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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Three's a charm?

4 August 2000

Dear Mark,
My favorite number is three. I was born on 3/3/1933. I regularly bet three on the roulette table, make $33 dollar wagers in blackjack and always play the third machine from the left on a slot carousel. Over the years it has paid decent dividends. Is there such a thing as a lucky number? Freddy G.

Lucky charms, shooting stars and special numbers, all are performance poetry, mystical rituals that give the illusion of hope. Your belief that your number is lucky, Freddy, is a way of asking fate for a favor. Because three out of four adults have at least one lucky charm or ceremonial offering (mine is picking up pennies with heads up), who am I to argue?

The number three has been considered the luckiest number for thousands of years in cultures and religions all over the world. "Of all the numbers in the infinite scale none has been more universally revered than three," writes Philip Waterman in The Story of Superstition. Christianity and the Trinity, China's third day of a new moon, Egypt's three-sided pyramids, the list goes on.

In casino action, I've seen players stand up from a blackjack game, turn around three times to reverse their luck, then proceed to pulverize the house.

So, does the number three have any supernatural powers that work like a charm? Well, it does remind me of an old horse bettor's joke: "A guy wakes up at 3:33 a.m. one morning and takes the number three as an omen. He gets into a taxicab numbered 333. He goes to the track and bets $333 to "win" on the third horse in the third race...and true to form...the horse comes in third."

Dear Mark,
Every time I touch my money in the betting circle on a blackjack game, the dealer starts yelling at me. Why does he have to make a federal case out of it? Kristi A.

I learned the hard way that a dealer's job, first and foremost, is game protection. Repercussion: a week on the streets. I had a terrible habit of turning my back on the table layout to chit-chat with whoever. Eventually, guerrilla military training "Avoid game security being broached at all costs" was close-order drilled into my finite brain cells.

The casino's anxiety is the deceptive player who "pinches" or "caps" his wager. Pinching is when a card sharp tries to remove chips or money from a losing wager just before the dealer seizes losing bets. Capping is just the opposite of pinching. Here the player has an excellent hand against the dealer's up card and wants to add more chips to his wager.

Dear Mark,
In Atlantic City, they do not offer a Big 6 & 8 bet like they do in Nevada. Are we being ripped off here on the east coast? Alex G.

Quite the contrary, Alex. Thank your state legislature for having the foresight to eliminate the 6 & 8 from the craps layout through gaming statutes. By betting the Big 6 or 8, you are paid even money by the casino. Bet $6, win $6. This gives the house a whopping 9% edge over a Big 6 or 8 wager. By asking the dealer to "place" the wager instead, the casino edge is reduced to 1.515% percent. You are betting the same $6, but your "friendly dealer" will pay you $7 for the exact same wager.

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.