I Am Calm and Cool with Others

My wife, the beautiful AP, says I have one criterion for judging people. According to her, “If they agree with you, Scobe, they are smart; if they disagree with you they are stupid. You have no in between.”

Okay, to show my beloved wife that she is wrong I took two people who have different opinions than I and we had a three-way conversation. Here it is, exactly as I recorded it:

 

HE: The worst table game in the whole casino is blackjack. I mean how do you know what decision to make? What are you supposed to hit? When do you stand? It is just too confusing.

SHE: Blackjack is a real pain in the neck because the people at the tables are all experts and some of them have big mouths and they tell you when you are doing something they don’t like. But I am betting my own money and how dare they try to intimidate me into playing the way they like?

ME: Blackjack is a good game if you know the right strategy. You can buy a basic strategy card in the casino gift shop and face maybe a half-percent house edge on the traditional game. If you play the correct basic strategy you can ignore what the “experts” at your table say because there is a good chance they are wrong. Just smile at them and then ignore them.

HE: I don’t want to look at a basic strategy card. People will think I am stupid. That would be embarrassing.

SHE: I really like to play those single deck games. I think you have a better chance to win at those games even with the 6 to 5 payout on the blackjacks. I heard single decks are the closest contest for the players.

ME: A lot of people use basic strategy cards. No one will make fun of you. It actually means you are smart. Now those 6 to 5 payouts on the single deck blackjack games, plus the fact that they hit soft 17s, will give the house about a 15 times greater edge on the single deck games than the casinos used to have in the good old days. You need to get that 3 to 2 payout on the blackjack to help make it a close game in terms of the house edge. So I think you must avoid all those games where the casino is taking too big a cut from you.

HE: I like craps because you have the best chance to win a lot of money at that game. You have bets that pay off like 10 to 1 and sometimes even higher. It’s a great game with a lot of excitement. I like to shake the dice up, blow on them, and then fling them down the table. I try to get them to bounce hard off the back wall and make it all the way back down to me!

SHE: Craps is too confusing. There’s too much going on.

ME: You know a lot of people think craps is confusing and it really isn’t. It’s a simple game. There are a lot of bets and almost all of them are bad. I hate to say this but all the bets that pay off large sums like 10 to 1 are bad bets with high house edges. Just use the Pass Line, take odds, place the 6 and 8 and the game is very close between the player and the house. You don’t even have to know the other bets because they aren’t worth making.

HE: I find roulette to be dull.

SHE: I love roulette. Some numbers get hot and if you are watching the scoreboard you have a really good chance to win.

ME: Roulette is fun and relaxing but the game is random so those hot numbers are not necessarily going to repeat themselves often enough for you to get an edge over the house. Because roulette at a crowded table is a slow game, the high house edge doesn’t hurt you as much as it would if you played the number of decisions you play in blackjack for instance.

HE: The other day I got a great comp from the casino. They treated us to dinner at the Steak House and I really enjoyed the meal.

SHE: My host loves to give us comps. She really likes us.

ME: Comps are rewards for play at specific levels. The host has some discretion but not a lot. If you get a gourmet comp that means you are betting enough that your losses will more than pay for that meal two or three times over. Comps are not given to people who are not going to make the casino enough money to warrant the comp.

HE: I always wanted to play baccarat but the losses at that game look like they are gigantic. All the high rollers play that game so they must lose a lot of money.

SHE: I understand it is a complicated game too. I saw the hitting and standing rules and I couldn’t even follow them.

ME: Baccarat is a good game with a relatively low house edge and the game doesn’t have a lot of decisions so your losses per hour are not so bad. In the high roller rooms the minimum bet is usually $100 but sometimes you can find games with $50 or even $25 minimums. The rules for hitting and standing have nothing to do with you. They are automatic and you don’t have to even know what they are. The dealers will tell you when to deal a card or to stand – which is one of the fun things about baccarat, you get to deal the cards at times. There is a mini-baccarat game too but this is very fast and the low house edge with a lot of decisions can still cut deeply into your bankroll.

There I did it. I didn’t tell either of these two that I was right and they were wrong. Of course, I was right and they were wrong. But I am sure you can keep that a secret from my wife.

Visit Frank’s web site at www.frankscoblete.com. His books are available at smile.amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, as e-books, on Kindle and at bookstores.

 

Winner! Winner! We Have a Winner!

Winner! Winner! We Have a Winner!

I am on every systems seller’s mailing list. I get emails, letters, flyers, and even some video promotions for “can’t miss” systems of play at whatever game I choose. Some of these systems are just for craps, some just for blackjack, some just for poker, video poker, slots, horse racing, sports betting and some, the really “incredible” ones, can be used for everything because they are – in the words of their inventors – that “powerful.”

