The Question of Credit

 

They have the highest house edge of any machines in the casino. In fact, no one has ever come out ahead playing them – ever. They loom in the hallways and lobbies – brightly lit machines with no conscience, who neither ask for nor give quarter – or quarters for that matter. Many a player will rush to them and start pressing buttons, hoping to make a quick withdrawal. And the players pay a hefty, hefty price on these machines because no one has ever won on them. No one has even broken even on them. Ever!

I’m not talking about your garden-variety slot or video-poker machines. I’m talking about those ATM Credit Card Advance machines, sprinkled all over casino creation, that charge unconscionable interest rates of upwards of three percent on a single withdrawal, often adding fees of up to and over ten percent of the total money withdrawn. (Fees? Fees? Isn’t the interest the fee?) Casino players who use these machines are making the dumbest possible move they can make – dumber than splitting tens at blackjack, dumber than betting Big Red at craps and dumber than playing Sic Bo.

What’s worse, using those currency-sucking monsters is so unnecessary! In fact, no smart casino player should ever give them a look much less a mention when right in the casino sits a flesh and blood human being who will give you money; who wants to give you money; whose job is to give you money, money for free – with no interest and no fees – and he or she will also give you anywhere from seven to forty-five days to pay it all back, depending on how much you borrowed. Now, casino players can’t ask for anything better than that other than a win the very next time they play. Yes, I am talking about casino credit.

Every casino has a special credit department whose sole reason for existing is to give away money. (Okay, let’s not be naive. They give it away in the hopes that you’ll lose it in the casino. But that’s so obvious I don’t have to say that, do I?) The upsides to getting casino credit are numerous and obvious. The downsides are small and even more obvious.

The first benefit to a casino credit line is that you don’t have to carry wads of cash when you travel by car, bus, train or plane to your favorite casino venue. The second benefit to credit is that the money you have in your gambling bank account can sit there for up to six weeks gaining interest before you have to pay back the casino what you owe it. (You do have a gambling bank account don’t you? Money tucked aside that is used strictly for playing purposes? If not, start one, now, even before you get credit.) If you win, you pay back your marker immediately. If you lose, the casino takes it out of your account. Contrast this with those awful credit card advance machines that immediately dock your account and rip their pound of interest flesh from your economic carcass as well.

A third, generally unspoken, unpublicized benefit to getting casino credit has to do with how you’re perceived once you have, use and pay back a credit line. Although I could get no casino executives to state for the record that “credit players” are viewed in a more favorable light than “money players,” the fact is that they are. The casino assumes that credit players are willing to lose the amount of their credit line (which may or may not be true). A simple mind experiment can prove this.

Two players enter a game and both cash in for $1,000. Joe gives cash and Joan takes out a $1,000 marker against her credit line of $10,000. Both Joe and Joan now lose their $1,000 in short order. Who would you bet on to go for a second $1,000 – Joe, the cash player, or Joan with the $10,000 line? I pick Joan because I know (or think I know) that she has $10,000 in play money she’s willing to gamble. I have no idea how much Joe has. For all I know, that $1,000 was for his kid’s braces and he’s in a powerful lot of trouble when his wife, Big Gert, finds out that little Lulu is still going to resemble Bugs Bunny when she hits junior high next year.

Casinos also think that credit players are more motivated players. In fact, this is probably true. My experience tells me that credit players tend to come to casinos more frequently than other players. Casinos like that. Interestingly enough, between four and ten percent of table-game players have established credit lines and anywhere from 15 to 30 percent of the table game drop in Atlantic City, at least, comes from these players. Casinos that attract big action tend to have more credit players than casinos that attract small to moderate action.

Even more interesting, only about one to two percent of slot players have established credit. Why so few? Because many slot players don’t know that credit exists for them as well. But it does. In the future you are going to see a big push to get credit for slot players from the casinos.

How do you get that credit line? Easy! Just call your favorite casino and ask them to send you a credit application. Most casinos in a given venue use similar forms. In Vegas, the forms tend to be modest. They’ll ask for your name, address, phone, social security number and the bank account you’ll use for your credit line.

On the other hand, Atlantic City desires more information. Most casinos there will want to know your full name, address, phone number, where you work or if you’re self-employed, your yearly income, your outstanding indebtedness, the name of your bank, and the account you want to write your markers against. Some Atlantic City casinos will go one step further and ask to know your net worth.

You’ll then sign a release form which will allow the casino’s credit checkers to make sure you have enough money in the specified account to pay back the amount of the credit you’re requesting. This is an important item. When you apply make sure you have more than enough in one account to fully cover the entire line of credit you want.

The casinos will then do a credit check to make sure you’re a good risk. The whole process takes about a week.

What are your chances of being turned down?

Stated one casino credit manager who wished to remain nameless: “I’d say that approximately three-fourths of the people who ask for credit get it. The only area where there might be some difference of opinion between us and the patron is on how much credit we should give. First time credit applications are often for sums that we feel might be a little too high. If someone asks for $10,000, we might say ‘Let us give you $5,000 and we can readjust that figure in the future.’ The people we turn down are usually people who just have a history of not paying their bills. Remember we’re giving a loan for up to six weeks with no interest and we want to make sure we’re going to get that money back.”

What percentage of the money borrowed by players is not returned? The figure varies from casino to casino and state to state, and is a closely guarded secret, but I estimate that less than three percent of the total money borrowed by credit players is not paid back in a timely fashion.

Once your credit is approved, your next trip to the casino will probably see you take out your first marker. A marker is a promissory note that can be drawn directly against your bank account. In fact, it looks like an oversized generic check, which is exactly what it is.

Once you’re at the table of your choice, you’ll say to the dealer: “I’d like to take out a marker, please.” The floor person will be called over and he or she will ask you, “For how much?” Once you tell the floor person how much you want, you’ll probably be asked for your player’s card. In such a case, the casino floor person will fill out most of the information on a marker form and ask you to sign it. If you don’t hand in a player’s card, or if the casino is very busy, the floor person will give you a small sheet of paper where you’ll write your name, address, phone number, the name of your bank, and how much you want to take out. Then you’ll sign your name.

It usually takes two to five minutes for the marker to arrive. When it does, you’ll sign it and the floor person will put it on the table and the dealer will count out the appropriate number of chips (credit players in Las Vegas and some other venues will get the chips even before the marker arrives). Slot players will usually do their transactions at the cashier’s cage.

That’s it, you’re in the game. It’s a lot faster than the ATMs and a lot more economical.

How and when you pay back your marker is a product of how you did at the tables. It is customary to pay back all the money you borrowed at the end of your trip if you won. If you don’t pay after a winning stay, it is considered a very bad thing called walking with the chips. Casinos frown upon players who “walk” because they feel (rightly) that not only have you won money from them at the tables (fair and square) but you’ve taken a loan that now will get you interest for however long it sits in your account before the marker is redeemed (unfair and not square).

