She is and She isn’t

 

My wife the beautiful AP was a great card counter at blackjack. We played together as a team from 1989 to June of 2001 when our youngest son, Michael, graduated from college. The moment we finished the graduation ceremony she said to me, “I am now officially retired from playing blackjack.”

I had a strong feeling this was coming. We were spending way over a 100 days a year in the casinos – and that was a lot since we live in New York and the shortest commute we had was 3 ½ hours to Atlantic City. For two people who hate to drive those hours dragged by. Indeed, we went to Vegas far more often than we did to Atlantic City because Vegas had the very best blackjack games in the country, including the best of all time at the Maxim in the early 1990s where all but one card was dealt out of a single-deck game. In addition, the game had great rules too.

While the beautiful AP enjoyed going to the casinos, the intense pressure of counting cards because we needed to make money had taken its toll. She was totally burnt out. She liked the swimming pools, the shows, the gourmet dinners, the great conversations with friends but her card counting career was now over. In those days, the great new card counting method Speed Count which I write about in my new book Beat Blackjack Now! did not exist – maybe she would not have burned out had we been playing Speed Count instead of the traditional methods.

“How about playing craps again?” I asked. “I’ll teach you how to control the dice.”

The beautiful AP gave me that look; that look all husbands understand.

“No, seriously,” I said. “Once you learn to control the dice, you’ll really enjoy the game.”

Now, the reason the beautiful AP shied away from craps didn’t have anything to do with the nature of the game since it is – in my opinion – the most exciting table game in the casino. Her rejection of the game had more to do with her own personal experiences shooting the dice.

You see, while the beautiful AP was a consummate blackjack card counter, she was a deadly craps shooter – meaning anyone at the table, players and dealers, faced death while she was shooting and with each and every one of her throws I held my breath praying no one would get hurt. When the dice left her hands, they were like twin-bullets shot from a twisted tortured gun barrel. She had no idea where the dice were going, I had no idea where the dice were going and certainly the dice had no idea of where they were going.

One time she threw the dice so hard that both went whizzing past the head of the player standing at the end of the table. One went past one side of his head; the other die went past the other side of his head. She once threw the dice down the cleavage of a young woman to the cheers of all the salivating males at the table. She once hit herself in the face as she shook the dice in her hand as one die shot out at her.

Perhaps her greatest and most deadly feat was throwing the dice and having one hit the boxman and one hit the stickman. If you don’t know the game of craps, the boxman is on one side of the table; the stickman is directly across from him. Even Annie Oakley couldn’t have performed such a trick shot. The boxman was hit on the forehead; the stickman was hit in the chest. AP turned bright red and gave up the dice. That was her last roll; her last time playing the game.

I tried to convince her to play again. She said, “I could kill someone with the way I throw.” I told her she didn’t have to throw. She gave me that look again, “What’s the point of playing craps if you don’t throw? That’s the thrill of the game.”

In 2002 I had her enroll in my dice control course. She reluctantly agreed.

Now some of my critics like to think that I exaggerate some of my true-life stories. I mean seriously, how could anyone throw two dice to opposite ends of a table with one throw as I am claiming the beautiful AP did? That has to be impossible right?

Well, in the class I had the instructor we call “Old Eagle Eyes” be AP’s mentor. He is a patient, laid back individual who would handle my wonderful wife wonderfully. He sat down in the boxman’s position and I was in the stickman’s position. AP took the dice for the very first time – and performed her miracle again. She hit “Old Eagle Eyes” right in the head and, to top off her first achievement of this great feat, she hit me on the cheek!

Eagle Eyes sat stunned, “I thought you were exaggerating when you said she once did this. I can’t believe it.” He picked up the die. “These things are really sharp!” he laughed.

Over the course of two days, the beautiful AP did get better but she never accepted the fact that she could become a good enough dice controller to make money at the game. So that class ended her craps career.

My wife was a great card counter at blackjack and she also was the deadliest dice shooter the world has ever seen – and that’s no exaggeration!

Visit Frank’s web site at www.frankscoblete.com. His books are available from smile.Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, kindle, e-books and at bookstores.

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.

The Best, the Worst and the Between

 

In casino gambling there are good players and bad players and every type of player in between. Sadly, most players have no idea of the house edges on the games that they play and most don’t care to know these edges – such knowledge might diminish their fun. How fast is a game? Is it important to know how many decisions a game has per hour in order to understand the impact of the house edge on your bankroll? Not to them.

