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Best of Mark Pilarski

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That good old 22

15 March 2013

Dear Mark: I enjoy reading your column every week in the Reno Gazette Journal. Last week, you wrote of your "walking out the door wager" on the roulette wheel. Something about it struck a chord in my memory, but I couldn't figure what it was. The next day it came to me --Casablanca! In that famous movie Humphrey Bogart's character Rick helps a refugee couple get enough money to pay off Louie, the Prefect of Police (Claude Rains) by letting the husband win at Rick's roulette table. Rick comes up behind the husband at the roulette table and tells him to put his last four chips on 22. The croupier heard what his boss said, and of course, the fixed wheel comes up 22. Rick tells the husband to let it ride on 22. He does, and it comes in again. Rick tells him to take the money and don't come back. I don't know if you realized that your "out the door bet" comes from that movie. If you do know, then I must repeat Louie's line to Rick after the couple leave: "I was right. You are a rank sentimentalist." Earl R.

Refreshing for readers what I wrote, with a dollar in hand as I walk out the door; occasionally I will go up to a roulette table and put $1 on my favorite number, 22 black, straight up. If it hits, I parlay my winnings, $35, along with my original $1 wager. If 22 were to repeat, my payday would soar to $1,260.

Our friend Earl, questioned, "Am I a rank sentimentalist?" because the number 22 and the way I played it are associated with the movie Casablanca. Absolutely, but my nostalgia comes not only from one of my favorite movies, but from other sources as well.

That "fixed" gesture of love from Rick, with the number 22 providing a ticket to freedom for one young couple, is not the only movie or event where the number 22 has been highlighted. You will see it played at a pivotal point not only in Casablanca, but also in The Sting and Lost in America. In addition, it was the first number called at Bill's Casino at South Lake Tahoe when it officially opened on July 1, 1987, at 7:01 p.m. I was the roulette dealer who called that first number, with one player having a $25 chip on it, and who won $875. Unluckily, he didn't parlay any of his winnings. Yep, it came up back to back.

A question, though, begs to be asked. Is it a good bet? Mathematically, no. Still, let's break down the true odds of a parlayed winning bet on a roulette table anyway. There is a 1 in 38 chance that any one number hits once, and a 1 in 1,444 chance (38 x 38) that the very same number will hit twice in a row. Clearly, a one in a 1,444 chance doesn’t make for a good wager against a $1,260 payday.

Nevertheless, I probably wagered no more than $400 maximum over a thirty-year period, and I have hit it four times. This leads me to the Law of Averages, and its relation to my, or any other gambler's, gaming timeline. The Law of Averages didn’t have time to work during those 400 spins.

My stroke of luck aside, you should at no time put your faith in the belief that joyous aberrations in gambling odds will happen in games that carry a decent-sized house advantage. Instead, you should become the shrewd player who never ignores the mathematical odds that are working for or against you.

Remember, every gambler's timeline is still relatively short, be it three hours or three days, or in my case, just 400 spins over 30 years of a roulette wheel. I am not ahead because the Law of Averages worked in my favor, but most likely it was because the Law of Averages didn't.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: "I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here." --Captain Louis Renault, "Casablanca"
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.