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Best of Mark Pilarski

Gaming Guru

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Who's watching whom in the pit?

8 September 2000

Dear Mark,
What is the power structure of the casino pit and how far did you rise? Also, whose job is it to observe that no one is cheating? Paul D.

The pecking order is as follows: dealer, boxman, floorman, pit boss, games shift manager, casino shift manager and finally casino manager. My hierarchical assault up the ladder ceased at the casino shift manager's position — held for such a brief period you could time it with a stopwatch — because I incessantly broke rule number one of casino advancement. NEVER MAKE SUGGESTIONS! Besides, I spent an inordinate amount of time in my gaming career on double-secret probation.

As for cheating, reverse the chain of command. The casino manager watches the shift manager, who watches the pit bosses, who watches the floorman, who watches the dealers-with the eye in the sky (cameras in the ceiling) watching everybody.

Dear Mark,
When in Las Vegas, my mother-in-law plays a certain combination of bets that she believes are better than other wagers on a roulette table. You said that all bets on roulette have the same house advantage with the exception of one. Whose, and which bet is it? Judith C.

Most players mistakenly believe that certain wagers on a roulette table are superior to others. Example: Playing the even money bets (red/black or odd/even) are always better plays than wagering a straight-up number. Nothing could be further from the truth. All bets, with the exception of one, hold the same house edge of 5.26%. That one wager is the five-number bet, 0, 00, 1, 2, 3 — also called "the beast with five numbers." Makes sense, as the house advantage on this sole wager is 7.89%.

It behooves your mother-in-law, Judith, on her next trip to Las Vegas, to play the more advantageous European, single-zero wheel at the Monte Carlo, Stratosphere or a few of the grind joints downtown. The house edge on a single-zero game is reduced to only 2.7%. That's shopping for value or Deal Me In gambling.

Dear Mark,
What is the worst move a player can make with a dealt hand in blackjack? Becky L.

Getting ridiculous here, Becky, it's actions like doubling down on a natural blackjack. I've seen this happen once with a $200 wager when alcohol got the best of this party animal. But for the average player it's standing on a pair of eights against the dealer's up card of 7. Instead, you should split those eights. A player making this basic strategy error will lose 70% of the time.

Dear Mark,
What is the most superstitious bet players make on a craps game? Bill C.

When the dice fly off the table, superstitious players call off respectable working wagers and start betting the next roll will be a seven. Betting like this is why your simplex gambler always loses to Joe casino owner. By believing in superstitions, naive players attempt to predict the individual and unpredictable roll of the dice. The casino owner only concerns himself with the quite predictable return on each and every wager. In the case of possessed betting that the seven will appear, the house has a 16.1% edge.

Dear Mark,
For us non-card-counting players, why is it more important to find single-deck blackjack games? Sunny R.

Because blackjacks, which pay 3 for 2, occur more frequently on a single-deck versus multi-deck games. Example: Let's say, Sunny, your first card is an ace. On a single deck game, 16 of the remaining 51 cards, or 31.37%, are the face or 10-value cards that would complete your blackjack. On an six-deck game, 96 of the remaining 311 cards, or 30.87%, would give you your snapper.

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.