Some high-rolling, self-employed business people have attempted to use their casino credit lines as short-term business loans at no interest. If casinos discover you doing this, they will not only cut off your credit, they’ll say bad things about you behind your back and you won’t get credit at other casinos when the word gets out that you’re a “chip walker.” So never walk with the chips.

How much time do casinos give you to pay the piper? If you borrowed up to $1,000, you usually have seven days to pay up. If you borrowed between $1,001 and $5,000, you usually have 14 days; and if you borrowed $5,001 or more, you have between 30 and 45 days. Each state will have slightly different timetables but the above is representative.

But what if you borrowed $1,001 and only (only?) lost $500 of it? Here you have a choice. You can pay back the $500 that is left and wait the two weeks for the casino to collect the rest, or you can simply write a check for the other $500 on the spot. (Some casinos want first-time credit players to do this until it is firmly established that they are not risks.)

I know why players would want to get credit, but why would casinos want to give it? Some players believe that casinos give out credit as a part of a plot to get them to play for bigger money than they can afford and for longer periods of time than they should. Although this is not the reason casinos give out credit, it is a pitfall that players should be aware of and is the one big downside to casino credit. Your credit line should be in keeping with your budget. Don’t take out a $10,000 credit line if you are a five-dollar player with a gambling bankroll of $500. The temptation to plunge into your credit line for more money might just prove too great to resist on a bad day or night.

Casinos give out credit as a customer service, a loyalty inducer, and a convenience. Players should be aware that markers are money in the bank – your bank – and while they are interest free, they aren’t obligation free. Should you lose in the casino, you will be expected to pay back what you borrowed. Make sure you can afford to do so.

But given the other alternatives of carrying wads of cash and/or borrowing from those bent-nosed ATM loan sharks in the lobby, establishing casino credit is the intelligent way to go.

Frank’s books are available on Amazon.com, Kindle, e-books, Barnes & Noble, and bookstores.

***Above article based on Frank’s book Casino Craps: Shoot to Win!

 

 

I Am a Broken Record

 

My wife the Beautiful AP just said that no one talks about broken or even unbroken records anymore. She is not sure many of my readers have much experience with records of any type so let me update that opening and say that I am a tape recording coming unraveled.

No, wait; tape recordings are pretty old too, aren’t they? So let me go modern and say I am an eight-track tape. Oh, for crying out loud, my neighbor’s annoying kid was outside lounging by his pool and I asked him about eight-track tapes. He laughed at me.

The nerve! The kid just got rid of his braces and his teeth are still multi-colored. He didn’t care that he is one weird-looking kid. He still snorted and snickered and disdainfully told me no one discusses eight-track tapes. “Get with it, Scobe,” he said to me. “Get with the real world dude.”

Just for your information this kid is a PITA which stands for Pain in the (ahum). I got that directly from the person who gave birth to him. His mother knows best.

Okay, so what is it that’s broken? Am I a cracked CD or wacked-out digital download into something that takes digital downloads? What is going on?

Oh, screw it, I am a broken record. Look, I prefer records, just as I prefer real coins making coin sounds in a slot machine. The new-fangled-slot-world that has evolved around simulated sounds and dancing animation these past 15 or so years is not going to get to the eight-track-tape-deck of my heart.

True, I have to deal with the world as it is (I’m trying, I’m trying) and you my dear slot players do too. So here is what’s broken about my record:

Speed Kills!

Let me put it another way: The faster you run head-first into a brick wall the more your head is going to hurt as a result. You might even die.

Whether you are playing an old machine or a brand new machine one thing has always been true – the greater the number of decisions you experience, the better chance you have of losing because you are bucking big house edges on almost all slot machines.

Fast equals not good. Slow equals good. Relax, there is no rush.

Use this as your new mantra: The more you play, the merrier for the casino; the less you play the merrier for you.

A leisurely pace is the best method to contain your bankroll and avoid getting hammered too soon and too often. Is it really so joyous to play as fast as a whirlwind when such a wind could easily blow your bankroll away?

I think I have been giving this slow-down advice for decades now but still so many slot players – who obviously have not read my broken-record of slow down you move too fast, got to make your money last – just seem anxious to play faster than the speed of light.

Albert Einstein would have changed his theory concerning light’s speed had he witnessed the swiftness of today’s slot players. “Hmm, I zink it eez e=slot-player-speed squared.”

I will admit that there is a tendency to speed up the number of decisions a slot player faces as time passes. This is similar to how fast a drinker drinks. A person takes the first drink, sips it, and savors it. “Ah, that was delicious, my good man, simply delicious.” He gently wipes his lip with his silk handkerchief.

By the 10th drink, our sophisticated sipper has become a wet-mouthed raging lunatic: “Ah, whool haf mo ma man! Jus po it dowen ma troat!” as he power snots into the bar.

There are relatively easy ways to slow down the pace. Do a spin every 10 seconds. If you must sit at the machine and actually count from one to ten, then do so. After a while it will become second nature.

I think one of the most important realizations that slot players – and all gamblers for that matter – come to is the fact that anticipation is the driving force behind our play. We are looking forward to the next decision. We want a win!

That anticipation of what’s coming next is the fuel that can fool us into playing way too fast. Containing the speed of play will not diminish your anticipation; in fact, I believe it will do the opposite.

I think the anticipatory fun is even more fun the longer you allow it to play itself out. Do six decisions per minute and allow yourself the delightful feeling as you prepare for the next decision. Let the anticipation grow; savor it the way you would savor that first sip of a great drink.

Come on now; your drink almost always tastes better on the first couple of sips than on the swilling of gallons on the 200th swallow.

Okay, so here is the denouement: I am a broken record but what I am saying is the right advice for the smart slots player. I don’t care if my neighbor’s kid thinks I am a “dude” who has to get with it. Listen kid, I’m a gramophone on a mission!

Frank Scoblete’s new books are I Am a Dice Controller: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Craps! and Confessions of a Wayward Catholic! and I Am a Card Counter! All available on Amazon.com, Kindle, Barnes and Noble, and bookstores.

The Greatest Blackjack Player of All Time

 

“I want to meet the greatest blackjack player in the world,” I said to Howard Schwartz, manager of the Gamblers Book Shop in Las Vegas.    If anyone knew the greatest blackjack player it would be Howard.

This was June of 1991, several months before my first gambling book would be published.

“Let me go to my office and see what I can do,” he said.

A couple of moments later, a shabbily-dressed worker came from the back.

“I’m Paul Keen,” he said.

“I’m just waiting for Howard. He’s getting something for me.”

Paul smiled. “I’m what he’s getting for you. Howard said you wanted to meet the best blackjack player in the world. I really don’t know if I am the best in the world but for many years I made my full living playing blackjack.”

Paul Keen?

I had heard of Ed Thorp whose book Beat the Dealer revolutionized the game for advantage players. I had heard of “the big player” Ken Uston, who was the most famous and flamboyant blackjack player of all time.

