Streaking into 2018


Let’s talk about streaks. Every casino gambler, from the best of them to the worst of them, knows that all casino contests are streaky. You win some, you lose some; you win a few in a row; you lose a few in a row. You have good days; you have bad days.

Streaks and gambling go together like a horse and a carriage, love and marriage, Belvedere and a martini. We all know this for a fact.

However, some gambling pundits pontificate that the good and bad streaks even out in the games – which is not the case in almost all casino games. Indeed, if you are a betting man or woman wager your money on the fact that the casino will have more “good” streaks for them (good meaning they win more decisions or take a tax out of your winnings) than “bad” streaks against them. The players will face just the opposite situation. They will have more bad streaks and fewer good streaks.

The reason for this is in the nature of the games, which usually means the math of the games. Let’s take a look at the casino players’ favorite table game, blackjack. It is no secret that blackjack is a very close contest between the player and the casino – if (and this is a big IF) the player knows the correct basic strategy, the computer derived best play of each player hand against every dealer’s upcard.

In most traditional blackjack games, the player using correct basic strategy will face an approximately one-half percent house edge, which means a loss of approximately 50 cents for every $100 the player wagers. That’s a good game, pretty close.

However, blackjack is not the equivalent of flipping a coin where the player and the casino win half the hands and lose half the hands respectively. Absolutely not. The house will win approximately 48 percent of the hands; the player will win approximately 44 percent of the hands; and approximately 8 percent of the hands will be pushes (ties).

Clearly the house will have longer winning streaks and shorter losing streaks than the player because of these percentages. If there were no other betting options in a blackjack game, the player would lose $4 for every $100 he bet. Yet, the player does not lose this much; in fact, the player loses much less because blackjack has certain playing options that allow the player to get more money on the table in certain hands – he can double down on two cards; he can split; he can sometimes double down on his split hands; he might even be able to surrender his poor hands. A big benefit for the blackjack player is getting that 3 to 2 payout for a blackjack – with blackjacks appearing in about 5 percent of the hands.

These playing options bring the monetary edge of the casino down to that approximate one-half percent. Casinos that have instituted the 6 to 5 payout for blackjacks have therefore seriously hurt the players’ chances of winning at the game by drastically increasing the house edge.

At roulette the house is a solid favorite to have more winning streaks than losing streaks on the outside even-money proposition bets. On the red/black, odd/even, high/low propositions the house will win 20 decisions and lose 18 decisions. That translates into a 53 percent win rate for the house and a 47 percent win rate for the player. The house therefore is the favorite to have winning streaks, while the player is the favorite to have losing streaks.

On the center “straight up” wagers, the house wins 37 times and loses one time in 38 spins on average. Of course, no one would play the straight up wagers if the payout were one-to-one so the house pays 35 to one on these wagers. That brings the house edge down to 5.26 percent, which is fairly hefty. The only way the player can bring the winning and losing streaks even at roulette is to bet half of the numbers.

Unfortunately, while betting 19 numbers at roulette is a 50-50 game in terms of streaks, the house still wins more money since the payoffs are shortened by that 5.26 percent.

Craps puts the house in a favorable streaking situation on its most popular bet, the Pass Line. The house wins 251 decisions, while the player wins 244 decisions on this wager. While this makes it a very close contest you can see the house will have slightly longer winning streaks than losing streaks.

As with roulette’s straight up wagers, the proposition bets at craps are all long shots that pay less than their true odds. Take a bet such as the 12, known as boxcars, which has a one in 36 chance of appearing. Obviously, the player who bets the 12 each and every roll will find himself in enormous negative monetary streaks. However when he hits this number, the house doesn’t pay the win off at one-to-one as only the truly insane would then make such a bet. Instead, the house usually pays off at 30 to one – much less than the true odds of 35 to one, but far better than one-to-one. The house edge on this bet comes in at almost 14 percent, a huge edge nevertheless. You only have to be somewhat insane to make this particular bet.

All the carnival games such as Caribbean Stud, Three-Card Poker, Four-Card Poker, and Let it Ride also give the house a much better chance of having longer winning streaks than losing streaks against the player.

Let’s take Let It Ride as an example. While this game has a loyal following, that following plays a game where the house wins approximately 75 percent of the decisions and the players win approximately 25 percent of the decisions. The player will have much longer losing streaks; the house will have much longer winning streaks. However, to make up for this inadequacy, many winning hands at Let it Ride pay a premium bonus, bringing the house edge down to around three percent.

Information about the casino-favorable nature of streaks is not some arcane but useless knowledge. Knowing this tells you a very important thing – gambling systems based on the erroneous idea that the house and the player will experience the same types of streaks are wrong. Using them to win money at the games is a sure way to disaster.

Now you can streak into 2018 properly.

