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.]