I’d heard of Lawrence Revere, Stanford Wong, Henry Tamburin, Lance Humble and Arnold Snyder. Of course, I wouldn’t necessarily know Paul Keen since he hadn’t written a book, but I wondered how this guy could be considered the best in the world at blackjack? Shouldn’t the best in the world be rich? This Paul Keen was a stock boy. How could he be the best in the world?

“You expected someone a little more imposing didn’t you?”

Howard came from the back. “This man is the greatest blackjack player that I know of.” He nodded at Keen. “When any of the great names have a question they come to Paul. Uston used to frequently come here to talk to him.”

The Ken Uston?” Ken Uston was the blazing star in the blackjack firmament.

The Ken Uston,” said Howard.

“Okay, dinner tonight at 7 o’clock,” I said. “I’ll give a call and let you know where I’ve made reservations.”

“Where are you staying?” he asked.

“The Maxim,” I said.

“The Maxim has the best blackjack game in the history of Vegas.”

And that is how I met Paul Keen.

The Maxim casino is no longer around; it closed in 2001. The building now houses the Westin.

My wife and I had selected the Maxim because it was inexpensive and two blocks from the strip. The place had a coffee shop and a good steakhouse. So the steakhouse it was for dinner.

I called and told Paul Keen that we’d meet him at 7pm at the Maxim steakhouse.

Paul arrived right at 7 o’clock. “This is Susan,” he said. “I live in her luxury trailer.”

I introduced them to the Beautiful AP and we went inside to have dinner.

We ordered drinks. “You count cards?” asked Paul.

“Yes,” I said.

“Are you any good?” he asked.

“We’re good,” said the Beautiful AP

“You’ll like the Maxim’s game,” he said. “It is the best single-deck game ever in Las Vegas. I don’t ever remember a game this good.”

The waiter brought us our drinks. We toasted to a great trip.

“The game uses all but one of the cards, which is discarded after the shuffle. If the dealer runs out of cards midway through the hands, he just takes the discards, shuffles them and continues dealing.”

“God,” I said.

“The rules are great too. Dealer stands on soft 17 [ace-6], you can surrender your hands, and you can double on any two cards and split three times.”

“God,” I said.

“And every time you get a blackjack with five dollars or more you get a one dollar coupon you can use anywhere in the hotel.”

“They are giving away money.”

“There are only four tables. The other players have to satisfy their urge to play so they play the six-deck games which aren’t so hot. The casino manager is pretty clever. He brings the players in for the best game in town but most of them play inferior games.”

“The crowd gets the adrenaline flowing,” I said.

“Some card counters are even getting hit at the single-deck games too,” he said. “They aren’t winning as much as they should.”

Paul Keen had started off as a relatively big player, betting green and black chips, but Vegas is not a friendly town to skilled card counters. The casinos have finely honed radar to catch them – with skilled players hired to catch other skilled players and now computer systems. Even though card counting is perfectly legal, the casinos have the right to tell you to stop playing and to never to come back to their properties.

Over the years Paul was banned from almost every casino. Then he managed to get some of the pit bosses to allow him to play five dollar games with his high bet no more than $15. As he said, “They gave me that at least.”

In card counting when the cards remaining in the deck favor the casino, the player bets small and in Paul’s case that would be five dollars. When the cards remaining to be played favored the player, then the player bets big and in Paul’s case that would be $15. The cards favored the casino when more small cards – 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 remained – and the cards favored the player when more 10’s, jacks, queens, kings and aces remained. Paul’s bet spread from low ($5) to high ($15), while quite small, was sufficient to get him the advantage against those great single decks of the early 1990’s.

Still Paul couldn’t really win a lot of money at those great games unless luck became his lady not just for one night but for the rest of his life.

So Paul Keen lived in his girlfriend’s “luxury trailer” and worked at the Gamblers Book Shop. Vegas would not allow Paul Keen to win substantial sums of money even if some casinos let him play. That’s not how Vegas works. Vegas delights in snatching money, not bestowing it. If Vegas were a science fiction movie it would be “The Invasion of the Money Snatchers.”

Paul certainly had his ups and downs over the years. At times he lived out of his car because he didn’t want to use his bankroll to pay for room and board. Thankfully, Howard Schwartz hired Paul and then Susan housed him so at this point in his life he had a job and shelter.

When we went to the casino after dinner, there were two open spots. Paul took one spot; I took the other. I had never played this type of single-deck game. As I played it just didn’t feel right.

“Let’s quit,” said Paul. He was up about $60. I was down about $20. My spread was $5 to $20. “Let’s go to your room.” In the room Paul took out a deck of cards and shuffled. “There’s a type of play, known as end-play, which almost no one knows nowadays. When all the cards are dealt out but not all the players have received their full hands, those discards now change the nature of the game – they flip your count. Understand?”

“Let me get this,” I said. “If the discards contain small cards, the count is high and normally you’d bet big but if the cards run out and you haven’t gotten your two-card hand what’s about to come out will be small cards.”

“Right,” he nodded. “So you have to know that if you are betting into a positive count [favoring the players] your big bets won’t be ruined because that second card you are getting will most likely be small. So you have to be careful and make sure you know approximately how many cards are left in the dealer’s hand so you don’t get caught by the reshuffle. Also, if a dealer is showing a small card and has to hit that small card, those discards coming into the game could help him make his hand. Or they can bust him if the discards contain a lot of high cards.”

AP jumped in. “So many card counters are actually hurting themselves not knowing this end-play?”

“Yes, the card counter might not be able to handle that reshuffling in the middle of a round of play.”

Paul continued: “Almost no one knows about end-play because games like this are never played. But card counters – most of them anyway – just play by rote. They rarely think to look at a truly unusual game and see if it has some unique pitfalls.”

Paul concluded: “You get the hang of [end play] and your edge on this game will be the highest you can imagine. Off the top the player has a small edge on this game [using] basic strategy. You will have the best blackjack game you ever played with end-play.”

At this point, there was no doubt in my mind that Paul knew his stuff. End play? Amazing.

The next night, Paul took out a deck and taught us end-play.

As we played Paul would ask us how many cards were left in the dealer’s hand and if he would run out thereby reshuffling the discards and how that reshuffling would affect our hands, the dealer’s hand and our betting and strategy decisions. At first A.P. and I were awful. After about an hour, we started to get close. Soon after that, we started hitting it just about right.         At the end of several hours, Paul put the cards down and said, “Let’s go down and give this a try.”

That night turned our blackjack playing careers around. I became a great end-player and the Maxim’s heaven-sent game took us from spreading $5 to $20 up to $25 to $200.

We extended our trip to eight weeks. What made the Maxim so great was the fact that the floor people and pit bosses knew we were counting; they knew others were counting and didn’t care. No sweat, no heat, nothing to do but keep the count and bet appropriately. It was like going to heaven.

