Why Slots Rule the Nation’s Casinos

There are only two states in the Union where there isn’t some form of gambling, those being Utah and Hawaii. The rest of the states have some form of gambling, from state lotteries, to horse racing, to video terminals and, finally, to full-fledged casino gambling with all your favorite games – blackjack, craps, roulette, Three-Card Poker, Let it Ride, Caribbean Stud, among others, and of course the seemingly countless rows of slot and video poker machines.

The country has exploded into the gaming capital of the planet with legal gambling recording mind boggling profits just about everywhere.

But let’s not fool ourselves. If it weren’t for slot machines, there would be no unbelievable rise in casino gambling across this country. Since slot machines account for between 65 percent and 90 percent of casino revenues, we can see quite clearly that if you remove slot machines from the mix there would be, frankly, no mix to speak of.

Unquestionably, slots have propelled the phenomenal growth of casino gambling across the country. Without slots casinos would probably just be in Atlantic City and Las Vegas, venues large enough to be vacation venues.

I can visualize casinos without table games (indeed in New York we have race tracks with slot machines and no table games) but I cannot conceive of casinos without slot machines. I doubt any casino company can either.

So why have slot machines become the dominant force in casino gambling with approximately 81 percent of female casino gamblers playing them and about 66 percent of male casino gamblers playing them too, as the Harrah’s 2005 survey on casino gamblers discovered.

In the past it was thought that slot machines were just for women who had nothing better to do while their male spouses or companions played the elite table games. Slots were for players, male and female, who were too stupid to understand table games. Obviously, unless America has suddenly become a country composed of totally denigrated citizens with low IQ’s, categorizing slot players into the intellectual realm of vegetables no longer holds water. Casinos know this, although many gambling writers still don’t seem to get it.

Some of the smartest people in the casinos play the slot machines. Walk up and down the slot aisles and it is not the season of the dope, although it is the season of the hope.

Maybe that is why slot play, along with the dramatic increase in lottery play, has become so widespread. Table games only give you a moderate degree of hope – after all the best you can do at the traditional table games such as blackjack is a $3 to $2 payout for a natural; at craps, a $30 to $1 payout on a 2 or 12 and at roulette a $35 to $1 payout on a straight-up hit. These are nice hits but they are not super-sized ones. To win a fortune at any table game just isn’t in the cards, dice or wheel for a $5, $10, $25, $50 or $100 player.

Slot machines and their distant cousin the lottery give you the chance to win big for what seems a rather small initial investment. You can play three dollars and maybe win millions on those big progressives – just like that! On stand-alone machines that are not progressives, you can still win thousands to one when the top jackpot hits. A small layout = a big payout; that’s the mindset, and it is the mindset across the country.

The fact that slot players actually lose more money per dollar wagered is irrelevant to them. The fact that slot machines have the biggest house edges also doesn’t matter either. Slot players, at least most of them, know all this and choose to ignore it. The big hit, which is always possible on the next decision or the one after that, conjures life-changing dreams and these dreams along make the machines worth playing.

Pictures of giant jackpot winners festoon gaming magazines such as this one and why not? Those big wins are energizing to the slot player. That’s why they play after all. I once went to the bathroom in Atlantic City at the Trop World (now Tropicana) and there were pictures over the urinals of happy, winning slot players holding gigantic checks worth hundreds of thousands and millions of dollars.

No one has life-changing blackjack dreams. In the traditional table games, any win is a good win. In slots, only BIG wins are good wins and while any win is welcomed, they aren’t insulin producing events for the slot player as such wins would be for table-game players.

If you visit casinos across the nation as I do, talking to slot players these truths are well known. Slot players are playing for something other than a win tonight. They are playing for the win of a lifetime.

[Read Slot Conquest: How to Beat the Slot Machines. Available from Amazon.com, kindle, Barnes and Noble, and at bookstores.]

The Slot Machine Martingale


His eyes were feverish; his hands trembling. “Oh, my lord!” he thought excitedly. “I have found a sure fire way to win at gambling. It is so simple; I am amazed no one ever thought of this before! I am brilliant!”

