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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Guerrilla Gambling 101

12 November 1999

Dear Mark,
Casinos must make loads of money off constant losers like myself. Anything I can do to stop the flow of money always going in one direction? Sandra R.

But do you have a smile on your face when you lose, Sandra? I ask that because Bob Stupak, a major casino operator in Las Vegas, was quoted in U.S. News and World Report saying; "It's our duty to extract as much money from the customer as we can and send them home with a smile on their face."
Believe me, Sandra, casinos are a green felt jungle and you're playing war.

But that doesn't mean the casinos win every battle. You can fight back by becoming a Guerrilla Gambler. How? By only making bets that have a 2% house advantage or less. When you do, you'll stand a good chance of turning the tables in your favor, staying in action longer, having fun and, yes, stopping the flow of your hard-earned cash going to the opposite forces (casino corporate headquarters).

Here are some of my favorite guerrilla warfare wagers. All have less than a 2% house advantage and can be found in most casinos coast to coast.

Blackjack: A game that many play, but few play well. Solution: Playing perfect basic strategy. Perfect basic strategy will bring the house advantage down to well under 1%.

Craps: Want three outstanding craps wagers? The pass and come line bets, preceding wagers with odds, and placing the 6 or 8. All have a house advantage of 1.5% or lower. Stay away from those proposition bets (hardways, field bets, one number rolls, etc.) entirely. Some can have a house advantage as high as 16%.

Baccarat: Baccarat definitely evokes images of Monte Carlo and James Bond, but don't let the mystique of the game intimidate you. It's one of the easiest casino games to play (you don't even have to know the rules because correct hitting is predetermined), and the stakes are relatively low when you play on a mini-baccarat table. The house advantage is either 1.17% when betting the bank hand or 1.36% with a player hand wager. Skip the tie bet: House advantage 14%.

Video Poker: There is no such thing as a bad video poker machine, only bad pay tables. Here's another opportunity where playing perfect basic strategy on a machine with a decent pay schedule can reduce the house advantage to well under 1%.

Slots: Yes, you're reading it right, SLOTS. But only "liberal" slot machines. What I mean by liberal slots are those in casinos that advertise a higher payback percentage-like a 98.5% return-on selected machines. Be forewarned, these high payback slots are usually only found where casino competition is fierce; plus when you do find a casino advertising liberal paybacks, you'll then need to ask someone in slot personnel which machines those are. Yes there is some skill involved besides pulling a handle when playing slots-it's machine selection.

As you can see, Sandra, all through the casino you'll find decent wagers. Some, like blackjack or video poker, involve skill, while with others, it's placing the correct bet in the right place on the layout. But identifying the guerrilla wagers was just step one, Sandra. Next you must acquire a good solid education for your favorite game. Then you're truly on your way to becoming a Guerrilla Gambler.
Now repeat this phrase after me: "The smarter I play, the luckier I'll be."

Dear Mark,
In past columns you have stated "unequivocally" to avoid long-shot keno tickets. How about the simple three-spot ticket? Kay B.

There is only one bigger waste of money than playing any keno ticket, Kay. That's playing two!

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.