The Beautiful AP and I then played for those eight weeks, logging in eight hours per day with each of us playing two hands. When the count was high, we’d jump bets – $25 to $100 to $200. High counts could have $800 on the layout – four hands of $200 – as opposed to $80.

By playing four hands for eight hours per day, we accumulated a fortune in $1 coupons because the average is about one blackjack every 20 hands so (on average) every five rounds one of us would get a blackjack. Those $1 coupons added up – except for the first couple of nights, we never had to pay for a meal while we stayed there. The Maxim did not comp us – one of the things that showed they knew we were playing with an edge.

With the best rules, with relaxed executives, and with personable dealers, the Maxim game was the best blackjack game I ever played.

Paul Keen played every night after work. I got to see him in action and he was truly in his own class.

Paul Keen seemed to have an uncanny ability to predict when he was going to get a blackjack. He was allowed to bet more than $15 at max in this game, so he’d jump to $50 in a player-favorable moment and it was stunning how often those blackjacks came to him. (That $50 was his maximum bet.)

During the eight weeks I gained a great appreciation for his blackjack skills. But there was still more in the offing.

Keen took me a step further – or at least tried to take me a step further. After touring the car collection at Imperial Palace (now the Quad), Paul said, “I want to show you a great way to add to your edge, card tracking.”

The concept of card tracking (also known as shuffle tracking) is quite simple. You follow the 10-valued cards and/or the aces as they come out. When a given round is played, if there is an abundance of 10s and aces, you watch them put into the discard rack and when the dealer finishes with all the cards you follow the shuffle to see where those cards wind up. Then as you play you keep your eye on those areas where the 10’s and aces sit and as they are about to be dealt you bet big. It is a step way beyond simple card counting; an extremely difficult step. Almost no card counters I ever met achieved mastery of this technique.

Paul Keen did.

We stood behind the players at a six-deck game and watched the rounds. Then it came, one round where 10’s and aces poured out of the shoe. Paul watched them being played then put into the discard rack. When the dealer finished this shoe, he shuffled the cards and put the decks back into the shoe. I had no idea where those 10’s and aces wound up. I tried to follow them in the shuffle but I just couldn’t do it. The shuffle became a blur to me. I couldn’t believe Paul would know either. How could you follow this kind of thing?

Somewhere in that shoe was supposedly a group of high cards and aces. Paul watched the discard pile. Then he nodded, “The next two rounds will have those 10’s and aces. If we were playing we’d pump up the bets. There should be some blackjacks and some hands of twenty.”

It was a miracle; a cascade of 10’s and aces came out in the next two rounds. Of course, there were some small cards mixed in with those 10’s and aces but there were three blackjacks and six hands of 20 in the next two rounds.

Paul did this several times and he always got the groups of high cards correct. Was this a perfect strategy? No. Other cards did mix in with the high cards, but overall it was a high percentage play favoring the player. So, I guessed, maybe this was how Paul got that extra edge at the Maxim game because he could follow a couple or several cards even in a single-deck game.

Yes, Paul Keen was an elite player; truly the best I ever saw and I have seen some other great ones. You could understand why he was a threat to the casinos – that is, if he had enough of a bankroll to play. Even Paul Keen, the best blackjack player in the world, was closer to broke than break even.

Keen’s lack of money didn’t allow him to play up to his potential. With the casinos banning high bets, his spectacular early career ended with a whimper. So here was blackjack’s greatest player on the lowest rung of the economic ladder. Such is the sad irony of life.

No books would be written about him. No young players would think, “I want to be the next Paul Keen.” No great gambling writers would flock to Vegas to pick his brain. He was Ozymandias, a broken, wind-whipped statue in the desert but, yes, he had been the true king.

Frank Scoblete’s newest books are Confessions of a Wayward Catholic! and I Am a Card Counter: Inside the World of Advantage Play Blackjack! and I Am a Dice Controller!  Join Frank on his web site at www.frankscoblete.com.

 

 

The Wheat Germ Man

 

(The following is excerpted from the book I Am a Card Counter: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Blackjack by Frank Scoblete.)

The “Wheat Germ Man” was totally whacked out. First, he was a great card counter; not as good as Paul Keen (the greatest I ever saw) but in that elite category nevertheless. He had some three-level count and he could also track cards in the decks but not with the precision of Keen. He was fearless in getting his big bets out when the count favored him. He was an all-around pro. He would be what any blackjack player wishes to be – talented, perceptive to dealer mistakes, fearless.

And thoroughly insane.

I called him the “Wheat Germ Man” because he was a health food fanatic – his favorite drink was some concoction of wheat grass and Gatorade. He was completely convinced that such a drink prevented cancers, all kinds of cancers too, along with heart attacks, strokes, and body sores, and such a concoction would prolong his life into his early 100’s. “I will be the healthiest one-hundred-year-old in the world. That is my intention.”

His breakfast was wheat germ with banana and a whole grove of other fruit. Or oatmeal with the same grove of fruit. He took far more vitamins than I did – and I am almost a vitamin junkie. I would say he took a handful every couple of hours. He also loved seaweed, even that stinking raw seaweed just out of the ocean. He gave himself enemas just about every day.

“Enemas are great for cleansing you,” he’d say. “I use decaffeinated coffee as I find that cleans me out without the jangling from the caffeine.”

He ate almost no meat and he loved fish.

I met him in 1995 – during the Christmas vacation. During Christmas many of the big billboards at Caesars, Las Vegas Hilton and other major properties were written in Chinese. Vegas was crowded during Christmas with Asians. Wheat Germ Man was not a fan of Asian players.

“These Orientals and I call them Orientals and doesn’t that sound exotic instead of Asian? I think so. What’s with this Asian crap? They don’t know how to play. They are morons but they come to the table and throw their money around and yell in that stupid language. Why don’t they just shut up and play the slots? They don’t know how to play so why waste everyone’s time? I can’t stand them coming to the table and jabbering like monkeys. If they don’t know how to play they should go away.”

Wheat Germ Man was rarely in a good mood – everyone was a moron or, if they were of another race, a monkey to him. He always had something to complain about. He always had something to lecture you about. He believed he knew everything.

He thought he knew more about health and medicine than doctors. He thought he knew more about government than any political-science professor in America. His opinion of college political science professors: “They are all lackeys of the power structure. When the revolution comes they will all be broken eggs in the university system. In the revolution to make an omelet you have to break some eggs. I’ll have my baseball bat.”

He was also convinced that there were giant world-wide conspiracies. Some of these were among countries, some among politicians, rich people, Catholics, Jews, illuminati, masons and maybe even bricklayers.

He was a high school dropout. “School is stupid. Look at how many stupid people have gone to school and graduated. More stupid people have graduated than smart people.”

And he almost always had a cold or, as he said, “allergies” to the poisons around us. He was sniffling, coughing, incessantly blowing gobs of greenish mucus into tissues that tended to rip apart when such heavy loads were propelled in them. It was kind of like watching a movie called “The Blob from the Outer Nostrils.”

