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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Gut feeling gamblers

26 December 2006

Dear Mark: I just encountered it again on a Vegas talk board. Posters were talking about how often the number hits of roulette when for some reason they had a hunch and did not play it or have played it for an hour and just quit. Just talking about randomness may not be enough to really explain what is happening. It really involves the way our brain tricks selective memory and us. Then we trust that perception and start playing hunches. What we probably need is some science about the brain to remind us how fragile our perceptions are and perhaps a language to go with that. And you would be just the guy to manage to translate that science into words average people might understand. Dewey H.

You've got the wrong dude, Dewey! When it came to science, all I was good at was turning Sister Cyrilla's D into a B and making it look B-coming enough to bamboozle my Mom. She never knew nor had a hunch otherwise, and besides, she's gone now, probably playing a Blazing 7's machine at St. Peter's Casino and Resort Hotel.

Hunches, Dewey, are nothing more than a premonition or suspicion that such and such is going to happen. In your roulette case, Psychology 101 reminds us that a player wouldn't have been playing if they hadn't a hunch of an expected win, and when they do quit, a hunch tells them there is a winning spin somewhere in the near future. Being flat broke upon quitting is chalked up to bad luck, not to some skewed funny feeling gone awry or the foolishness of playing a game that has a 5.26% house advantage.

To close this out, let's guess what percentage of readers of this column will henceforth substitute logic for faith in hunches. Will you? Let me know. My own hunch is down around the 0.1-2% range. Why? Because they're gamblers and their sustaining faith is that of a rope has only one end.

Dear Mark: Does it make any difference if you press the spin button or pull the handle on a slot machine? Dottie N.

Whether you're pressing the spin button or yanking a handle, either way electronic switches tell the machine that Dottie is here, and she is ready for those reels to spin. The random number generator within that affects the eventual outcome doesn't give one iota how you initiate play.

Surgeon Generals Warning: With prolonged play, both methods have health consequences. One will give you carpal tunnel syndrome, the other tennis elbow.

Dear Mark: I know this must be a simple question, but on the come out roll, if you make a bet on the pass line or the don't pass, can you pick up either bet after the point has been established? Gary G.

As for taking your bet down or reducing its size on the pass line once a point has been established, you cannot, as it is considered a contract wager, and must stay in place, win or lose.

You can make a pass line bet at any time but you should never make one or add to it after a point. Once a point is thrown the odds of winning drop to 33% to 45% depending on the point. And besides, 45% of your pass line wins are made when the 7 or 11 shows on the come-out roll.

On the don't side, you can, but you should never remove a don't pass bet after a point is made. Once that point has been made, there are more ways of a wanted seven appearing than any point number. There are six ways to roll a seven, and only five to roll a six or eight, four for the five and nine, and three ways for the four and ten. This is why you cannot add to a don't pass bet after an established point since it would favor the player.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: "When you are playing and losing, it won't always be the best player who is winning your money." -- Larry W. Phillips, "The Tao of Poker"

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.