Read Frank’s Confessions of a Wayward Catholic!

Naked in the Bathroom

He was naked. In the handicap stall. In the men’s room. Sitting on the toilet. At Bally’s in Atlantic City. You could see in the stall because the door was not flush. He was Asian. Naked.

The great dice controller Jerry “Stickman” and I were on our Odyssey in Atlantic City. The Odyssey is a single day where we pool our money, and go to all the casinos on the Boardwalk (now just five of them as opposed to the 12 in AC’s glory days), where we play one hand of Pai Gow Poker, two hands of blackjack, two hands of mini-baccarat, $40 in a $5 slot machine (one credit per decision) and we each take the dice two times at the casinos whose tables fit our criteria — we have to get our spots and we want 12-foot, standard-bounce tables. If we can’t get that we skip playing craps.

Naturally, except for craps, we are not playing with an edge at any of these games. We don’t wait for high counts in blackjack or find tables where we can get the edge banking at Pai Gow Poker and there is no way to beat mini-baccarat. We don’t bet much at these games, just $25 on each decision. Obviously, there is no edge to be had at $5 slot machines. So in games where no edge is to be had, our tactic is to play very, very few decisions and pray.

At craps we go with our normal bets, obviously far bigger than the bets we make at the other games. This trip we ended at Tropicana where we had a great meal at Carmines. This Odyssey also allows me to scout out the various casinos to see what’s what.

Did we win? Yes. Just barely at the games where we had no edge thanks to a hit on the last slot machine we played. That’s short-term luck. And the power of prayer.

In craps we both had consistently good rolls so skill won out on our Odyssey.

In fact our almost-week in Atlantic City saw me shooting damn well, consistently hitting repeating numbers (which is a wonderful thing). We basically played at 6 am and 9 am with a break in between for breakfast. We did not play evenings or afternoons (except once each when a table was open).

And what of the awesome Stickman, the great, amazingly great, the dice controller with the perfect throw? He wasn’t as consistent as I. Poor lad. All he did was explode several times for monster rolls tickling the 50 mark! It was a dream trip, that’s for sure. Up from the first session and building each session from there. (Let me caution you: It doesn’t always go that way.) Great games; great conversations; great meals. A player’s dream trip.

And then there was this naked guy in the bathroom at Bally’s.

The moment we entered Bally’s from the Boardwalk, there on the stairs leading to the casino were three drug (heroin) addicts, two guys and a girl. I knew them (generically) from my life in New York City. Droopy eyes; sneers from the guy who was most awake; with the girl — totally zonked leaning on his belly — with the second guy blinking to stay awake.

Jerry “Stickman” recognized them too — Memphis had been good schooling for him in this world peopled with the zoned-out dregs of society.

In the casino, which was somewhat crowded, there they were, leaning against the walls, maybe every hundred to two hundred feet apart, the “salesmen.” The druggie would go to a salesman, tell him (they were all men) what he wanted, and then pay the salesman who would use his phone to call the “distributor” who was somewhere else in the building or outside the building.

The salesmen were throughout the casino. In the lobby too and in the portico where you crossed over into Caesars – brazenly standing right there – yet we saw none of these guys in Caesars.

It was then we headed for the restroom; going through the lobby which was empty except for a salesman waiting for orders. In the bathroom was a maintenance man trying to fix a stall door.

Inside the bathroom, we talked:

“Trump Plaza has moved here,” said Stickman.

“Yeah,” I said. “The outer world is closing in on the Boardwalk casinos.”

“Will the casinos last?”

“I really don’t know,” I said. “Resorts looked pretty crowded.”

“Bally’s is becoming the dumping ground from the Trump Dump.”

“Except Bally’s casino is bright and inviting; although some of the wrong people have accepted the invitation,” I said.

Trump Plaza had become known as the Trump Dump and it was always inhabited by the druggies. Its closing was cheered by many casino players who would no longer play in a casino where so many hazy creatures slithered along.

Then I saw the naked guy in the bathroom. He was in the handicap stall; just sitting there. He was Asian and he stared down and then lifted his head and stared straight ahead, then down, then straight ahead — over and over.

I didn’t know if Stickman had seen him. He was at the urinal and I tapped him on the shoulder.

I whispered, “There’s a naked guy in there.”

He whispered back, “Yes. Let me finish peeing.”

“Sorry,” I said and headed out of the bathroom. I passed by the maintenance man who was feverishly trying to fix the stall door.

“That was weird,” said Stickman as he left the bathroom.

“What do you think that was? He loses not only his shirt but also the rest of his clothes?”

“I don’t know. This place is really bringing in the wrong crowd,” said Stickman.

“If this were Vegas they might be able to throw out the drug crowd. I don’t know if they can do that in Atlantic City.”

Stickman nodded. I shook my head.