The daily enemas gave him a raging case of ulcerative colitis – a disease that is horribly painful and debilitating. The ulcerative colitis came about – according to the emergency room doctor who treated this anally bleeding, dehydrated, hallucinating wizened shell of a health-food expert – from those enemas over so many years.

The doctor explained that Wheat Germ Man probably had a genetic factor in the disease but his enemas and stress probably brought that factor out and that is what landed Wheat Germ Man into the emergency room.

When a strong regimen of prednisone, a steroid, halted the symptoms thereby easing his pain, Wheat Germ Man returned to the blackjack wars, and he told us, “What the hell do those doctors know? They wouldn’t give me the [wheat grass] juice and Gatorade. They pumped me full of drugs. They are all morons in a conspiracy with the FDA. My body being healthy cured itself.” Then he blew his green globule into his tissue. The fact that modern medicine might have saved his life was irrelevant. Wheat Germ Man’s famous saying was “Who you gonna believe? Me or the FDA?”

I sometimes wonder why so many of the great blackjack players I’ve met seem to have personality disorders – at least what seem to me to be personality disorders. Certainly, Wheat Germ Man fit right into that diagnosis. He was a health nut who was unhealthy; a high school dropout who knew everything, and an anti-“Oriental.” Still he was a marvelous blackjack player.

His saying was a simple, “Get the money out there.” That saying I have appropriated. I use it all the time. And he did get the money out there; he certainly did. If you want to be a successful card counter Wheat Germ Man – for all his madness – hit the nail on the head. “Get the money out there.”

He died in 2001 at the age of 38. From what I understand no one attended his funeral.

Frank Scoblete’s latest books are on Amazon.com, Kindle, Barnes and Noble, e-books and at bookstores. Read his web site at www.frankscoblete.com.

Doctor Ego and Mister Id

 

Just about everyone knows the Robert Louis Stevenson story of Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Jekyll, a mild-mannered, logical doctor, gives himself a formula aimed at bringing out the being deep inside him, in short the basest, most vicious, sexually propelled, avaricious creature that he believed was within us all. This being became known as Mr. Hyde.

Hyde becomes the dominant force after a while and this monster creates chaos and pain for all around him.

There is an even more modern version of this story about one doctor, Bruce Banner, who gets hit with gamma rays and turns into the incredible Hulk, a monstrous, totally angry creature hidden in Banner’s subconscious. Hulk enjoys smashing and fighting. It is the essence of his existence and over time the Hulk comes out more and more until he too becomes the dominant personality.

Sigmund Freud postulated that every human being has both a Dr. Jekyll in them, which he called the ego, and a Mr. Hyde, which he called the id.

The id contains our innermost drives; our hidden fantasies; it is a primitive, instinctual part of our minds with us from our very births. It is a totally aggressive part of our sub consciousness devoted to satisfying its urges, be they sexual or materialistic or totally irrational.

On the other hand, the ego is the break-pedal on the id, the part of our minds that is logical, controlled, in command of our being. Because of our egos we are usually able to control the id, stopping it from going to self-destructive extremes. Let me make this point clear; today we use the word “ego” to describe a person’s usually exaggerated sense of self. It can be a totally negative word in our lexicon. It was never meant to be that.

Now I am sure that many of you have experienced these elements in yourselves. While many psychologists and neuroscientists now reject Freud’s ideas, they are useful as a guide to various types of human behavior, especially as I see it, in the casinos. That’s right, casino players can be Mr. Hyde’s and incredible Hulks sometimes in their play.

I have heard players say such things as “I can’t believe I did that!” or “I was out of my mind last night.” or “What got into me?” or “I bet how much?” I know these expressions are not unique; I have been there, I’ve uttered them, especially in my first year of casino gambling almost three decades ago. Playing games can release some of those inner drives; drives best left buried.

The player who says “I lost it last night” is admitting in effect that his ego could not control his id which took control and made him play foolishly.

In my scenario, the id would play the games until it caused the player to collapse. Certain elements in the casino experience can help the id emerge, drinking is one and (this may sound weird) joy! The fun of playing casino games can thrill a player so much that he or she wants more and more. That last is great but not if it goes too far and releases the Mr. Hyde (or Ms. Hyde) inside us.

In Las Vegas there is something called the Las Vegas flu, a term which emergency room workers apply to those patients who have been brought there because they drank too much and played too long in the casinos. This flu is the aftereffects of Hyde coming out of hiding, the id taking over.

I am not a spoil sport; I think casino gambling is a truly fun way to pass the time. Letting a teeny-tiny part of the id to appear now and again is not a horrible thing; after all, without the ids of our mommies and daddies none of us would have been conceived. Eating a fine meal is also a measure of the id’s pleasure principle. The id is a part of us; it just shouldn’t be the part of us that is in total control. When such a thing happens, it is usually bad news.

Savvy casino gamblers know how to handle their Mr. Hydes. These players give themselves a set bankroll against which they play a session. If they run out of that bankroll they will take a break. They do not throw more money out after losses to make up quickly what they just lost. They keep their desire to “let it all hang out” a safe distance from their actions.

In games where specific strategies are called for, such as blackjack, then the players have learned the proper way to play their hands. In craps, they know what bets to make to keep the house edge against them to a minimum.

In fact, even those players who do not follow the best strategies can still control their ids if they know when to quit their games. Mr. Hyde would never quit until he was done-in by himself; the Hulk just wants to roar and fight until he meets up with something stronger and tougher than he is. The Hulk might not find such an opponent but the player will hit up against such an opponent, the casino itself.

In short, keep the id contained, except in those special times as mentioned above, and enjoy the pleasure the ego allows you to have. The heck with Hyde and the Hulk!

Visit Frank’s web site at www.frankscoblete.com . Frank’s latest books are Confessions of a Wayward Catholic; I Am a Dice Controller: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Craps, and I Am a Card Counter: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Blackjack. Available from Amazon.com, Kindle, Barnes and Noble, e-books and at bookstores.

This Column is Rated “X”

 

I have to warn you that this column is about sex – and, no, not the loving kind that exists between a husband and wife; or the fiercely romantic kind that exists in great poetry through the ages, but the sordid kind.

Now you may wonder how a column about slot machines can actually be about sex – what do these two things have in common? Stick with me and you will find out.

But first a detour of sorts. I have a love of history and I have been reading about “counter-cultural” movements in our civilization – from the roaring twenties to the beatniks of the 1950s, to the artist colonies that have been in America since before the Civil War, and I discovered that they all had one thing in common. Brush off the black beatnik eyeliner and close your ears to their awful poetry; look past the great music and fabulous dancing of the Roaring 20s; turn the canvasses to their backs and what do you find? From way back when through Andy Warhol through Madonna and right up to today’s leftist meanderings on the university campuses across America – here is what you find: Sex.

