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Best of Mark Pilarski

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The Classic Roman Myth Approach to Gambling

19 February 1999

Dear Mark,
I'm about to make my first trip to Las Vegas. Can you give me your favorite King Midas tip that will turn my trip into gold? Jerome S.

Why King Midas, Jerome? When I think of King Midas my thoughts turn toward greed. In Ovid's Greek tale, Midas was so greedy he wanted everything he touched to turn to gold. To his delight, his wish came true, and he proceeded to gild everything in sight. But like a rapacious player who wants to win every hand, his fate was tragic in the end. He killed his own beloved daughter with his magical touch.

But you probably don't give a hoot about some Roman poet's tale and only want a hot tip for success, so here's my favorite: Only make bets that have less than a two percent house advantage.

You didn't mention what type of casino games you prefer, Jerome, so I'll trumpet my favored plays below. All represent wagers that have a house edge of less than two percent.

Blackjack: With perfect basic strategy.
Video Poker: Again, using perfect basic strategy.
Craps: A pass line wager, odds on that pass line bet and placing the six or eight.
Baccarat: The bank or player hand.
Slots: Yes, even a cybernetic one-armed bandit can be a good play if it's advertised as a 98 plus percent return machine.

Horace once said: "Gold can be slave or master." So can the wrong casino wager.

Dear Mark,
Every time I chip away (no pun intended) at the casino, they return larger chips than those I'm betting. I get the feeling they want me to cash out and keep what I've just won. Why are they being so polite to a winner? Randall C.

Quite the contrary, Randall. The second you get on a hot streak, casinos prefer pit employees to "change color" or upgrade your chips. No, they're not being courteous, just trying to induce larger play. Because most players don't equate casino chips with real money, it's easy to get caught up in the game and forget what you're actually betting. Treat all chips, won or lost, like Friday's paycheck-your hard-earned money.

Dear Mark,
I have a system in roulette where I play all the odd black numbers and if I lose I follow it by playing all the red even numbers. The dealer took note of how I was betting so he knew my style of play. While betting my odd black numbers, I placed $2 on 17 black as the ball was about to drop. Suddenly the dealer reached for my money and handed it back to me. As you probably guessed, it came up 17 black. To say the very least I was extremely upset and demanded to be paid. The dealer said he couldn't pay me because he had already called "no more betting" before I put my bet on 17 black. The pit boss came over and agreed with the dealer's decision.

Even though the ball did not land in a slot yet, and the dealer probably knew my style of play, shouldn't I still have been paid? Tom D.

Your question reminds me of the roulette player who sent home this telegram: "System working well-send more money."

As a rule, Tom, the casino wants the dealer to wait to the final "reasonable" moment before he barks "no more bets." The house wants to get as many wagers per decision as possible because they hold a hefty 5.26% advantage over the player on roulette. The long and short of it, Tom, is that every casino has its own set of guidelines it wants its dealers to follow. Additionally, every experienced roulette dealer has his own sense of timing on when to halt wagering.

In this case, Tom, I side with the dealer (casino). The simple solution is to get your bets in early. Better yet, how about finding a new game that does not have such a precipitous house edge? All you need now is a new system.

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.