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Best of Mark Pilarski

Gaming Guru

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Good advice can come from anywhere

29 January 1999

Dear Mark,
I very much enjoy your helpful hints on casino gambling in your columns, but I'm curious, what's the best advice you've ever heard preached? Ned C.

In the casino business, the best admonition to get ahead is "Never make suggestions." As for a gambling nugget, the following voice of reason caught my attention while I was walking down the Strip in Las Vegas.

A panhandler approached and asked if I had any loose change so he could buy a hot dog. Unfortunately, spare change doesn't exist in Las Vegas. Strategically positioned slot machines allow you to travel light. But I guess I'm an easy mark for a hot dog story so I gave him a nickel chip-casino talk for $5-that I had in my coat pocket.

After his gratitude for my allowing him to bump up into buffet dining, or whatever, he shared some of his best gaming wisdom. "Go downtown to Binion's and make a pass line bet and take those 10 times odds. It's one of the best bets in the house," he said.

Guess what, Ned? He's right on. The house advantage on this wager is .018%. Those multiple odds he was talking about- zero casino advantage. It's the line bet where the casino enjoys its slight edge. And I mean slight. Expected mathematical loss on a $1 line bet with $10 odds, about 4¢. But we can combat that too, Ned. Throw in a few free drinks and pry a breakfast out of a floorman, you're getting to the point where they're paying you to play.

Yes, advice comes from the funniest places.

Dear Mark,
Are the dice placed on the crap game ever inspected for imperfections so the same number won't repeat itself? Steve B.

Because I can predict with 100% certainty that every casino has at least one lazy pit boss-I was one-you can be assured that the dice placed on the game are near perfect. The perks for this idle behavior? Going up to the boss's office and inspecting dice. This meant feet on the head honcho's desk, Oprah on the tube and talking on the phone long distance to friends and family because I knew the secret dial code. Oh, and inspecting dice with a micrometer to make sure our dice were produced to a tolerance level of .0005 of an inch.

But we were the second line of defense. Dice makers who cut this poly-sorbate plastic in lots of five or six deal in tolerances of .0002, with imperfections discarded, making the random nature of a dice throw a certainty.

By the way, Steve, no not you, Steve, my former boss Steve. You never asked, but those long distance calls to Michigan were probably mine.

Dear Mark
On a trip to Las Vegas, I tracked each and every hand (see enclosed) that I won and lost. As you can see I lost more hands (160 losses, 142 wins) than I won. How can you write in your column that when playing blackjack the house edge is less than 1% when you lose more often than win? Jon G.

Throw your chart away, Jon. Blackjack is a horrible game if your foundation for winning is based on how many hands you actually win. Excluding ties, a player loses approximately 53% of all hands. However, the casino, bless their hearts, permits you to double down and split hands after viewing the dealer up card. This allows the player to get more money in the circle when conditions are favorable. In addition, they give you that sweet 3 to 2 payoff for a blackjack.

That is why, Jon, the casino has only a half percent edge over the disciplined basic strategy player.

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.