It’s all about sex. The poetry, the paintings, the music, the dance, the avant garde, the rap and hip-hop, and all of the this and all of the that, all of it was a cover up for mating. Nothing more and nothing less. Mating. Period.

The young discover sex in every generation and think it is some big deal – as if no generation before them discovered it too.

And that brings me to slot machines. The slot and video poker machines of the $5 denomination and up variety; or those multi-line machines that can take oodles of money for all their plays, or those 10-game-play or 50-game-play or 100-game-play video poker machines – and also the bar-top machines – are the point of contact between the women of the night (early mornings and days) and the male slot player. My thesis, based on first hand knowledge from many men and from my own experiences, is that prostitutes work the machines more than they work the table games because at the table games most men don’t want to be approached – they are into the game – whereas at a slot machine the man controls the game and if a “lovely” approaches him to talk, he’ll stop playing or talk to her while he is playing.

It usually goes like this:

“Are you having any luck?” she asks.

“So so,” says he.

“Is your wife here playing the machines,” she says as she looks at the man’s wedding ring.

“My wife is not with me on this trip,” says the man.

Pause. Sometimes she sprays perfume on herself. Then…

“Why don’t we go back to your room and have some fun?” she says.

Most men politely inform the young woman that they are not interested. She usually smiles and heads to the next perceived payday. Obviously middle-aged men playing high denomination machines are good prospects for those women who prowl the night (and the mornings and the days) in Las Vegas. We aren’t the only ones, of course, since the young men, giddy on drink and gambling, and thinking that deadly sexually transmitted viruses also obey the commercial rule that “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” (or Atlantic City or Reno or Lake Tahoe or the Midwest) are fair game as well.

The machines allow a working-woman natural cover – two people talking at a machine for a little while does not look like anything sordid or special. Being approached at a table game, which happens infrequently, is noticeable and disruptive.

Probably the best area for the proactive femme fatales continues to be the bars of the various casinos. Here men can play those bar top machines and the women can sidle right up to them, ask for a drink, talk to them and then make their pitch.

It’s all about sex.

Now here I must admit that I am a fuddy-duddy. I think paying for sex is a stupid thing to do. Think logically now; you are going to enjoy an intimate relationship with someone who has slept with God knows how many men. What are the odds of her having something she caught from one of them? I’d say it’s the best bet in the house. After all, have you seen the men out there?

There’s a good chance she is also taking non-prescribed drugs – a practice that is a great way to contact and transmit diseases by the truckload. Putting aside the fact that she might also want to drug you and rob you, the fact is that if you are married, you are cheating on your wife and if you are not married you are probably cheating on your girlfriend or fiancé.

It isn’t worth the bother. Have sex with your beloved and enjoy the gambling when you are in a casino. End of sermon.

Frank’s books are available on Amazon.com, Kindle, Barnes and Noble, eBooks and at bookstores.

The Best, the Worst and the Between

 

In casino gambling there are good players and bad players and every type of player in between. Sadly, most players have no idea of the house edges on the games that they play and most don’t care to know these edges – such knowledge might diminish their fun. How fast is a game? Is it important to know how many decisions a game has per hour in order to understand the impact of the house edge on your bankroll? Not to them.

Knowledge to the unknowledgeable is a waste of their time.

Strange as it may seem, many casino players have actually bought a bill of goods that proclaims casino gambling to be an activity that is best engaged in with no knowledge whatsoever. Others have bought into the flawed concept that they are going to lose anyway so why play perfectly – it ultimately doesn’t help you win anything, does it? That’s a true but very limiting way to look at the casino gambling experience since the better you play the less you lose over time. The less you lose the more you can go to the casinos. The “you’re only going to lose anyway” philosophy results in greater losses and fewer possible trips to the casino.

Three criteria would have to be applied to casino gamblers to ascertain where they fit in the continuum of good to awful players – the games they play, the strategies they use at these games, and their emotional control while playing. Even the very best players can do foolish things if they lose control – just ask any card counter who over bets his bankroll and goes bust, despite his small edge.

So who are the best casino gamblers? And who are the worst casino gamblers?

The best casino gamblers are the “advantage players,” those players who have developed skills such as card counting at blackjack, dice control at craps, perfect strategies at video poker, and expert poker play. These players know how to beat the games they play by getting small edges, betting appropriately so losing streaks don’t cream them – yes, advantage players can have losing streaks, some of them quite long – and by always betting into their edge and not into their emotions. Of the 54 million American casino gamblers, maybe 4,000 are advantage players.

Just under the advantage player are those casino gamblers who play strong strategies at the games. They use basic strategy in blackjack, keeping the house edge around one-half percent; they only make the best bets at craps, generally the Pass, Don’t Pass, Come, Don’t Come, utilizing the odds bet to get their money on the table, and placing the 6 and 8. If our good players like roulette, they strictly bet outside “even-money” propositions at the roulette games where the 0 or 00 loses them only half their bet. In video poker they only play the strongest strategies at high return games such as 9/6 Jacks or Better. They never play slot machines. Based strictly on my observations of casino gamblers for the past 30 years I’d say the good players in this second category make up maybe two million casino players.

Thus, the two types of “best players” are in a distinct minority because they are overwhelmed by the legions of “worst” players. The worst players use their “instincts” at blackjack, giving the house edges of one to four percent. The worst players make all the ridiculously poor bets at craps, subscribing to idiot notions such as “see a horn, bet a horn,” which can lead to disastrous results. The worst players bet the inside numbers at roulette and play all the carnival games such as Let it Ride, Three Card Poker, Caribbean Stud, Four Card Poker – without even knowing the correct strategies for these games. They love the slot machines, especially the mega-jackpot machines that have house edges around 15 percent. Losing $15 for every $100 they wager doesn’t seem to have any impact on their gambling choices.

The poor players play with real money – that is to say, they don’t have a special gambling account but rather they use household money to fuel their usually ill-fated adventures. They play for too much, for too long, and too poorly to ever have a chance of coming out ahead – except on rare occasions where Lady Luck pities them and gives them a winning session. But this or that winning session can’t make up for the horrid fact that they are way behind in their casino gambling careers – so far behind that short of a mega-jackpot they have no chance to ever catch up.

I think the majority of casino players probably fit into this last category – and they account for the overwhelming amount of money made by the casino industry. Advantage players will sometimes say that all the poor players make it possible for them to keep winning because without the poor players the casinos wouldn’t exist. That is probably true.

However, why should that be true for you? Let the other players play foolishly. There’s plenty of room for you in the first two categories of players. The Captain of Craps once told me, “There’s always room at the top.” He was right. You should join that top tier.

Frank’s books are available on Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, kindle, e-books and at book stores. His latest? Confessions of a Wayward Catholic!

Act It For Crying Out Loud!

 

There is something in the human heart that needs to be appreciated and liked and maybe even loved. Many men and women would love to be worshipped as well. Short of all that, most of us will take a pleasant friendliness in the people we must deal with, especially in our leisure time pursuits.

