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Best of Mark Pilarski

Gaming Guru

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The smarter you play, the luckier you'll be

11 May 2007

Dear Mark: Why is it that I always lose in the casino? Am I simply playing the wrong games? Rachael M.

Hey, Rachael, I'm just guessin' here, but are you playing any of the games I recommend? Are you employing a solid strategy on those games? If not, then you have just answered your own questions.

Unless you're making wagers that have a casino advantage of 2% or less, you're like a greyhound at the track, chasing Rusty, the fake rabbit of gambling riches.

What you'll need to do first is treat casinos as green felt jungles where you're playing no-holds-barred war. The gurus of guerrilla gambling will tell you that you can fight back only by making bets that have a 2% house edge or less. When you do, you'll stand a good chance of turning the tables back in your favor, staying in action longer, starting to smile, and yes, stopping the flow of your hard-earned cash into the casino's well-manicured hands.

I have a simple solution for you, Rachael, or any other reader who's interested. How about a laminated casino strategy card that lists all the "best bets" in a casino, plus a list of the money management techniques the pros use. Allow me to send you, or anyone else a complimentary best bets card. Yes, those same ones you see in gaming publications and casino gift shops for up to $5 can be yours for FREE, zippo, zilch and don't forget nada. All I ask is that you send a self addressed stamped envelope (SASE) to: Mark Pilarski, ATTN: Best Bets Card, P.O. Box 1234, Traverse City, MI 49685.

Now how simple is that?

Dear Mark: Maybe this is a dumb question, but it occurs to me that in roulette, if one were to put a dollar on each number, one through 36, that player would lose $35 but win $35 plus their dollar back. This cannot be true because it changes the odds to being on the bettor's side. Can you explain this illusion for me? Pete S.

They put warnings on hair dryers that say, "do not dry hair while standing in a puddle of water" for the same folks who e-mail the real incoherent inquiries, and, of course, I answer those too. Remember when Gurth asked if I thought they would put a casino next to Yucca Mountain (Nevada), the nation's first long-term geologic repository for spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste?

Your question, Pete, stems from layout confusion, plus not knowing how the house does get its edge in roulette.

What you're missing is that the casino's advantage of 5.26% in roulette comes from the presence of the 0 and 00 on the layout. You admit to the belief that the casino pays all wagers according to how the odds would be if there were just 36 numbers on the wheel. But it ain't so, my friend. Include the 0 and 00, and add 'em up again. 38, right? That's what pays the light bills. The true odds of hitting your number are 1 in 38, yet winners are paid only 35-to-1.

By playing on a single-zero game, you can cut the house edge in half; the house will still pay you 35-to-1, even though the true odds are improved for you to 1/37.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: "When the card you need rises to the top of the deck to greet your delighted yet confident eyes, it is as close as I have ever come in my life to a religious feeling." —Mario Puzo

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.