Now there are some gambling “systems” that actually work – first because they aren’t systems by definition. Card counting at blackjack works, dice control works, optimum strategies at video poker work. I rarely get information shoveled to me about these “systems” because they all require certain levels of real work and the one thing a systems seller knows is this – most casino players do not want to work in order to get an edge. They want the edge handed to them. These types of casino gamblers are the welfare recipients of Lady Luck.

Systems buyers want a system that is so easy to use a complete fool could use it. Even the supremely easy card-counting system, which I write about in my book Beat Blackjack Now!, does require some modicum of effort. You have to add 1 plus 1 plus 1 and then occasionally subtract a small number from the total. For the system buyers this is just too much work. They don’t want to add; they don’t want to subtract; they don’t want to do anything but use a magic formula to win copious amounts of money – the kind of money the systems seller claims he has won over the past few years using this miraculous system.

The system seller knows how to get people to buy his or her stuff. He will write copious amounts of copy praising his product – liberally thrown in will be anecdotes and testimonials from people who have played the system and won hundreds, thousands, or hundreds of thousands of dollars. These people may or may not actually exist but who cares? The idea is to bombard the reader with so many words and so much positive information that his defenses are ultimately shattered and he will open his checkbook or pull out her credit card and buy the product.

Obviously, I am not opposed to people selling or buying products about gambling. After all, I sell my own books, DVDs, and my speaking engagements. There are many magazines with contributions from many established gambling authorities, many of which are also selling books and other products. There is a gambling-writing industry after all and I am a part of it.

So how can you tell the difference between a legitimate seller of gambling information and a systems seller of bogus information? First the legitimate seller doesn’t make any outrageous promises. There might be such a thing as card counting at blackjack but there is no guarantee that you will become any good at it if you try it. Dice control is real but it is not an easy thing to master. No systems seller is going to tout his system by telling you that it is not guaranteed; that you might not learn it or that your talent could be lacking. That would be economic suicide.

The systems seller needs to sell vast quantities of his system in order to make money. He doesn’t care that his system doesn’t work because once you have bought it you are stuck – you have a worthless system and he has your money.

When I first started my foray in the world of casino gambling I did buy a lot of systems – to see what they were like and, to be honest, praying that they would work. Except for books on blackjack, every system I bought left me scratching my head and asking this question, “How can he sell this junk?”

I bought the “Magic Wand,” a device that would allow me to locate hot slot machines the way a dowser supposedly finds hidden water – or gold. I used it in Atlantic City and the only thing it found me were stares from people who thought I was crazy as I walked through the casino with such a strange looking cheap cardboard thingy.

I bought several systems for blackjack. One had me look for clumps of high cards and then bet heavily on the next few hands because “high cards follow high cards.” One had me upping my bet after three losses because “blackjack is an even game and once you have lost a few nature brings everything back into alignment.” Well, as most of you know, high cards don’t follow high cards and nature is darn fickle about righting things in a run short enough to be understood by me.

The craps system that most impressed me in its ad promised that I would win 83 percent of my decisions. “You Can Win All the Time!” the ad proclaimed. The system was the old “Iron Cross,” where you bet the Field and the 5, 6 and 8. You have 30 ways to win and a mere six ways to lose when the 7 showed. The 7 shows about 17 percent of the time – thus your winning percentage was about 83 percent. Wow!

The problem came in right away – that 7 blasted all your bets into losers, while your winning was always curtailed by concomitant losing. You could win on the 6, for example, but you would then lose the Field bet. You could not win enough to make a profit with this “fool-proof” system because that 7 was just too powerful on the “mere” 17 percent of the times it showed its ugly head.

The system seller knew what he was doing, of course. He was not lying in the traditional sense. His system did win 83 percent of the time. But it was not a winning system. This systems seller was the master of equivocation – he just made you think what he meant was that the system would give you long-term wins; he never actually said it. He never told you that the house edge on the “Iron Cross” was about four percent – which is a pretty hefty edge indeed.

Today the Internet is host to hundreds, maybe thousands, of systems sellers. You can read long, drawn out advertisements for their systems. Many of them claim that they are retiring from gambling life and want to share with you their miraculous system before they go to the fancy island they just bought. Personally I think the only island they should be allowed to inhabit is Alcatraz.

Visit Frank’s web site at www.frankscoblete.com. His books are available at smile.amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, as e-books, on Kindle and at bookstores.

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!