Knowledge to the unknowledgeable is a waste of their time.

Strange as it may seem, many casino players have actually bought a bill of goods that proclaims casino gambling to be an activity that is best engaged in with no knowledge whatsoever. Others have bought into the flawed concept that they are going to lose anyway so why play perfectly – it ultimately doesn’t help you win anything, does it? That’s a true but very limiting way to look at the casino gambling experience since the better you play the less you lose over time. The less you lose the more you can go to the casinos. The “you’re only going to lose anyway” philosophy results in greater losses and fewer possible trips to the casino.

Three criteria would have to be applied to casino gamblers to ascertain where they fit in the continuum of good to awful players – the games they play, the strategies they use at these games, and their emotional control while playing. Even the very best players can do foolish things if they lose control – just ask any card counter who over bets his bankroll and goes bust, despite his small edge.

So who are the best casino gamblers? And who are the worst casino gamblers?

The best casino gamblers are the “advantage players,” those players who have developed skills such as card counting at blackjack, dice control at craps, perfect strategies at video poker, and expert poker play. These players know how to beat the games they play by getting small edges, betting appropriately so losing streaks don’t cream them – yes, advantage players can have losing streaks, some of them quite long – and by always betting into their edge and not into their emotions. Of the 54 million American casino gamblers, maybe 4,000 are advantage players.

Just under the advantage player are those casino gamblers who play strong strategies at the games. They use basic strategy in blackjack, keeping the house edge around one-half percent; they only make the best bets at craps, generally the Pass, Don’t Pass, Come, Don’t Come, utilizing the odds bet to get their money on the table, and placing the 6 and 8. If our good players like roulette, they strictly bet outside “even-money” propositions at the roulette games where the 0 or 00 loses them only half their bet. In video poker they only play the strongest strategies at high return games such as 9/6 Jacks or Better. They never play slot machines. Based strictly on my observations of casino gamblers for the past 30 years I’d say the good players in this second category make up maybe two million casino players.

Thus, the two types of “best players” are in a distinct minority because they are overwhelmed by the legions of “worst” players. The worst players use their “instincts” at blackjack, giving the house edges of one to four percent. The worst players make all the ridiculously poor bets at craps, subscribing to idiot notions such as “see a horn, bet a horn,” which can lead to disastrous results. The worst players bet the inside numbers at roulette and play all the carnival games such as Let it Ride, Three Card Poker, Caribbean Stud, Four Card Poker – without even knowing the correct strategies for these games. They love the slot machines, especially the mega-jackpot machines that have house edges around 15 percent. Losing $15 for every $100 they wager doesn’t seem to have any impact on their gambling choices.

The poor players play with real money – that is to say, they don’t have a special gambling account but rather they use household money to fuel their usually ill-fated adventures. They play for too much, for too long, and too poorly to ever have a chance of coming out ahead – except on rare occasions where Lady Luck pities them and gives them a winning session. But this or that winning session can’t make up for the horrid fact that they are way behind in their casino gambling careers – so far behind that short of a mega-jackpot they have no chance to ever catch up.

I think the majority of casino players probably fit into this last category – and they account for the overwhelming amount of money made by the casino industry. Advantage players will sometimes say that all the poor players make it possible for them to keep winning because without the poor players the casinos wouldn’t exist. That is probably true.

However, why should that be true for you? Let the other players play foolishly. There’s plenty of room for you in the first two categories of players. The Captain of Craps once told me, “There’s always room at the top.” He was right. You should join that top tier.

Frank’s books are available on Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, kindle, e-books and at book stores. His latest? Confessions of a Wayward Catholic!

The Annoying Phone Call

 

I usually have my secretary answer the phones – or a pleasant answering service takes over in the “off” hours; a service that usually gets about 50 percent of the messages correct and the other 50 percent so completely botched up that I have no idea what the person calling wants. Who knows?

But every once in a while, I answer the phones. This is not a trial for me, except every once in a while the person on the other end is either a nut or a talker who tells you his long life story and how it relates to casino gambling — his long, incredibly boring life story.

The other day, however, I got a real nut who also told me his long and totally boring life story and then proceeded to badger me after the interminable thing ended. After the War and Peace version of his dull life, he then said. “You see, I want to get a way to beat the casino at craps when the other shooters are rolling. I don’t roll the dice. I don’t like to roll the dice.”

“You mean the regular random shooters?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said. “Do you have a system for that? So I can win when a regular shooter is rolling?”

