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Best of Mark Pilarski

Gaming Guru

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Who needs a spleen, anyway?

23 June 2000

Dear Mark,
While surfing the Internet I found your column on the Detroit News webpage. My guess is that you must be familiar with casino gaming coming to the Motor City. Recently I have come into a small inheritance and would like to invest it in a business close to these new casinos. Any suggestions would be appreciated. Nathan B.

For starters, a Cash for Gold or a pawn shop could complement gambling well. A Plasma Center would work. Oh, don't forget, Nathan, tell your customers they really don't need two kidneys.

Dear Mark,
Is there any one sure-fire way to win at the slot machines? Jerome C.

Sure-fire ways, sure, I will give you three: (1.) Get a casino gaming license and operate your own slot business. (2.) Invest in the solid companies that manufacture slot machines. (3.) Buy an antique slot machine and sell it when the demand increases.

Dear Mark,
Could you please explain the Kelly System of betting? Ken W.

Called the Kelly Criterion, it is a money management system that, at least on paper, Ken, gives you the ability to maximize your expected winnings by betting an amount that is proportional to your bankroll. By using this method a player wagers a certain percentage; example, 10% of his current total bankroll on every play. After each win or loss, you then recompute your bankroll and bet the same percentage accordingly. The biggest positive is that when you are on a losing streak, your bets become smaller and smaller, helping you avoid a gambler's meltdown. On a winning streak, your bets become larger and larger, allowing you to parlay your funds. Many gamblers find this to be a very effective systematic approach to money management.

I plan on giving the Kelly Criterion a run this college basketball season using the free picks of Roger Right (http://dealmein.org/roger.html). Starting with a modest bankroll of $200, I plan on wagering 15% of my current bankroll on each of Roger's picks throughout the entire season. I will let you know how it played out.

Dear Mark,
Can I make more as a part-time gambler than I could a full-time teacher?
Susie H.

Taking into consideration the importance and magnitude of your job, the time, the effort and commitment, yes, even a losing campaign as a part-time gambler probably pays better.

I would not be the first, Susie, and hopefully not the last to say that you are both underpaid and undervalued in your honored profession.

Dear Mark,
When is the best time to surrender in blackjack? Thomas H.

When surrendering in blackjack, Thomas, you give up half your wager for the privilege of not playing out your hand. Known as one of the more sophisticated moves in blackjack, surrendering is best used when the dealer is showing a 10 or ace and you have a hard 15 or 16. This particular hand will lose more than three out of four times as opposed to you only losing half you bet. If your favorite casino allows surrendering in the above scenario, wave the white flag.

Dear Mark,
Playing craps with a pass line bet and a point of 9, I asked the dealer what were my chances of winning. He said 40%. Was he right? Janice G.

Janice, the dealer was correct when he told you 40% with this simple formula illustrating it. There are six ways a 7 will appear (3-4, 4-3, 5-2, 2-5, 6-1, 1-6), and four ways a 9 can show (5-4, 4-5, 6-3, 3-6). Obviously, one of these ten combinations must happen for your bet to be decided. So, because, on average, you'll make the point of 9 four of ten times, there's your 40%.

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.