I Hate These Commercials



I am not a big fan of television commercials. I don’t like seeing car companies selling speed with whooshing automobiles and sexy women salivating over the vehicle which only leads idiots to conclude that driving fast is a good thing and will get them plenty of sex too. I don’t like those drug commercials that sell you on something that has so many side effects it’s amazing anyone lives who takes these drugs. I certainly don’t like those male erection commercials that warn if you have an erection for several days after taking their powerful drug you’d better head for the emergency room. Even as a teenager I didn’t want an erection that lasted several days!

But in my business as a professional gambling busybody, the commercials that have driven me over the edge are coming not from auto manufacturers, or from the chemistry industry, or from the erector set, but from the casinos and casino venues.

Here are a few:

In Tunica, Mississippi, Fitzgeralds had a radio commercial that promoted itself as the luckiest casino in the area. How do you measure that? How can you say you are the luckiest casino? What is the precise definition of luck and how does a casino have more or less of it than some other casino? Had the casino said it pays back more on its slot machines and proved that, well, that is a statement of fact – but to say your casino contains more luck is a statement of fantasy to be nice, or falsehood to be precise.

The bizarre thing is that another Tunica casino, The (now defunct)Grand, was also billing itself in radio commercials as the luckiest casino too. It even had radio commercials where “players” claim that they have the best luck at the Grand. So which casino is the luckiest? Can there be two luckiest casinos?

The Vegas promotion of “what happens here stays here” has generated a tremendous positive buzz around the country – it’s more popular than any quote from Shakespeare. It’s also as false as a “dicer’s oath.”

These commercials are designed to make people think that they can do anything they want in Vegas and no one will ever know. Speak to former education secretary Bill Bennett and you learn his multi-million-dollar slot-play losses didn’t stay in Vegas but made front-page news all over the world when “secret” casino files were released. These “what happens here stays here” commercials are recommending that people lie and cheat on their spouses and fiancées. They recommend giving fake names to people you meet so you can have “carefree” pickups. In short, they recommend the type of behavior you were taught from childhood to avoid – the type that is ultimately not healthy for your mind, body or spirit. Germs don’t stay in Vegas.

Now the massive Foxwoods, Connecticut casino came up with a truly nauseating commercial. It was a takeoff of The Wizard of Oz and had several weird looking people cavorting on the grounds of and in the casino. “Dorothy” looked as if she was seriously strung out. The others looked worse. What is the point of the commercial? That people who look like crack addicts have fun at Foxwoods?

Foxwoods competitor, Mohegan Sun, had its own strange television commercials. One highlighted a middle aged woman using her “psychic powers” to find a hot machine – as if such mysticism actually was the way to winning slot play. It isn’t of course. But it fuels the poor deluded slot players into thinking they too can find a fabulous machine just by using their psychic powers.

Perhaps the commercial that drives me to yelling at the television was Mohegan Sun’s “Nick Felder: I Am An Idiot!” commercial. Yes, I have named it that based on its content.

The commercial opens with a crowded craps table where everyone is madly cheering. A somewhat disheveled young man who has been shooting the dice turns and then walks towards the camera: “I don’t even know how to play this game,” he laughs. “But I’ve got them all fooled. It’s all in the game face, something I call ‘attack force delta.’ So tonight Nick Felder is the deadly green felt ninja. And tonight I’m faking it until I’m making it and no one is going to know the difference.” He then turns and goes back to the table where he shoots the dice and everybody cheers like maniacs even before the dice stop moving.

This commercial was not subtle in getting its points across. It explained that the casino prefers its players to be complete dolts at the tables. Certainly if an idiot such as Nick Felder, the green felt ninja, can play craps than you certainly can too. You don’t have to know anything. Just throw the dice and win! This commercial recommends stupidity as a primary criterion for playing its games, not knowledge of the odds, not knowing which are the best bets.

You have no idea of whether the craps game being shown in this commercial is a good one or a bad one or one in between. Because none of that matters. The casino isn’t selling a good game – it’s selling a mind set for the player or a mindless set to be exact. Just pretend, that’s all you have to do, and you can have “them” all fooled too.