He turned to his wife, “Honey, we are going to own the world! This betting system will always win; it has to always win. It can’t lose.” He was ecstatic; that is, he was ecstatic until the system crashed and burned and took away everything he had previously won using it. He was crestfallen.

That “he” was me 27 years ago and that “can’t lose” system I invented was called a Martingale – a system also invented by countless thousands of gamblers for centuries and played extensively at roulette by the aristocracy of Europe in the 18th century – before those aristocrats became peasants because they used it and lost their fortunes.

I think just about every casino gambler, especially at the start of his or her career, will discover the Martingale and think, “I can’t lose with this – it has to win! Honey, let’s buy a gargantuan safe.”

The simple Martingale is a double your bet after you lose system. I bet one dollar; I lose one dollar, I now bet two dollars. If I win the second bet, I have made up for the loss of that one dollar and made one dollar in profit. If I lose that second bet, well then my next bet is four dollars. If I win that, I get back the three dollars I lost plus one dollar in profit. And up it goes until I inevitably win.

Yes, it does sound like an unbeatable system but two things prevent it from being successful in the real world of wagering. If there is no cap on your betting, you need an infinite amount of money to keep going “up, up and away!” when you hit a prolonged losing streak. And all gamblers, using all betting systems, will run into long losing streaks. If you don’t have the cash you are doomed, as I was, to crash.

In casinos, the house betting limits stop the players from going to extraordinary levels of betting using the Martingale. Usually seven to nine increases in one’s bet hits the highest limit and nothing higher can be wagered. That’s what did me in. I lost seven spins at roulette in a row, couldn’t bet enough on the next spin to get it all back, and I went down to peasantdom like those 18th century aristocrats.

But what about using the Martingale on slot machines? Could the slots, with their amazing variety of denominations and potential number of coins played, be the first and only successful use of the Martingale betting system?

Let’s take a look at how one could go about structuring a Martingale at slot play.

Go to quarter machines and play one coin. Say the jackpot line is $600. Once you have lost more than $600, you will have to now start putting in two coins. If that jackpot is $900, then you have a $300 loss limit before you have to go to three coins. If the jackpot is $1,200, as soon as you have lost another $300 playing three coins you can no longer get an overall win on that quarter machine.

Yes, you will have some bigger and smaller non-jackpot hits, so really playing as described in the above paragraph is simplistic but it makes a valid point. You will sooner or later have to jump up the bets to stay in the game. With slots, you might not lose that $600 or $900 or $1,200 for quite a while or you might lose it in a few dozen blinks of the eye. That is all a matter of luck and math.

Once you have lost all on the quarter machines, you must now go up to the 50 cents machines; then the dollar machines; the five dollar machines and higher. Remember, playing the Martingale means you must win back all the money you lost to show a profit. Yes, the profit will be small – perhaps just a dollar – and the risk will be greater and greater as you go up in denomination, but that is the Martingale at work.

I am guessing that with careful pen and paper work, you can make a chart of how much money you would need to take the slot machine Martingale through the roof.  I am also thinking that the amount would be staggering.

The bromide, “Well, I have to win sooner or later,” while sounding good, really has no meaning. You actually don’t have to win sooner or later. You can wipe out your bankroll, indeed, you can wipe out every penny you have, if you keep going higher and higher in a Martingale and lose until you have nothing left to bet anymore.

Certainly, it would be a rare occasion to go through the roof on a slot machine Martingale system but the more you play, the better the chance that probability will catch you in its claws and send you through the roof and send your money down the toilet.

In such a dire situation – one that I experienced – you are risking everything for a little return. Is such a gamble worth it? True, you will have many wins along the Martingale trail but as you proceed down that road, a big, hungry monster is lurking in the woods, getting ready to pounce and eat you all up.

It is best to avoid the Martingale. It is an unbeatable system…until it loses.

[My book Slot Conquest: How to Beat the Slot Machines is available from Amazon.com, kindle, Barnes and Noble, and at bookstores. Yes, this book has beatable machines – if you can find them!]




Mr. Negativity

He was tall; he was overweight; he had a ponytail as many men who are losing their hair do. I guess the philosophy is to grow the most hair where you have hair and take away the fact that you have the least hair where you have the least hair. You can control the most hair but the least is problematic.

