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 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.]

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 Amazon.com, kindle, Barnes and Noble, and at book stores.]

Slot Machines Are Like a Box of Chocolates

Hijacking Mrs. Gump’s line (“Life is like a box of chocolates.”) from the movie Forrest Gump, I now apply it to the casinos’ favorite revenue stream, the slot machines. Nowhere in the casino kingdom is spectacular diversity as apparent as in the slot machine aisles and in the slot machine choices players have the opportunity to make. Like a box of assorted chocolates, there are machines for every love, lust, desire, hunger, dream, passing fancy or momentary whim of the slot player.

The slot manufacturers’ credo comes from another movie, Field of Dreams – “If you build it, he will come.” So these slot bosses have built an Everest of slot machines and, yes, he and she and you and me and everyone else seemingly has come. Those machines are the all-American game.

Many slot players are looking for the magical road to life-altering riches and the casino slot machines have plenty of choices if that’s what a player wants. From five-cent attempts at jackpots of tens of thousands of dollars to dollar-denomination attempts at millions if not tens of millions of dollars, if a player wants to dream and fantasize about what life would be like if he or she had the means to tell the overbearing boss to “jump in the lake” those machines will fuel such a dream. Ah, the joy of it all; fantasizing can be fun.

If outlandish dreaming is what you want, then those multi-casino progressives are the machines for you. So what if the house edges are in the double digits and the odds of hitting one of the life-altering jackpots can be around 50 million to one – someone has to win those monster payouts, so why couldn’t it be you?

If you are the type of slot player who likes to stay current with the popular culture of television and movies, or with stars of film, serials or comics, then there are dozens of machines that will cater to you. You have Elvis and Star Wars and Clint Eastwood and Betty Boop and Rambo and Wheel of Fortune, along with such superstars as Hellboy and Frank Scoblete (just kidding). Simply walk around the slot floors and you feel as if you are on a Hollywood set or in your favorite television show’s studio. Or it can be just you and your favorite star sharing an intimate gaming session together. There’s even a machine called “Scrooge” but why anyone would ever think one of these could be loose is beyond me.

Are you a man or woman who tenaciously holds on to traditional things with a death-like iron grip? Do you eschew the new-fangled machines with all their hype and pomp and celebrity worship and prefer a remnant of the past in your play? Well there are still plenty of those traditional-style machines all over every casino – Red, White and Blue; Sizzling Sevens; Wild Cherry; Double Diamond and many more.

Now what if you are a player who wants to boldly go into the slot machine universe where only the bravest of the brave have gone before? Then there is now a multi-verse of multi-line machines that can take 10, 20, 50 or more coins (credits) on penny, nickel, quarter and higher denomination machines. These machines can be so confusing that some players have no idea of how or why they have won (or lost) as the hit frequencies of the machines can be outrageously high for putting in mega-multiple and even more multiple coins than you have ever played before.

Keep in mind you can hit on every spin of a mega-multi-line machine and still lose your shirt or blouse or whatever it is people lose nowadays. Hit frequencies and winning frequencies are not the same thing. You can hit like mad and lose like crazy. But those almost constant hits on these mega-multi-line machines can mind-meld players the way Mr. Spock of Star Trek fame did in those great movies and shows. The constant hits have a hypnotizing effect. Oh, yes, these machines take you to another world completely.

Some machines have classic symbols, some have wild and wacky video entertainment, some have outrageous sound effects and some, believe it or not, still actually take coins because there are still players who enjoy getting blood poison from the metal coatings rubbing off – well, to each his or her own.

Naturally and as always, there are better and worse machines to play, depending on what you want as your slot playing experience. I tend to advocate the most conservative possible playing style, risking the least amount of money for the best possible chance of coming home tonight with even a small win. Most slot players are not like me. I am the type to say that if slot machines are like a box of chocolates, just give me a wedge of plain dark chocolate and I am content.

If you are the type of person who needs all sorts of bells and whistles, then you might want some large chocolate ovals with nuts and raisins and berries and fudge and creams of every variety and whatever else the manufacturer can cram into it.

You will never find such diversity of experience at blackjack, craps, roulette or any of the other table games. Compared to the slot candies in the machine box, those table games just can’t hold their head high in the diversity department. And maybe that’s why slot machines are the diet of the masses.

[Read Frank Scoblete’s book Slot Conquest: How to Beat the Slot Machines! Available at Amazon.com, kindle, Barnes and Noble, and at bookstores.]

 

The Slot Machine Martingale

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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