Now to be fair, there are many good casino commercials – showing people enjoying the games, the restaurants, the shows and athletic events, the spas – none of them attempting to promote a mindset that is seriously absent the mind part.

In truth, casino games are tough enough to beat when you know what you are doing. “Faking it until you are making it,” is a sure way to economic disaster.

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, ebooks and at bookstores.


Men, Women and Slots


According to a survey by Harrah’s a while ago, about 81 percent of all women casino gamblers played the slot machines, while only 66 percent of the men did so. The table games are dominated by men with craps having about a 90 percent male majority and blackjack and roulette seeing smaller male majorities, but majorities nevertheless.

The slots are still a woman’s world as they have been since the casinos started placing them on their floors.

Obviously women like playing the machines and many of the machines are geared to this female enjoyment. Note the number of new machines each year that have movie titles, television titles, or star titles as their branding. Most of these machines are clearly aimed at women – although the Clint Eastwood and comic book machines are obviously geared to men.

Why women prefer slots to table games in such a huge majority is not truly known with certainty. Maybe the tables seem more competitive, combative and judgmental. After all, no one tells you how to play the slots but many blackjack “experts” have no hesitation telling other blackjack players how to play their hands or scolding them that they just played a hand incorrectly. Whether the blackjack “expert” actually knows how to play is irrelevant – he thinks he knows how to play and that is enough for him to lambaste anyone who plays differently.

You will not get this kind of game interference at the slot machines. Other slot players don’t care whether you play one coin, two coins, or three coins or whether you are superstitious or happy or depressed or clinically insane. Most slot players exist in a world of their own, only occasionally interrupted by the screams of some other slot player who has just won a big one and can’t keep from yelling her good fortune to the world. Slot players rejoice when other slot players win and then they quickly go back to doing what they love to do – playing those machines.

While slot play is overwhelmingly the game of choice for both women and men, savvy slot aficionados recognize an interesting peculiarity in their slot-playing brethren. Slot players lose interest in all types of machines relatively quickly. They will play a given machine for a period of time and then abandon it. One slot player said, “I love the Elvis machines but I never won on them so I quit playing them and moved on to Betty Boop.” And what happened? “I didn’t have much better luck on Betty so I dumped her too.”

Like bad marriages, slot players and slot machines divorce rather often. Slot players are the Elizabeth Taylors of casino gamers – always looking for the perfect match and never finding it. This is probably due to the fact that most slot players lose most of the time on all of the machines. By switching machines so frequently, they hope to switch their luck. Unfortunately, the machines are not programmed to increase your luck. They are programmed to increase the casino profits.

Casino executives know of the brittle relationship of slot player to slot machine and that’s why each and every year you will note how many new machines make their way onto the casino floors. All casino gaming shows such as G2E (Global Gaming Expo) are dominated by new machines. There may be no difference in payouts between Betty Boop machines and Shirley Temple machines but they look different and sound different and the slot player will jump from one to the other hoping they are actually different.

The first law of slot machines is “keep them coming” because new machines will be tried by players. You will not see this same jumping around at table games. Craps players don’t abandon their favorite game because, win or lose, they love the game. Blackjack players are loyal as well. You will not see many new table games at gaming shows and while some new table games have gotten a foothold in the casinos but compared to the number of new machines out there, the number of new table games is infinitesimal.

The paybacks on slot machines make them tough sells. Most have edges over 5 percent and many have edges over 10 percent. These are big edges and in league with the high speeds with which slot players attack the machines, they add up to frequent and often large losses. Very few people will stay in a marriage where they are abused and slot players don’t want to stay at machines that have been cuffing them around for any period of time. So onto the new machines with hope burning in their hearts. Slot players are like a country and western song, “I Keep Losing My Love but I Never Give Up!”

Of course, if slot payouts were really generous, say 99.5 percent (the casino having a half percent edge in that case – an edge similar to a blackjack basic strategy player), then the chance is fairly good that the slot player will stick with such a machine come hell, high water, or new slot inventories. Getting some kind of return on a gambling investment is the best way for casinos to keep their players playing. The second best way is to offer new machines. The casinos prefer to offer new machines.