Dealer Signatures in Roulette

 

Casino dealers often get into the same easy rhythm when they deal and this is true of roulette dealers as well. They pick up the ball and spin it the same way every time, and they also give that ball the same “oomph” as well. The ball will tend to spin around the roulette wheel the same number of spins as it did the previous spins and it should therefore land approximately the same number of pockets from where the dealer picked up the ball.

If the dealer can actually achieve what I just wrote it is called a dealer signature; the dealers own particular fingerprint on the game. Obviously no two dealers would be alike in how they do this and thus no two fingerprints would be the same.

Is this really possible? Can dealers actually have such signatures? Or is this kind of thinking just wishful thinking; the same kind of thinking that leads players to believe in trend betting and the like? The opinion of experts is divided. A few say it is possible; more say it isn’t possible and the pains-in-the-neck experts say it is theoretically possible but probably not actually possible at a real roulette wheel.

I tend to lean more towards those who believe this is possible with strong reservations. However, if a dealer has such a signature I would think it is somewhat ephemeral and would not necessarily be manifested as often as players looking for it would like.

If a dealer’s signature were unconscious; that is, the dealer is really not aware of what he or she is doing, then it would take thousands of rolls of the ball with each of perhaps hundreds of experienced dealers to ascertain if the concept had any merit. There has never been a study such as this (as far as I know) because it would take the patience of Job to do it.

If the dealer’s signature were conscious then that would be a totally different story. Such a dealer would have the ability to make his friends, his family and himself a bundle of money over time – and if he were caught he’d be playing the uncomfortable game of prison roulette. So such a conscious talent might be used subtly to nail players the dealer didn’t like; help those the dealer did like; and maybe make some money on the side for an occasional friend or family member.

Roulette dealers disagree as to whether such a thing as a signature is possible. In fact, they doubt whether the unconscious or conscious creation of signatures exists at all. Very few dealers of the dozens of dealers I have spoken to believe signatures actually exist. They are more skeptical than the experts – actually, the dealers are the true experts here and they should probably be listened to.

However, if a signature study were done, could it successfully determine once and for all if the signature exists on the part of some dealers? Don’t be so quick to say yes because there are several factors that might make the study invalid or impossible to do.

Thinks of this: How could a person, notebook in hand, stand by a dealer’s table, then follow that same dealer from table to table, day after day, recording her spins without the dealer becoming uncomfortably aware of such a person? Maybe the dealer might at first think that the wheel was being observed for flaws, but this still might cause him to alter his spin to stop the player from determining what that wheel’s flaw is.

Anything that is dealer-dependent could be immediately changed when the dealer becomes aware of being watched. As in quantum physics, the observer interferes with the observed by the mere fact that he is observing. In such a case you can probably forget about ascertaining a dealer signature. I think the discovery of a dealer signature in real casino play is probably impossible if one wishes to have dealers followed for any prolonged period of time. Therefore, the dealer signature might exist but might not be able to be proven beyond a shadow of a doubt.

There is also another problem in proving dealer signatures. Roulette wheels do slow down over time, so the movement of the wheel from time “A” to time “B” could be different enough to affect how many pockets pass the ball by as the ball spins around the wheel. The dealer might do everything the same exact way but with each ball-spin she is playing into a fractionally different wheel speed and dealer signatures would end differently around the wheel as the wheel slowed somewhat. A researcher would then be required to analyze the pattern of the signature over different wheel spins – an impossible task in my estimation.

If dealer signatures truly existed, they would be exploitable in short-term play, as the gradual slowing of the wheel’s speed would not affect the signature quite so drastically.

So what should you do?

If the dealer signature exists, then it will help you to win if you could actually figure it out. And if it doesn’t exist, you won’t hurt yourself anymore playing that way than you would hurt yourself playing any other way. You would face the same house edge we would have faced had you played any other kind of layout strategy. So have some fun and go ahead and see if you can figure out a dealer’s signature. It might be like searching for Bigfoot but it’s worth a try.

Frank’s latest 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. Available from Amazon.com, Kindle, Barnes and Noble, and at bookstores.

The Faster the “Worster”

There are two factors that must be considered when analyzing the various casino games, the house edge and speed of the game. The two go together like “love and marriage” and a “horse and carriage.”

A game with a high house edge but very few decisions might actually be better than playing a game with a low house edge but many decisions.

Take a look at the game of mini-baccarat. The house edges on the two main bets of “bank” and “player” are 1.06 percent and 1.24 percent respectively. That means a player can expect to lose $1.06 per $100 wagered on “bank” and $1.24 per $100 wagered on “player.” Sounds great and as house edges go it is great.

