totaling $34.

Certainly, Harry, at first glance, your payout is higher on your place bet, $35 vs. $34, but that does not mean it is a wise bet. Instead, you want the wager with the lower house edge, and that’s a Pass line bet with odds, (0.6 percent versus 1.5 percent), which can be considerably reduced with a minimum pass line wager and maximum odds.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: "It's hard to detect good luck – it looks so much like something you've earned." -- Frank A. Clark
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.