There is really no end in sight to the slot revolution that has taken place in the casinos. In 1984, in both Atlantic City and Las Vegas, the slots made more money than the table games for the first time ever and their growth since then has been nothing short of phenomenal. While 50 percent of all marriages end in divorce, most divorced people still want to get remarried. And slot players still want to play the machines even after they have divorced numerous previous machines. It’s the way of the slot world.

All the best in and out of the casinos!

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, and at bookstores.

Five Incorrect Craps Beliefs

Craps is a wonderful game where the player has a great chance to beat the house.  Craps is simultaneously a horrible game where monstrous house edges eat away at a player’s bankroll until it exists no more.

How can the same game be both glorious and forbidding? Because craps has so many different bets, some few which are good but most which are bad, that many craps players, not understanding or appreciating the math of the game and its impact on their bankrolls, will jump into the deep end of Lady Luck’s pool without a life jacket. None of the following are advantage bets:

Stupid Craps Strategy # 1: See a Number bet that Number!

Unfortunately unwary craps players, sadly adhering to foolish schemes such as numbers predictably getting hot promulgated by craps know-nothings, will go up against edges in the double figures. Such Everest-like edges are as great as or greater than slot-machine edges!

So why do craps players, many of whom are bright in their non-casino lives, make such foolish bets as the one-roll Horn bet (the numbers 2, 3, 11, and 12) after seeing a Horn number appear? One answer has to do with how the house edge actually works. In the short run play of the game certain streaks will happen that can blind the player. One or several Horn numbers might have just hit and the player thinks, “This is a streak that will continue!”

The player in this case is absolutely wrong. The streak might continue or it might not continue. In a random game there is no predictability, only probability. The Horn numbers have six ways of being made, which is about 17 percent of the time. In the long run that 17 percent give or take a fraction will be how often that Horn appears. And the house will take a nice fat cut when the Horn actually does appear. How much of a cut? Well, 12.5 percent. So if you bet $100 on the Horn every time a Horn number has just appeared you can expect to lose $12.50.

But players see a “winning hit or a winning streak” and have no idea that the house is grinding them down slowly but surely. The best way to think of gambling edges is to realize that every time you make that Horn bet you are losing 12.5 percent of your bet – whether you win the bet or lose the bet! The house edge works on the total amount wagered, not this or that win or loss.

So a player buying into this stupid strategy will lose. If he bets a Horn every time he sees a Horn, given a craps game with 120 decisions per hour, our bettor will see a Horn number appear 20 times and then bet on half of them. If our bettor dumps $10 on those 10 Horns his expected loss is $12.50 per hour. That’s too heavy a loss indeed.

Stupid Strategy # 2: Place Bets are Better Than Come Bets!

After the shooter has established his point and the player wishes to get up on other numbers, there are two ways to do this – he can make Come bets, where he puts his wager in the Come box and waits for the number to be established by the shooter’s subsequent throw or he can simply Place the number directly.

Many wacky gaming “authorities” believe that Place bets are better than Come bets because you can go up on whatever numbers you like, whereas the Come bet’s destination is solely in the hands of the shooter. Unfortunately the Place bets have such high house edges that selective betting does not overcome the low house edge of the Come bets.

Let’s see how this works.

A Come bet has a house edge of 1.41 percent. The Placing of the 6 or 8 has a house edge of 1.52 percent. The Come bet will lose a $10 player 14 cents each and every time he makes it. However, the player who places the 6 or 8 must place these numbers in multiples of six dollars. Thus, a $12 Place bet will lose the player 18 cents.

From there it gets worse. The placement of the 5 and 9 comes in with a four percent house edge. Our $10 Place bettor will lose 40 cents on each of these numbers. The placement of the 4 and 10 comes in with a whopping house edge of 6.67 percent so our player now loses about 67 cents for such placements.

Would you rather lose 14 cents or would you rather lose 18 cents, or 40 cents, or 67 cents?

In a random game, Place betting is far worse than Come betting; which is the end of the story.