Maybe he was 50-years old; maybe more, maybe less.

The great dice controller Jerry “Stickman” and I were in Atlantic City for a week. We like to play early in the mornings when a few, a couple or one or no players are at the tables. Mondays and Tuesdays are the best days to get the type of table we like.

This day that man was at the end of the table. There were two other players at the table.

“Mr. Negativity,” said Stickman to me.

“He doesn’t seem happy,” I said. He did indeed have a sour look on his face.

He cashed in for one thousand dollars, not an overwhelmingly large sum yet he proceeded to make green ($25) and black ($100) bets — most of them on Crazy Crapper propositions with exceedingly high house edges.

He went through his money fast enough. In fact, he took out another thousand dollars having run out of money rather quickly.

I was up next to get the dice. I was standing at my normal spot, SL1 (next to the left arm of the stick man) and I put up my Pass Line bet.

“Who’s rolling?” he asked the dealer.

“Frank,” said the dealer. The dealer nodded at me.

I established my point, a 6

“Hard eight for one hundred dollars,” he said.

He glared at me. That was weird. Why would the guy glare at me when he was betting on me?

I took the dice; set them in my 3-V, aimed, swung my right arm slowly and released. The dice hit the wall then settled a few inches away.

“Eight! Eight the hard way!” said the dealer.

“Let it ride,” growled Mr. Negativity. He now had $1,000 on the hard 8. A win would mean a whopping $10,000 in his pocket.

“I took the dice; set them, aimed, swung my arm, released the dice. They flew slowly through the air, bounced on the layout, hit the back wall and died.

“Eight! Another hard way eight!” said the dealer.

“Down on my hard eight,” snickered Mr. Negativity. His upper lip curled somewhat.

The dealer pushed $10,000 in orange chips to him; he scowled at me and walked away.

“Pleasant guy,” said Stickman. “Glad he left. Man is he Mr. Negativity.”

Later that morning, after a delicious and relaxed breakfast, Stickman and I checked out the craps tables. Mr. Negativity was at the end of the table with two “reserved” signs on either side of him. He was betting big money now – probably based on his 10 thousand jackpot of the early morning.

When he saw me he snarled; I swear, he snarled. He threw a few times; hit some of the Crazy Crapper bets he was on, sevened out, took his chips and stormed off the table.

“At what point does Mr. Negativity lose his money?” asked Stickman.

“Late this afternoon,” I laughed.

“I say tomorrow morning he’ll be cashing in for a thousand,” said Stickman. “What a rotten attitude he brings to the table.”

We didn’t see Mr. Negativity the rest of the week. I am guessing this guy is an addicted gambler and one who enjoys the awe other players show him when he bets huge amounts.

Mr. Negativity was a sad and angry man. There was no joy whatsoever in his play.

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

The Trinity of Gambling Perceptions

  1. Purists: I guess if you are a purist all bets where the house has an edge over you is a “sucker” bet. Even of that edge is miniscule, your expectation is to lose – therefore, you make the bet and you are a sucker.

2. House Edgers: However, I think the common perception is somewhat different than the purist’s perception. The common perception is that low-house-edge bets are okay – such as playing basic strategy at blackjack; pass, don’t pass, come, don’t come, with odds at craps; baccarat’s bank or player bets would be “good” bets as well.

  1. Loss Per Hour: There is a third way as well, a wrinkle if you will – you must consider loss per hour. A mini-baccarat game can have low-house-edge bets but the speed of the game is such that this small edge can rip away at a bankroll. Playing $50 per hand in mini-baccarat will cost you a lot more than using the Pass or Don’t Pass betting $50 – although the house edges are relatively close on both games.

Loss per hour is rarely brought up when analyzing bets.

Strange as it seems, I tend to fall into all three categories. That’s my personal “trinity” of perception.

[Read my latest gambling books, 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!]

The Captain Invented Modern Dice Control

The Captain of Craps, the Atlantic City legend, was responsible for discovering how to beat the modern casino game of craps with controlled shooting – which he used to call “rhythmic rolling” as well as “controlling the dice.” He applied this technique to beat the casinos from the late 1970s through 2007 – almost 30 years of constant play. Yes, he won millions.

