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Best of Mark Pilarski

Gaming Guru

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One taco short of a combination plate

21 July 2000

Dear Mark,
In all your years in the casino industry, I bet you never heard of this type of superstitious gambling. My brother-in-law brings a small computer to his hotel room that has a software program that tracks a person's biorhythms. He then proceeds to ask dealers their birth dates, runs back up to his hotel room, then plots the dealers' emotional, physical and mental state. Then he goes back to the casino and only plays on a dealer's table if the software shows a dealer in a down cycle. Beat that! James M.

You would think, James, that after 18 years in the business I would have seen enough to have seen too much. Then you come along with your brother-in-law's nincompoop gambling theories.
My personal favorite was when a lady playing on my blackjack game pulled out a Ken doll dressed in black and whites that even had a bow tie duplicating the one I was wearing. After every hand I (the house) won, she inserted straight pins into my likeness and started a voodoo conversation with the doll. Here is proof that evolution CAN devolve.
I believe that your brother-in-law, and others who gamble with insane beliefs in the paranormal, are a few Fruit Loops shy of a full bowl.

Dear Mark,
Recently my wife won $1,125 on a slot machine and a few hours later, in the same casino, I won $1,260. I'm not complaining, but why did they ask me for my social security number and have me fill out forms and not ask my wife to do this? Gary R.

Because your jackpot total was in excess of $1,200. Anything above that and the casino reports your winnings to the IRS. You can, however, offset the taxes by reporting your losses if you keep good records. Don't despair if you didn't; that is, if you use a slot club card. Because your play is tracked, the casino should be able to provide you documentation regarding the machines you have played and how much you've previously lost.

Dear Mark,
Another gaming columnist recently advised a reader that splitting 10s is always appropriate when the dealer's up card is a 5 or 6. He was using the advice of author John Scarne. You, on the other hand, recommend never splitting 10s in the standard version of blackjack. Whose advice is right? Bill S.

Actually, I received this question via a telephone call from Bill, as we both live in northern Nevada and had access to the same column. I must say, I, like Bill, was surprised that the columnist used John Scarne as his point of reference for blackjack hitting rules.

John Scarne's book, Scarne on Cards , was first published in 1949, well before computers could analyze blackjack with multi-million hand simulations. Consequently, since 1962 when Edward Thorp, the first blackjack specialist using a computer (IBM 704), published his book Beat the Dealer, no blackjack author recommends splitting 10s — under any circumstances. Scarne stands alone.

Also, since our conversation, I took Bill's question one step further and ran a 20 million hand simulation test using a piece of software called BJ Trainer. The results clearly favored leaving those 10s alone versus splitting them against a 5 or 6.

Should a computer be trusted over a highly acclaimed author like Scarne? Not always. I don't have a baseball bat alongside my computers ready to inflict a mortal wound for nothing. But for crunching numbers to compare the variables of blackjack, I'm in favor of using computer results over advice written in 1949.

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.