What about the idea that you can take down your Place bets and that makes them superior? Sounds good but I have never seen a player take down his or her bets enough times to make Place betting superior to Pass and Come betting.

Stupid Strategy #3: Bet with the House and Beat the Game!

 There are some misguided players who believe that they can actually beat a random game of craps by betting the “don’t” or Darkside of the game. Here a player is betting that the shooter won’t make his point or number and will seven out – in which case the Darkside player wins.

Unfortunately, you cannot beat craps by betting the Darkside either. The very first placement of the Don’t Pass or Don’t Come brings the house edge hammering on your head because you will lose this first placement eight times and win it only three times. While the Don’t Pass and Don’t Come are actually good bets, the stupid notion is that somehow these bets are making you play on the casino’s side, guaranteeing a win.

Not so – the casino doesn’t need you as a partner, doesn’t want you as a partner, but prefers to take your Darkside money too.

Stupid Strategy #4: Increase Bets When the Table Gets Hot!

 Let me put this in flaming terms: The table never gets hot. Now in icy terms: The table also never gets cold. The table is just a table. Random shooters who have just hit 100 numbers without the appearance of a 7 have a 17 percent chance of hitting that 7 on the very next roll. They also had a 17 percent chance of hitting that 7 on the first roll, the second roll, the 40th roll, and the 73rd roll and with every other number up and down the line.

Every time you increase your bet because of what you just saw a random shooter do is simply losing you more money. If you had a Place bet of the 6 for $12 and you increased that bet to $24 because a 6 just hit a couple of times, the casino is going to extract 36 cents from that $24.

One more time: It is the total amount you bet that the house edge works on – whether you win or lose the bet is irrelevant! Therefore, increasing your bets into a random shooter will just lose you more money in the long run.

Stupid Strategy #5: In the Short Run All Bets are the Same!

 No, they aren’t. The following bets will give you a much lower chance of winning on any given session: the Any 7 (16.67 percent house edge), the 2 or 12 (13.89 percent), the Horn (12.5 percent), the 3 or 11 (11.11 percent house edge), Hard 10 or Hard 4 (11.11 percent), Any Craps (11.11 percent), Hard 6 and Hard 8 (9.09 percent) and on down the line it goes.

If you want to be a smart craps player then limit yourself to the good house edge bets like the Pass and Come or Don’t Pass and Don’t Come. Take the maximum in odds behind these bets and you will be giving the house a tough game – and giving yourself a decent chance of coming home a winner.

Even in the short run, bad is bad and good is good. Keep that in mind the next time you think of making a stupid craps bet.

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.





A Night from Hell

FROM ROLLO: Help me Frank! I was on a cruise ship for seven days and played craps each night. I was playing with a bunch of “shakers and fakers” as I like to call the ones throwing the dice everywhere and making Field and Hard Ways bets. Then at the end of the table stood the Darksider, making Don’t Come bets and pressing all the Odds. His tray grew large while everyone else’s grew small.

Not even the mighty 5-Count could help me on this dark trip; by the last night his side of the table was betting dark bets.

Please tell me there are other ways to win at a game I truly love when this situation is placed in front of me besides joining the dark one? It seemed like everyone sevened out at around eight or nine just in time for me to get a couple Come bets out there.

This was a trip from hell.

FRANK RESPONDS: You certainly did experience a trip from hell. I’ve been there too. If people are sevening out on the eighth or ninth roll, the 5-Count can’t protect you. I wish it were a perfect method but sadly in casino gambling there are no perfect strategies. Losing for seven straight nights can mess with your head. I’m glad you didn’t decide to jump overboard.

As for going on the Darkside, keep in mind that the streak you experienced does not predict what will happen next. You could have switched to the Darkside and suddenly seen the Rightside go on a winning rampage. If that were to happen you might feel that you were cursed.

You might consider betting less or merely going to one Come bet with Odds until you won a few times. I wish I had some magic formula to help you. I don’t.

FROM BIG BOY: I dispute your craps theory that Come bets are better than Place bets. The thing with Place bets is you get to pick the number AND you can take your bets down whenever you want to. That seems to make these the better bets in my honest opinion.

