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Super Bowl and deeper into faro

26 January 2004

Dear Mark,
I read that the Binion's Horseshoe in Las Vegas has closed. What happens to any sports futures bets that I had placed on the Super bowl back this summer? Will the new owners honor these tickets? Curtis R.

I believe your tickets are safe, since Harrah's Entertainment has signed a definitive agreement to purchase Binion's Horseshoe Hotel & Casino in downtown Las Vegas, giving a new lease on life to the last family-owned casino in America, and home of the legendary World Series of Poker. The transaction is expected to close before the end of the first quarter, subject of course to regulatory approval. According to Charles Atwood, Harrah's CFO, "The agreement in principle contemplates that Harrah's will assume the property's liabilities to bona fide creditors who submit verifiable evidence of claims." Although unraveling that quote may not specifically state that Curtis is gonna get paid, my best guess is that your futures bet on the Super Bowl will be honored. Why? Well... a little housekeeping disclosure first, Curtis. Of my 18-plus years on the inside, 10 of them were at Harrah's (Bill's). The 10-year pin recently exhumed from my memory drawer so attests. Anyhow, if I were to do it over, I would work for Harrah's again, as there probably is no finer gaming corporation in America (Another disclosure: Regrettably, I don't own any of their stock).
So, Curtis, even though I cautiously said my "best guess" was that you are going to get paid if you pick the winner, I just can't see Harrah's putting the screws to you; they ain't that kind of folks.
By the way, Curtis, next time tell us whom you picked so we can root with you.

Dear Mark,
You touched on a game called "faro," and explained some things about it. However, when and if anyone watches any documentaries on the birth of Las Vegas, they will see "FARO" signs outside all the casinos and bars. Obviously, it was a popular game. So, how was it played? What was the object of the game? Peter R.

The object of all casino games is to transfer money from the bettors to the house, as you know.
Faro is an even-money game you can set up on your kitchen table and learn in less than a month; in fact, two minutes should do it. So, Peter and other readers, go fetch yourselves two decks of cards and learn by doing.
Lay out in neat rank order-ace through king-the 13 cards of a single suit (traditionally spades) face up on the table top (or on an enameled green cloth if one happens along). It is on this spread that you do your betting. The other deck is for the game itself.
As the bettor, you "back a card" by placing your chips on any rank (card), or on more than one if you like. With the other deck shuffled twice, cut once, and put face up in a topless box, the deal begins. The top card, called the "soda" for some obscure reason, is pulled off and laid aside, then the next card is dealt. Anyone whose chips are on that rank (regardless of suit) loses. The next card is then drawn, and anyone who bet on that rank wins. That constitutes "a turn."
Bets on any of the other ranks, can be withdrawn or left standing for the next turn. The house derives its advantage when a pair is dealt. Here the bank would take half the money that had been staked on the paired cards.
There's another guy standing beside the dealer with the title "casekeeper." He keeps track of the cards that have been played, and when only three card remain in the box, bettors can have a crack at a heftier win by guessing what they are.
Lesson over!

Gambling quote of the week: "Bart, if you really want something out of life, you have to work for it. Now quiet! They're about to announce the lottery numbers." -Homer Simpson

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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.