Since 1998, some writers have tried to take away the dice control laurels from the Captain and assign them to other people who merely tried to build (sometimes incorrectly) on what the Captain had created. These pretenders to the throne are many, of course, since a good idea is always worth pilfering.

In 1993, my book The Captain’s Craps Revolution! was published and in it the Captain addressed the issue of controlled shooting – long before any of the pretenders came out of the woodwork to try to take credit for this brilliant technique and his brilliant ideas. Here is an excerpt from the above referenced book:

The Captain: “I don’t need to guess. I know that some people have trained themselves privately or at the tables to control the fall of the dice. ‘The Arm’ has had remarkable success fixing [setting] and controlling the dice. ‘The Arm” consistently has major rolls. Recently at the Sands casino in Atlantic City, during a Sinatra weekend, with the place packed with free-wheeling high rollers, and then several days later at the Claridge right across the street, ‘The Arm’ had monster rolls of positively legendary proportions. This isn’t coincidence or merely fluctuations in randomness. ‘The Arm’ controls the dice! [Bold lettering mine]

“Does it mean that every time ‘The Arm’ picks up those cubes, a big one is coming? Of course not. There are times when she isn’t at the right spot on the table or the throw is a little off. Having played with ‘The Arm’ for years, I can recognize the signs of an off night. So can she. But if the groove isn’t there, just like a pitcher, ‘The Arm’ leaves the game and does not roll.

“When we talk about fixing and controlling the dice, we aren’t looking for perfection. Pitchers don’t pitch perfect games every time out. In fact, each separate roll of the dice to a player who can control them is like a pitch in a game. The good pitchers will consistently throw strikes and have good games, not every time out, but enough that you can say this isn’t just randomness or luck. Also, you have to define what you mean by a good roll. My definition is simple: a good roll is one where the seven doesn’t show long enough to make me money or one where I can make a good profit because there is a rapid succession of repeating numbers. Fixing and controlling the dice has more to do with certain numbers being repeated than it does with monster rolls. You don’t have to have monster rolls to win. I’ve seen rolls by ‘The Arm’ where the four will come up four or five times in a row, followed by some other numbers, then another string of fours before sevening out. It’s a wonderful feeling to be up on only one number after the 5-Count and have that number hit repeatedly in rapid succession. People who can control the dice will tend to have certain faces of the dice appear more often than these faces would otherwise by chance.”

In the book, the Captain then continued about how one should practice to actually get control over the dice; how many rolls one should do to see if such control was actually there. He mentioned that he sometimes had control but other times he didn’t, but he denied he was very good at it. He thought of himself more as a rhythmic roller which is, I guess, the equivalent to “control light.” I also guess that assessment of himself was his humility talking because in my over dozen years of steadily playing with him (and ‘The Arm’) in the late 1980s and 1990s, he was damn good and had the prototypical roll that works best for most controllers. He was aware that using the word “control” meant a high degree of accuracy with the dice – so he considered himself more of an influencer. This coming from a man who rolled 100 times in 2004 and 147 times in 2005 before sevening out – the only player I know of who has had two hands of over 100 rolls!

To me the use of words such as dice control, rhythmic rolling and dice influence all mean the same thing. The shooter has the capability to get an edge over the casinos.

Unlike today when you can find controlled shooters in greater numbers, in the Captain’s early days they were few and far between. But they were there and the greatest of them was ‘The Arm’ and the most brilliant of them was the Captain.

The Captain was the first to fully understand dice control and its ramifications, and no amount of taking his words out of context or trying to give the laurels to someone else can take these achievements away from him. All the current vocabulary of dice control; all the analogies to baseball or golf or other sports; all the talk about being at the right spot on the table; all of our understanding of when to leave the table; the knowledge that repeating numbers can also be the way to win money even without monster rolls – yes, all the modern parlance of the dice control world come from him.

The Captain was the MAN then; he is the MAN now; and he will remain the MAN forever.

[Read more about the Captain in my book I Am a Dice Controller: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Craps.]