Okay, go ahead, defend yourself.

FRANK RESPONDS: What you’re saying is true. You can pick your numbers and you can take your bets down at any time.

Now for the bad news. So what if you can pick your numbers? Only the 6 and 8 come in with a decent house edge of 1.52 percent; the other Place bets are awful. You face a four percent edge on the 5 and 9; and a 6.67 percent edge on the 4 and 10. Why would you want to ever place bets with those house edges?

In a random game you can’t outguess the dice. There is no predictive factor that would allow you to know what streak is coming next.

Now, as for taking down Place bets; yes, you can do that at any point. But you’d have to take these bets down about 80 percent of the time. I have never seen a Place bettor do that in my quarter century of play. I have seen Place bettors take down or turn off bets but I’ve never seen one ever get to 80 percent.

I think your arguments, while they sound good, just don’t cut it.

[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 Amazon.com, on Kindle and electronic media, at Barnes and Noble, and at bookstores.]


Take It Easy

I remember when I was a teenager experiencing my first bout with alcohol. At the time in New York City the drinking age was 18 and at 18 – vavavoom! I went to my first bar in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. I think the bar was on 98th street on 4th Avenue in the St. Patrick’s parish near Fort Hamilton. (I wonder if that bar is still there?)

I ordered a beer. My friend also ordered a beer. We drank slowly, savoring our first taste of what had been the forbidden fruit; or the forbidden fruit juice. It wasn’t delicious but it was booze! I was drinking booze just like all the other grizzled men at the bar. I wasn’t grizzled at that time in my life but I felt a part of a larger society, men who drink.

My second glass of beer went down more smoothly and a little faster at that. The third went faster and my taste for the beer grew, in fact I ordered another before I even finished the one I was on.

The night started to get hazy and I was now socking them down. My friend socked them down too and then he went to the bathroom. I am not quite sure when. I had a few more beers by the time he came back to the table.

“I got sick,” he said.

“Ha! Ha!” I laughed. “You can’t hold your booze like I can.” I then patted what I thought was my cast iron tummy. “Ah ha!” I rejoiced.

Somewhere in a dim dizzy world I was walking down 4th Avenue towards the Verrazano Bridge which had recently been completed. I found myself puking all over myself and everything near me. I rolled into the bushes and passed out. I had no idea what happened to my friend. In fact, I never even thought of him.

A light was shining in my face. “Uh, uh,” I mumbled.

The cop said to someone behind him, “Is this your son?”

My father came forward and said, “Yes.” Dawn was at hand. I had been in the bushes all night.

I don’t remember how I got home. I do remember that my father and I did not say a word to each other, or if we did I have no recollection of it.

At home I took off my clothes, got into the shower, and all was hazy but my growing headache. I went to sleep and when I woke up late that afternoon I asked myself, “What did I do? What the heck did I do last night? The whole evening was shot to hell.”

And that is what many casino gamblers feel the next morning after a night that started off slow and happy while ending fast and horrible.

Casino gambling can be like drinking. You start off totally in control, play in a relaxed fashion, but as time passes you play faster and faster. This is especially true of slot players. If that slot player also drinks as well then…well, then I am sure you get the fast-motion picture.

Table-game players increase their bets as they hang around the tables and if those players drink…well, then I am sure you get the expensive picture.

The next morning many casino players ask themselves the same question I did so long ago, “What did I do? What the heck did I do last night?”

I am not telling people not to play casino games; these games are fun. I am not telling casino gamblers not to have a few drinks (only a few mind you). But I am saying this: Restrain yourself. Do not increase your speed of play; do not bet more as the night wears on.

I no longer have to worry about winding up in the bushes under the lights of the Verrazano Bridge. I know how much I can drink and I know I do not have a cast iron stomach. I know that if my father were still alive he would not have to scour Bay Ridge to find his unconscious son.

Casino gamblers should learn such a lesson as well.

[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 Amazon.com, on Kindle and electronic media, at Barnes and Noble, and at bookstores.]

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.