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Best of Mark Pilarski

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The wizard arm and bargain blackjack

24 March 2006

Dear Mark,
I am writing a screenplay with a character who has the ability to affect the outcome of dice on a craps game with his throws. I need a term for such a person who has this skill. Billy F.

I'm guessing here, Billy, but I think you are inquiring about a player so gifted at throwing dice that he can alter the conventional odds of the game, not the cutesy-pie player who merely slides the dice in prohibited fashion across the table.

In gamblese, Billy, the player you're envisioning is called 'an arm.' As to whether or not such a golden arm actually exists, who can chuck the die with any accuracy is dicey at best. I fly on the side of gaming folklore, and hold that it ain't so. Others in the betting house biz disagree. One of my favorite gaming authors, Frank Scoblete, penned a very enjoyable read called Golden Touch, Dice Control Revolution. We are both on the same page in that craps is a losing proposition and the game is structured to mathematically beat all betting systems. But in his book, Frank feels that you can control the outcome of a roll and that the skilled dice controller can change the nature of the game to favor the player. I’m not saying phooey aloud here, it’s just that after spending 18 years on the inside, an umpteen years bellying up to a table that I have to see it to believe it, and I haven’t seen it yet.

As for a player sliding the dice across the table to get a specific result, yes, that's a possibility. I’ve witnessed that, along with those who have tried it being escorted off the game. Craps dealers, a box person, the pit boss or the eye in the sky tend to go berserko if some dice jockey tries to illegally manipulate the cubes so that a random outcome doesn’t occur.

It's your play, of course, and your hotshot is certainly going to be sharp enough to know all that, so you might invent a brand new term for his magic anatomy: Dicerony, Warlock 7, The Wrist of Doom… Let us know when and where we can see it.

Dear Mark,
Could you tell me the house edge on Video Blackjack and how different rules and playing perfect strategy affect the house edge? I enjoy playing at my own pace and can wager smaller than at a table. John S.


You've got the advantages of video blackjack down cold, John: the low minimum bankroll required, with some machines taking as little as 5 cents a hand to play. They also spare you the intimidation factor of a live game, while delivering excellent practice sessions, where you can work on perfect basic strategy.

On the downside, it's tough to find a machine that pays you the true value of a blackjack (3 for 2). Most video blackjack machines pay even money on natural 21s. Because you can expect a blackjack every 21 hands on a live game, the loss of that bonus is going to cost you an additional 2.3%. Considering that blackjack has a house advantage of less than 0.5% over the basic strategy player like yourself, you are giving away a considerable amount percentage-wise.

Also note that some machines round down on blackjack payoffs. If you do happen to find a machine that pays the bonus for a blackjack but rounds down, make sure your wagers are in two-unit increments so that you can get the maximum value of your every blackjack.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: "I vow to never touch a slot machine again . . . although I suspect this resolve has all the firmness of a cream pie." -- Barry Meadow

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.