I’ll Bet You

I’ll Bet You

I’ve written this before (as have many gambling authors) but life has many gambles from marriage to having children to figuring out which movie to see tonight with your honey bunny. Marriage is a coin flip; children are examples of genetic roulette and movies are usually not all that satisfying.

But television commercials have bets too; some of them bizarre; some that make little sense and some that are downright frightening. Here are some of them:

Actor William Devane has a new career. He pitches gold and silver for a company called Rosland Capital that markets such precious metals. His pitch is simple and exact: “Safeguard your wealth with gold and silver from Rosland Capital.”

Oh, yes, Mr. Devane goes into all the reasons gold and silver are great investments and how our crummy monetary system is losing its power and how to protect yourself from what appears to be a coming collapse. His Rosland Capital is not the only company that does this but it is a great example of marketing an idea which is (for all intents and purposes) really weird.

How so? Well, if gold and silver are such great investments why is Rosland Capital selling their gold and silver for the very currency that is about to take a major fall? I mean isn’t their gold and silver worth more than the crummy currency with which we buy these metals? Why would Rosland Capital be so stupid?

Now, I’ll bet you that Rosland Capital has an ace up their sleeve that they are not sharing with us. What do you think of that bet? Is Rosland doing something we should be doing instead of buying their gold and silver?

What about Cialis tablets? The commercials show good looking couples in their 50s (give or take), always in shape and charming, doing something such as swimming or dancing and then the announcer says something to the effect that the husband longs for an erection to, well, you get the idea.

If he is taking Cialis then he is ready to go at “it” with abandon. His wife looks oh so happy too.

The commercial makes a point of not showing a fat, lumbering gargantuan whose erection days are long behind him. Instead it teases you that a man’s erection might last (oh, my lord!) four hours. Go to a hospital emergency room and proudly proclaim to all and sundry, “I’ve had an erection for over four hours now!”


The Cialis commercials end with a truly strange image of the husband and wife in separate bathtubs. I’ll bet you that they would have even better sex had they bathed before they became, as Shakespeare wrote in Othello, “the beast with two backs.” I’ll bet bathing afterwards put some kind of damper on their rock and rolling during it.

Cars, those darn cars, racing around roads, through parking lots, up and down mountains and coasts with a good-looking man and often an amazingly beautiful woman egging him on with a picture-perfect smile that is also a sexy come hither.

These commercials have (in really, really small print) the disclaimer that the driver is a professional so that speeding like a maniac on a closed course is perfectly fine for this guy.

Most men (and these commercials are geared towards men) don’t bother reading the small print. Instead they buy the car (also figuring the beautiful woman might find him driving such a car worthy of a perhaps Cialis-fueled night of rumpy pumpy).

So what happens to some of these amateur drivers racing through the days and nights on America’s highways, parkways and streets? They crash and perhaps kill others and themselves in the process. I’ll bet that many nutty drivers have been lured by such commercials to drive with abandon – meaning abandoning their lives and perhaps the lives of others.

Medicine ads are the most frightening. I don’t want any of the diseases that these drugs supposedly cure. Here’s an example of one such generic commercial:

Image: A healthy-looking woman scampers through the high grass, her dress breezing out behind her; her hair flowing in the wonderful waves of wind as she proclaims, “I used to suffer from constant diarrhea and forceful expelling of rancid gases. I couldn’t go out to eat with friends or my beloved husband. But now I take Squeeze It Off and I am a new woman.”

Then the announcer’s calming voice comes on (while we see images of the woman happily dancing like a dervish, playing tennis and jumping up and down playing volleyball): “Do not take Squeeze It Off if you are allergic to the following drugs [huge list of drugs cited], or have been in countries where there are fungal infections or malaria. Can cause diarrhea [yes, the symptom is also the side effect], headaches, back pain, joint pain, depression, suicidal thoughts, drowsiness, hair loss, rashes, coma and death. If you experience any of these symptoms immediately see a doctor.”

The commercial ends with the woman walking down the street hand in hand with her husband as she says, “I am a new woman.” The husband smiles.

I’ll bet many people are as I am with these commercials. They think, “Oh, please don’t ever let me have constant diarrhea and forceful expelling of rancid gases.”

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