I remember one particularly horrid meal I had in New York City’s theatre district. My wife, the beautiful AP and I, along with gambling’s maverick author Walter Thomason and his wife, best-selling romance novelist Cynthia Thomason, were going to see the delightful hit The Music Man and we selected a restaurant near the theatre and we made an early reservation – 5:30PM – so we could make the 8PM curtain. This restaurant had come highly recommended by someone I will never talk to again!

The waiters were the nastiest people I have ever met. Poor Walter ordered a drink before dinner, then during dinner, then after dinner – the same drink, because they never brought it to the table. Yet the drink appeared three times on the check. The service was slow. The food was cold when it was brought to the table and when we left we told the maitre d’ that the service and the food left a lot to be desired.

He looked at us and said disdainfully, “This is New York if you haven’t noticed.” I have no idea what he meant since I have been living in New York for more than 60 years. Was he saying that nastiness is something we New Yorkers should be proud of? Most New York restaurants have very friendly waiters by the way. So did he think we were tourists who had to be mistreated to get his version of the New York flavor? Beats me.

Almost topping this dining disaster was one I had in Memphis, Tennessee at a restaurant everyone told me had the best barbequed ribs on the planet. I was staying at the delightful Peabody Hotel and I went nearby to enjoy this world famous barbeque. Aside from the fact that the ribs went down like bricks, the waiters at this restaurant were frothing cousins to their New York City counterparts. Even worse, I found the restaurant greasy, the plates smudgy, the drinking glasses smeared. I had a hard enough time starting my meal, much less finishing. I don’t care how famous a restaurant is – filth is filth. The surly waiters almost threw the plates on the table and when I ordered a glass of wine – the glass looked like those jelly glasses that Welch’s used to sell so when you finished your jelly you had a cheap glass. The wine at this dump did not taste as good as the Welch’s jelly either.

These two events brought home the fact that not everyone belongs in the “service industry.” When I was a young man I worked in a fancy restaurant where I wore a tuxedo and spoke with a slight French accent (this restaurant only hired people with foreign accents so all of us Americans pretended to be from somewhere else) and I know that many nights I had to act friendly even though I didn’t feel friendly. That’s the nature of the job – you must be professional and friendly if you want to be a good waiter or waitress. In a real sense you are the servant of those whom you are serving and no one wants a surly servant.

Now is it easy to be a servant? No, many times it is difficult because the people you are serving, over the course of a day, a night, a week, a career can sometimes be tough to deal with. That one nasty person can make an otherwise great day turn somewhat sour. But a professional is a professional. Actors in a bad mood must still show delight if the scene in the play calls for it. A waiter must show the same friendly face even if inside he is steaming because of this or that event or patron. If a servant can’t do that he or she should seriously consider another job.

The casino industry is no different than any other service industry. From the moment you drive onto a property you are meeting service people – valet parkers, bellhops, reservation clerks, dealers, pit personnel, waiters, waitresses, spa attendants and more – all of them working jobs where your satisfaction is the key to their performance. The casino-hotel has made a commitment to making your stay enjoyable.

Players who play at tables with surly dealers certainly have diminished pleasure. The dealers can’t make you win or lose, of course, but they can present you with a winning attitude, a friendly disposition, and a professional demeanor. So how come some dealers seem like fire-breathing dragons, ready to incinerate you for daring to talk to them? Because they haven’t learned the most important aspect of the service industry – acting.

I learned from being a waiter that it didn’t matter what I was actually feeling. The patrons at the restaurant weren’t interested in my internal state. They were there for a gourmet meal served by a professional waiter. So that is the role I played. I showed the same disposition whether my internal state was happy or glum.

Dealers, pit personnel and others you encounter in the casino environment must perform their roles regardless of their inner states. What’s inside is irrelevant to the job.

Let me close with a great moment from the lives of two of the world’s greatest actors, Laurence Olivier and Dustin Hoffman. They were filming Marathon Man and the scene to be shot was supposed to be about Hoffman’s character having stayed awake for 24 hours. Hoffman, being a method actor, wanted to do the scene for real – so he stayed up for 24 hours before the filming. Of course, he could not remember his lines and he was screwing up left and right. Olivier, to be helpful, said to him, “My dear boy, if you had learned how to act you wouldn’t have had to stay up all night!”

Great advice.

Enjoy Frank’s web site at www.frankscoblete.com. Frank’s latest books are Confessions of a Wayward Catholic!, I Am a Dice Controller! And I Am a Card Counter! Available at Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, ebooks and at bookstores.

The Annoying Phone Call

 

I usually have my secretary answer the phones – or a pleasant answering service takes over in the “off” hours; a service that usually gets about 50 percent of the messages correct and the other 50 percent so completely botched up that I have no idea what the person calling wants. Who knows?

But every once in a while, I answer the phones. This is not a trial for me, except every once in a while the person on the other end is either a nut or a talker who tells you his long life story and how it relates to casino gambling — his long, incredibly boring life story.

The other day, however, I got a real nut who also told me his long and totally boring life story and then proceeded to badger me after the interminable thing ended. After the War and Peace version of his dull life, he then said. “You see, I want to get a way to beat the casino at craps when the other shooters are rolling. I don’t roll the dice. I don’t like to roll the dice.”

“You mean the regular random shooters?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said. “Do you have a system for that? So I can win when a regular shooter is rolling?”

“No,” I said, “there is no system to beat craps just by betting. You have to control the dice to have a chance to win at the game.”

“That’s not what I heard,” he said.

Then I heard the “click” which meant I had another call behind him. “I have a call behind you,” I started to say.

“There are many systems to beat the game of craps, “ he said. “You should know that. You can watch a table and discover what kind of trend is working at the table and bet that. Or you can bet against that if you think it is not going to last. What about those?”

Click!

“They don’t work. Random is random. There’s no predictability in random trends,” I said.

Click!

“Nah, nah,” he said, “I have seen trends last for quite awhile at the craps tables.”

“Okay, well, look, I have another call…”

Click!

“What about hedging your bets? You hedge your bets on the Pass Line with any craps so you reduce the impact of the seven. That’s a good system. Right?”

“No, no, it stinks,” I said. “Give me a second.” I pushed the button to see who was the other caller. He or she had hung up.

“The hedging is a good thing, all the great gambling people know that,” he said. “I am surprised you don’t understand it. I mean you’ve written a lot of books on craps. Aren’t you supposed to be an expert?”

“I understand hedging,” I said, “and I have written about it on my web site and in Casino Player magazine. Hedging doesn’t work. You lose more money by hedging your bets.”

“You don’t know what you are talking about,” he said. “You find a trend and bet with or against it by hedging your bets. That is a great way to bet.”

“Okay, fine, look, you bet any way you want to bet. It’s your money,” I said. At a certain point some conversations are just not worth pursuing and this one had gotten to that point.

