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The Kid wasn't ready yet

28 July 2000

Dear Mark,
My spouse and I have a dinner riding on your response. Because we live in a very small town with limited video rentals, we need an answer from you to the following question. I say the Cincinnati Kid lost his final wager in the movie of the same name. My husband believes he won and became the reigning poker player of New Orleans. Who is right? Lou J.

The Cincinnati Kid's (Steve McQueen) full house of aces and 10s was no match for the straight flush, eight through queen of diamonds, that Lancey (Edward G. Robinson) had.

The Kid: "I'll call your five thousand and raise what I have in front of me."

Lancey: "Call your thirty-five hundred and raise you five thousand."

Great dialog and suspense at the end but by poker playing standards, Lancey, by raising, then trying to draw to an inside straight flush, would be ridiculed today by even the most amateur poker player. He should have folded. But as Lancey said, "It gets down to what it's all about. Making the wrong move at the right time."

Incidentally, the final wager was not at the poker table but pitching pennies with a local shoe-shine boy. "The Kid" lost that bet also. "You try too hard, man" said the shoe-shine boy. "You just ain't ready for me yet."

Maybe you can squeeze two dinners out of your husband. Enjoy your dinner, Lou.

Dear Mark,
For someone learning card counting strategies in blackjack, what do you feel will be the greatest obstacle I will encounter? Jan S.

As you didn't identify yourself coming from either Wall Street or WalMart America, let's put aside the pitfalls of being under-capitalized.

The greatest obstacle when making frequent, multiple, table-limit bets is that your play will be closely monitored. First, plan on the eye-in-the-sky (observation) analyzing your play. When casino security assesses that your biggest wagers always correspond with higher counts, believe me, you'll feel the heat of a camera over your shoulder. If the trend continues, the phone ringing in the pit will be about you, not who the pit boss likes in tonight's Red Wing/Flyer game. Finally, a decision will be made about your play. Yes, the death blow. A polite banishment to nickel slots. It generally goes like this: "Hi, Jan. You're just too good for us. You're welcome to play any of the other games we offer but we don't want your action in blackjack."

To avoid exile, Jan, you will need to learn how to conceal your high-count bets without using so much camouflage that you will counteract your advantage.

Dear Mark,
I know you can bet on the horses, but can you bet on motorsports in Nevada? I would really have liked to place a bet on my favorite driver in the recent Daytona 500. Dave D.

Quick rule of thumb, Dave. If a professional sporting event is preceded by the national anthem, by golly, you can get action on it in the Silver State. Besides major racing events like the Daytona or Indianapolis 500, many sportsbooks will take wagers on the whole NASCAR and CART season.

Dear Mark,
In Montreal, the dealer gets only one card on the deal. Does this change
that delicate balance of the game, particularly when you are on third base sitting with a hard 16 and looking at a dealer's up card of 10? Tom M.

Nay, Tom. The main reason the dealer receives just one card is strictly for casino security.
Dealing one card averts both the unscrupulous dealer from tipping off customers to their hole card, or when checking the ten/ace, inadvertently flashing what's hiding in the hole to an over-observant card sharpie.

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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.