“No,” I said, “there is no system to beat craps just by betting. You have to control the dice to have a chance to win at the game.”

“That’s not what I heard,” he said.

Then I heard the “click” which meant I had another call behind him. “I have a call behind you,” I started to say.

“There are many systems to beat the game of craps, “ he said. “You should know that. You can watch a table and discover what kind of trend is working at the table and bet that. Or you can bet against that if you think it is not going to last. What about those?”

Click!

“They don’t work. Random is random. There’s no predictability in random trends,” I said.

Click!

“Nah, nah,” he said, “I have seen trends last for quite awhile at the craps tables.”

“Okay, well, look, I have another call…”

Click!

“What about hedging your bets? You hedge your bets on the Pass Line with any craps so you reduce the impact of the seven. That’s a good system. Right?”

“No, no, it stinks,” I said. “Give me a second.” I pushed the button to see who was the other caller. He or she had hung up.

“The hedging is a good thing, all the great gambling people know that,” he said. “I am surprised you don’t understand it. I mean you’ve written a lot of books on craps. Aren’t you supposed to be an expert?”

“I understand hedging,” I said, “and I have written about it on my web site and in Casino Player magazine. Hedging doesn’t work. You lose more money by hedging your bets.”

“You don’t know what you are talking about,” he said. “You find a trend and bet with or against it by hedging your bets. That is a great way to bet.”

“Okay, fine, look, you bet any way you want to bet. It’s your money,” I said. At a certain point some conversations are just not worth pursuing and this one had gotten to that point.

“So you have no betting systems that can get me to win on the other shooters?” he asked.

“I told you that there are no betting systems that can overcome the house edge. You have to control the dice in craps. In blackjack you have to count cards. Betting systems just can’t overcome negative expectations.”

“That’s not what I heard,” he said.

“Like I said, it’s your money, bet it any way you choose,” I said.

“But you sell books on craps and gambling and you don’t know any systems to beat the house when other shooters are rolling?”

“Is this a joke?” I asked.

“What?”

“Is this a joke? Are you someone who is pulling my leg?” I asked.

“I’m gambling for 40 years. I don’t joke. You should know the systems to beat the games.”

“Look, I can talk about any system you want but none of them works. I’ve written about, well, just about all of them and they don’t work. Random is random. There are trends but they are not predictive – they are random. You hedge and you’ll lose more money. You can use the 5-Count to reduce your action but against random rollers you still can’t get the edge.”

“What about the idea if you see a horn you bet a horn?” he asked.

“Stupid, it’s stupid,” I said.

“Why is it stupid?”

“Because the game is random and that horn number is no more likely to come up next than it was likely to come up the time before. The house edge is about twelve and a half percent. You’re going to lose twelve dollars and fifty cents for every hundred you bet on that.”

“I’ve been gambling for forty years,” he said, but I cut him off.

“Look, why do you need a new system?” I asked.

“What?”

“Why do you need a system? If you know all these systems and have been gambling for forty years haven’t these systems won you money all those years?”

“Huh?”

“You must be a billionaire by now. You must have seen and bet a lot of horns in forty years. You must have been on or off a lot of trends in forty years. You must be so rich with all that hedging that you could own a casino now.”

He hung up. He must have heard the sarcasm in my voice. Guys like him can make you go crazy. Then the phone rang again. I picked it up, “Look, you idiot, I told you, there are no betting systems that can beat a negative expectation game! You’re an idiot for thinking there are!”

“Frank?”

“Go away, go away. Go away! ” I shouted.

“It’s me, Margaret,” said my mother-in-law.

“Ah,” I said. “Oh…Hi, how are you?”

And she told me, for the next hour, how she was.

Frank’s latest books are Confessions of a Wayward Catholic; I Am a Dice Controller: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Craps, and I Am a Card Counter: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Blackjack. Available from Amazon.com, Kindle, Barnes and Noble, e-books and at bookstores.

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.

 

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!

Five Incorrect Craps Beliefs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s see how this works.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Frank’s latest books are Confessions of a Wayward Catholic; I Am a Dice Controller: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Craps, and I Am a Card Counter: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Blackjack. Available from Amazon.com, Kindle, Barnes and Noble, e-books and at bookstores.

 

 

 

 

A Husband and Wife Talk Craps

 

They have totally different views about gambling. She doesn’t love it but she plays a little; he loves it and he plays a lot! His game is craps.