“So you have no betting systems that can get me to win on the other shooters?” he asked.

“I told you that there are no betting systems that can overcome the house edge. You have to control the dice in craps. In blackjack you have to count cards. Betting systems just can’t overcome negative expectations.”

“That’s not what I heard,” he said.

“Like I said, it’s your money, bet it any way you choose,” I said.

“But you sell books on craps and gambling and you don’t know any systems to beat the house when other shooters are rolling?”

“Is this a joke?” I asked.

“What?”

“Is this a joke? Are you someone who is pulling my leg?” I asked.

“I’m gambling for 40 years. I don’t joke. You should know the systems to beat the games.”

“Look, I can talk about any system you want but none of them works. I’ve written about, well, just about all of them and they don’t work. Random is random. There are trends but they are not predictive – they are random. You hedge and you’ll lose more money. You can use the 5-Count to reduce your action but against random rollers you still can’t get the edge.”

“What about the idea if you see a horn you bet a horn?” he asked.

“Stupid, it’s stupid,” I said.

“Why is it stupid?”

“Because the game is random and that horn number is no more likely to come up next than it was likely to come up the time before. The house edge is about twelve and a half percent. You’re going to lose twelve dollars and fifty cents for every hundred you bet on that.”

“I’ve been gambling for forty years,” he said, but I cut him off.

“Look, why do you need a new system?” I asked.

“What?”

“Why do you need a system? If you know all these systems and have been gambling for forty years haven’t these systems won you money all those years?”

“Huh?”

“You must be a billionaire by now. You must have seen and bet a lot of horns in forty years. You must have been on or off a lot of trends in forty years. You must be so rich with all that hedging that you could own a casino now.”

He hung up. He must have heard the sarcasm in my voice. Guys like him can make you go crazy. Then the phone rang again. I picked it up, “Look, you idiot, I told you, there are no betting systems that can beat a negative expectation game! You’re an idiot for thinking there are!”

“Frank?”

“Go away, go away. Go away! ” I shouted.

“It’s me, Margaret,” said my mother-in-law.

“Ah,” I said. “Oh…Hi, how are you?”

And she told me, for the next hour, how she was.

Frank’s latest books are Confessions of a Wayward Catholic; I Am a Dice Controller: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Craps, and I Am a Card Counter: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Blackjack. Available from Amazon.com, Kindle, Barnes and Noble, e-books and at bookstores.

Act It If You Don’t Feel It

 

There is something in the human heart that needs to be appreciated and liked and maybe even loved. Many men and women would love to be worshipped as well. Short of all that, most of us will take a pleasant friendliness in the people we must deal with, especially in our leisure time pursuits.

I remember one particularly horrid meal I had in New York City’s theatre district. My wife, the beautiful AP and I, along with gambling’s maverick author Walter Thomason and his wife, best-selling romance novelist Cynthia Thomason, were going to see the delightful hit The Music Man and we selected a restaurant near the theatre and we made an early reservation – 5:30PM – so we could make the 8PM curtain. This restaurant had come highly recommended by someone I will never talk to again!

The waiters were the nastiest people I have ever met. Poor Walter ordered a drink before dinner, then during dinner, then after dinner – the same drink, because they never brought it to the table. Yet the drink appeared three times on the check. The service was slow. The food was cold when it was brought to the table and when we left we told the maitre d’ that the service and the food left a lot to be desired.

He looked at us and said disdainfully, “This is New York if you haven’t noticed.” I have no idea what he meant since I have been living in New York for more than half a century. Was he saying that nastiness is something we New Yorkers should be proud of? Most New York restaurants have very friendly waiters by the way. So did he think we were tourists who had to be mistreated to get his version of the New York flavor? Beats me.

Almost topping this dining disaster was one I had in Memphis, Tennessee at a restaurant everyone told me had the best barbequed ribs on the planet. I was staying at the delightful Peabody Hotel and I went nearby to enjoy this world famous barbeque. Aside from the fact that the ribs went down like bricks, the waiters at this restaurant were frothing cousins to their New York City counterparts. Even worse, I found the restaurant greasy, the plates smudgy, the drinking glasses smeared. I had a hard enough time starting my meal, much less finishing. I don’t care how famous a restaurant is – filth is filth. The surly waiters almost threw the plates on the table and when I ordered a glass of wine – the glass looked like those jelly glasses that Welch’s used to sell so when you finished your jelly you had a cheap glass. The wine at this dump did not taste as good as the Welch’s jelly either.

These two events brought home the fact that not everyone belongs in the “service industry.” When I was a young man I worked in a fancy restaurant where I wore a tuxedo and spoke with a slight French accent (this restaurant only hired people with foreign accents so all of us Americans pretended to be from somewhere else) and I know that many nights I had to act friendly even though I didn’t feel friendly. That’s the nature of the job – you must be professional and friendly if you want to be a good waiter or waitress. In a real sense you are the servant of those whom you are serving and no one wants a surly servant.

Now is it easy to be a servant? No, many times it is difficult because the people you are serving, over the course of a day, a night, a week, a career can sometimes be tough to deal with. That one nasty person can make an otherwise great day turn somewhat sour. But a professional is a professional. Actors in a bad mood must still show delight if the scene in the play calls for it. A waiter must show the same friendly face even if inside he is steaming because of this or that event or patron. If a servant can’t do that he or she should seriously consider another job.

The casino industry is no different than any other service industry. From the moment you drive onto a property you are meeting service people – valet parkers, bellhops, reservation clerks, dealers, pit personnel, waiters, waitresses, spa attendants and more – all of them working jobs where your satisfaction is the key to their performance. The casino-hotel has made a commitment to making your stay enjoyable.

Players who play at tables with surly dealers certainly have diminished pleasure. The dealers can’t make you win or lose, of course, but they can present you with a winning attitude, a friendly disposition, and a professional demeanor. So how come some dealers seem like fire-breathing dragons, ready to incinerate you for daring to talk to them? Because they haven’t learned the most important aspect of the service industry – acting.

I learned from being a waiter that it didn’t matter what I was actually feeling. The patrons at the restaurant weren’t interested in my internal state. They were there for a gourmet meal served by a professional waiter. So that is the role I played. I showed the same disposition whether my internal state was happy or glum.

Dealers, pit personnel and others you encounter in the casino environment must perform their roles regardless of their inner states. What’s inside is irrelevant to the job.

Let me close with a great moment from the lives of two of the world’s greatest actors, Laurence Olivier and Dustin Hoffman. They were filming Marathon Man and the scene to be shot was supposed to be about Hoffman’s character having stayed awake for 24 hours. Hoffman, being a method actor, wanted to do the scene for real – so he stayed up for 24 hours before the filming. Of course, he could not remember his lines and he was screwing up left and right. Olivier, to be helpful, said to him, “My dear boy, if you had learned how to act you wouldn’t have had to stay up all night!”

Great advice.