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.

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.]

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!]