HIM: I make no bones about it. I love playing craps and we both go to the casino once a week.

HER: I do play the slots for one hundred dollars and no more. He plays craps all day. If I lose that hundred, I am done. That’s my limit. I play the nickel machines and keep the amount I bet very low on each decision so I can last.

HIM: We get everything for free. A great suite; free gourmet meals. My play is rewarded by the house.

HER: His play is rewarded, if you call losing a lot of money over the fifteen years we have been playing. I have lost. I admit that. I’ve lost a little. You really can’t beat the slot machines but his craps play is off the wall.

HIM: I am what they call an “action” player.

HER: That’s one way to say it.

HIM: I like to really get into a game. I will bet the Pass Line but I enjoy my other bets much more. I place the six and eight for one-hundred fifty dollars each and I usually go with the five and nine for one-hundred twenty-five dollars each. I buy the four and ten for one hundred each. I don’t necessarily go up on all of them at once but if I take a few wins, then I go for it big time. I am in the game to make the most money I can and the only way to do that is to bet big and go with the flow. I do believe there is a flow to the game.

HER: Oh, yeah, the flow is usually his money going across the table to the casino’s tray.

HIM: Hey, I’ve had some big wins!

HER: He’s not telling it all. Action player means he makes some of the stupidest bets at the game. Come on tell them…honey.

HIM: Okay, okay, she is right. I love to bet the Hardways and occasionally I will throw out the two or twelve, but only for ten dollars each. I go twenty-five bucks on the Hardways. They have good payouts and if you get hot on them, you can really bring in a lot of cash.

HER: I know the percentages of these bets because I did research on them. The Pass Line is good, maybe too the placing of the six and eight, but those others? Phew!

HIM: Those others are where the big payouts are. You hit a two or twelve and you get paid a lot.

HER: He works twelve-hour days and he is very successful in his business. He would never approach business the way he approaches gambling. He is very conservative with his money but in the casinos he lets it all hang out, in the worst way.

HIM: I play to have fun. I don’t consider this a business. I’m letting off steam; once a week is my steam-letting-off time.

HER: Steam? I think it is fun to have a decent chance of winning. What steam is let off by losing? He rarely wins, and when he gets those big wins he wants, they aren’t anywhere near enough to be ahead or even close enough to being even in his playing career. How is that a loser of steam? I would think the steam builds up even more. If he just played the Pass Line and maybe a Come bet or two, he’d have a better chance of coming home with some money much more frequently.

HIM: She doesn’t understand the craps player’s mentality. The game is fast and the players are really into it. Most of the players are rooting for the shooter to hit numbers and to make his point – the players who aren’t rooting for the shooter are pains in the you-know-what if you ask me – and when the shooter gets hot, there’s nothing like it. It is like a jolt of lightning going through your body. I mean you really feel it. I used to play blackjack but in that game there is no electricity shared by all the players.

HER: I think if electricity like that happened the players would be electrocuted. They are kind of electrocuted during the game if you ask me.

HIM: I look at it this way too. She is right that I work hard and earn good money but I also want the chance to spend that money as I see fit. If I played craps the way she suggests it wouldn’t be as much fun. That I can tell you for real; the game wouldn’t be much fun to me. I don’t tell her how to play those slot machines.

HER: I have very strong money management tools. That means I use a little amount to play with and I stretch that money out over time. Most of the time I do not lose much money at the machines based on the way I play.

HIM: Her way would kill me. I play it safe in real life but at the craps table? Come on. The casino is telling you to come and get it – and I am coming and trying to get it! I recognize that I play a high risk way –

HER: Of course, he’s an action player after all.

HIM: But the reward of that risk is that I am having fun. What’s so wrong with having fun? She wants me to have fun her way. I want to have fun my way.

FRANK’S VIEW: In my opinion the wife has the better gambling strategy. Yes, the husband can play anyway he chooses with his money but his choice of bets is lacking an understanding of how fast and how much money he will lose even over a relatively short period of time.

Frank Scoblete’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.

A Night from Hell

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

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

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

This was a trip from hell.

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

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

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

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

Okay, go ahead, defend yourself.

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

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

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

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

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

[Read Frank Scoblete’s books I Am a Card Counter: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Blackjack, I Am a Dice Controller: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Craps and Confessions of a Wayward Catholic! All available from Amazon.com, on Kindle and electronic media, at Barnes and Noble, and at bookstores.]