My God, a naked guy in the bathroom of a casino that had so many of the wrong types seemingly thriving.

That might be more of a herald of Atlantic City’s demise as anything else.

[Read Frank Scoblete’s books I Am a Card Counter: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Blackjack, I Am a Dice Controller: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Craps and Confessions of a Wayward Catholic! All available from, on Kindle and electronic media, at Barnes and Noble, and at bookstores.]


The Three Types of Blackjack Players

There are three types of blackjack players and sub-categories of these three. If you are a self-styled blackjack player using your own unique and probably wrong strategy and you are easily offended, you might not want to read this article. That’s my warning to you.

Blackjack players who are card counters, meaning they can get a small edge over the casino when they play, have certain things they look for. They want deep penetration into the deck, decks or shoe. This allows their count to become stronger as the cards have been played.

These players are not as interested in the rules as they are in the penetration (however, they will probably forgo the 6:5 blackjack games). Penetration is the key to the casino treasury. They would also prefer to play alone or with only a couple of players at the table. Advantage players want to play as many hands as possible. They love fast dealers!

Regular basic strategy players (basic strategy being the computer derived play of every player hand against every dealer up-card) want just the opposite. They want good rules, shallow penetration, a full table and slow dealers. The fewer hands such players play the better for them. Old, arthritic dealers or those dealers who love to talk are the best bets for a basic strategy player.

Card counters and basic strategy players are opposite sides of the blackjack coin; the two never to meet in their long-term expectations.

The third type of player, the category of which goes from stupid to stupider to “oh, my god, he did what?” Such players use their own well-thought-out-seemingly-logical strategy which is totally wrong and based merely on their own limited experiences in the casinos. (“I know what I am doing; I have been playing blackjack for years.” “Sorry, no, you don’t. You split 10s, double on 12, and annoy everyone by giving the wrong advice! And there’s a funky odor coming from you.”)

Players who try to use their psychic powers are long-term losers. Players who assume the dealer always has a 10-card in the hole, even though only about 31 percent of the cards are of 10-value, are long term losers. Players who always insure their hands, even their blackjacks, are long-term losers. Players who split fives…players who won’t hit their 16 against a dealer up-card of seven…players who don’t always split aces and eights – the list goes on forever – they are all losers.

Yes, basic strategy players are losers but they are basically losing a mere one-half percent of their action while our third category folks are losing their shirts.

Blackjack is a great game, for card counters and for basic strategy players, but each must play the particular game their strategies are suited for. And that third category? Sadly, there’s no talking to them.

[Read Frank’s new book I Am a Card Counter: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Blackjack! Available from, Kindle and electronic media, Barnes and Noble, and at bookstores.]

Slots vs. Table Games: No Contest!

Slot machines and table games are two very different things – and the casinos know this quite well. Slot machines are the cash cows of casinos, bringing in often more than twice the money as table games.

It is easy to get a good idea of why such a case holds true. If we take a one-dollar slot of the traditional three reels variety, we can speculate how much money this machine will make for the casino. We can then make a comparison with a table game. Obviously this comparison will be a generalization but it will hold.

Let us say that a slot player puts in three dollars per spin every six seconds, meaning 10 spins per minute. That’s $30 per minute. If the house has an edge of 10 percent, the player can expect to lose $3 per minute over time. In an hour that comes to $180. That’s what the player loses and that’s what the casino makes.

Now let us look at a $10 blackjack player. He plays two hands a minute which comes to $20. The house edge is around one-half percent, meaning he loses 50 cents for every $10 wagered. In a minute he loses one dollar. In 60 minutes he loses $60.

We can see that a one-dollar slot player loses three times more money than a $10 blackjack player.

So why would anyone play those slot machines? Well, first of all, not all slots are of the traditional variety. They come in all sorts of arrangements, from videos of movies, cartoons, television shows and outlandish multi-play machines where you can wager a few pennies all the way up to five or more dollars.

Slots offer the opportunity to hit a big one whereas a game such as blackjack would require a long string of good luck – a really long string – to bring in some big bucks. All slots come in with high house edges and can be played quite fast. The more decisions a game has the better it is for the casino. High house edges and fast speeds are the bane of casino players – and slot players know this quite well.

So if you wanted to open a casino, the crowd you’d want to bring in is undoubtedly a slot-playing crowd. If you check many of the newest casinos, they have table games all right but they are mechanized – they are slot machines!

Slots are more economical for casinos too. Not only do they make far more money but they cost far less to buy and/or rent. Slots don’t need salaries, sick leave, medical insurance, and they don’t get into arguments with players. People are far tougher to handle than machines.

In the contest between slot machines and table games, well, it is actually no contest.

[Read Frank Scoblete’s latest 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. Both available from, kindle, Barnes and Noble, and at book stores.]