Now let us take a look at roulette. The house edge on the American wheel (0 and 00) is a monstrous 5.26 percent. Yikes! That means a player can expect to lose $5.26 per $100 wagered. That is some big loss.

So it is clear that as house edges go, mini-baccarat is overwhelmingly superior to roulette.

Now let’s take a look at the speed of these games. In mini-baccarat a player can face 150 or more decisions per hour on either “bank” or “player.” There is a third bet too but we don’t have to worry about it since we never make it. That is called the “tie” bet coming in with over a 14 percent house edge.

I recently went to the casino and clocked mini-baccarat games. They came in with 140 to 180 decisions per hour. An amazing speed! Now, the minimum bet was $15 (most players were green and black chippers but let’s stick to $15). Let us take 160 decisions per hour.

The player bets $15 for 160 decisions. He bets a total of $2,400 and his expectation is to lose $25.44 on “bank” and $29.76 on “player.” So let’s say we average these two out to make the hourly loss on a $15 bet $27.60.

Now we turn our attention to roulette. The average game (based on my observations) will have approximately 35 decisions per hour (especially at an almost full or completely full table). So multiply $15 times 35 decisions and you get $525 wagered of which the player is expected to lose $27.62 – just about the same as a player at mini-baccarat. So a good house-edge game and a bad house-edge game come in just about the same.

So when you are deciding which games to play and if you want to figure what your losses would be with game “A” and game “B,” it is wise to learn how fast the games are as well. House edge is only one measure. It takes “two to tango” after all.

[Frank Scoblete’s new books are 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 on Amazon.com, kindle, Barnes and Noble, and at bookstores.]

Genetic Roulette

Everything in life is a gamble. Whether it’s crossing the street, deciding what to eat, whom to date, whom to marry, flying in a plane, taking a shower, just sitting in your living room; all of these activities could end in happiness, misery and perhaps death. That’s the way it is.

Marriage is not the worst of gambles because divorce is always there to save an individual in a bad marriage, so there is a legal out. Of course, depending on your religion, divorce might not be an option. If you decide to divorce a spouse who enjoys firing guns, using knives or loves to punch away, asking for a divorce could be a terrible gamble.

I think the most awesome gamble is having children; it is a lifelong commitment for men and women who take having children seriously and don’t feel free to desert them.

All parents play genetic roulette when procreating. Spin the genetic wheel and you hope the child who is born is a nice one who becomes a fine adult. No parents know what kind of kid they will have; what kind of adult that kid will grow up to be. Genetic links to beings long, long gone can come out at any time. It is roulette made of flesh.

Genetic leanings that characterized Uncle William who died in the Tower of London centuries ago might just manifest themselves in your sweet baby— and ultimately Attica prison ultimately becomes his residence.

What do parents see, hear and feel as junior grows up? Here is an example:

“Oh, my, my, he is such a beautiful baby. I think he might be President of the United States someday. He looks so intelligent.”

“He doesn’t play well with of the kids around here because they just aren’t at his intellectual level.”

“His grades are low. I think the school underestimates his ability.”

“The cop said he showed a lot of respect so his bail was set low.”

“I’m hoping he actually gets that high school diploma. All those suspensions! The school just doesn’t have the resources to educate him properly.”

“He has his own apartment. In our basement. His employers don’t see his genius and they let him go.”

“At least he hasn’t killed anyone.”

“Yet.”

We never know what will arise from our genetic history. You just never know who your child will be.

How does this relate to gambling? That is simple really. Look at all the games. The house edges and the total number of bets that can be made. They constitute the double helix of gambling action.

Craps has a multitude of bets – the game is like Times Square on New Year’s Eve. Blackjack has even more choices a player can make. Add in roulette, baccarat, Pai Gow Poker and a host of other games, including machines, and what comes up is, well, anybody’s guess. The “genes” of the gambling games (the house edge and the types of bets) are in every corner of the casino and they aren’t always good. Look at the casino floor and you are looking at a mass of gambling genetics.

We all want to win. We all want the best results. We all want those bets to favor us. The hope of, “My child can one day become President,” can be reduced to, “At least he hasn’t killed anyone…yet.” Similarly, “I’m going to win a fortune,” can be reduced to, “I just lost the money for my heart operation.”  And that is all due to “genes.”

There are more bad bets than good ones. That’s the truth and that is a truth many gamblers refuse to recognize. They will be victims of the genetic roulette of casino games. That is the way it is and has always been for the overwhelming majority of gamblers. In short, almost all parents will not produce the President of the United States.

[Read my book I Am a Card Counter: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Blackjack. Available on amazon.com, kindle, Barnes and Noble, and at bookstores.]