You have the magic finger. You can touch anyone in a casino – actually, you can touch anyone anywhere – and tell what inner thoughts they have lurking in the depths of their minds. In the casino, mixed in with thoughts of parents, children, spouses, friends, sporting events and viruses, will be thoughts of their strategies at the various games. That’s a given in a casino.
Generally the strategies are stagnant for most of the players your finger touches. Take roulette as a prime example. If someone just places chips out on the board in a random way, that style of play will predominate their thoughts: “I’m gonna go out there and go wild spreading my chips everywhere until the dealer tells me no more bets.”
Players who have given serious consideration to how to reduce the casino’s hit on their bankroll and increase their chances of going home with some money in their pockets, will have their technique clear in their heads.
Of course, all the players will desire a win, even a small win, but all them know they face the casino’s edge. I am guessing all players know the casinos have an edge on them, although many don’t know how the casino gets that edge.
First let me give you a quick lesson in how the casino establishes its edge at roulette.
THE CASINO TAXES YOUR WINS
In the American double-zero wheels, you have 38 pockets for the ball to bounce into, the numbers 1-36 and a 0 and a 00. Eighteen of the pockets are colored red, and eighteen are colored black, while the 0 and 00 are usually colored green.
If you bet one number, you have one chance to win and 37 chances to lose. In a fair game, meaning a game where the casino has no edge over the player, the casino will win 37 decisions and the player will win one decision, being paid 37 to one for that win, and the game is fair.
Over time the casino cannot make a profit from a fair game. In order to change that situation, the casino pays back 35 to one on a player win. Since the “fair” pay would be 37 to one, the casino keeps two from that win. That two shortage on the player’s payback gives the casino a 5.26 percent edge.
The above edge will work on all bets and combinations of bets at the game. You can consider that two-shortage a tax on a player’s win.
Please note: The second type of roulette game is the European one. In this game there are 37 pockets for the ball to land in, numbers 1-36 and one 0. Everything else remains just like the American game but the house edge goes down to 2.7 percent.
SO WHAT ROULETTE SYSTEMS DO PLAYERS USE?
I observed many different players, and interviewed some as well, and came up with several idiosyncratic systems they usually use at the game. Some were not bad systems and some were – to be kind to these players – simply awful. I will give my opinion about these systems as well.
James (age 37): “Vegas is my kind of town. I love roulette. I first saw the game in a movie when I was a kid, but I forget which movie, and the game stuck with me. It has something to it no other game has. I don’t know if you’d call it tradition or history but I like being a part of it
“My play is based on the idea that if the numbers haven’t come up on the scoreboard, I will bet all those numbers. Usually that comes to about 18 numbers. So I have about 18 chances to win and 20 chances to lose. But my pay is 35 to one and hitting that as often as I do keeps me in the game.
“I like my roulette strategy because it gives me a great chance to win on almost all spins of the wheel.”
Please note:James’ strategy is not a good one. If he is betting approximately 18 numbers on every spin – I am guessing he considers numbers that repeat so that the scoreboard may show 20 decisions but only 18 are different numbers. Betting $10 on each spin of the roulette wheel means he is risking $180.
He could get a better game if he just bet $10 on one of the even-money propositions of red/black, odd/even, or high/low. He’d get 18 chances to win with a much, much smaller wager. It is true that he would have some numbers that have already hit but betting $10 as opposed to $180 is a gigantic savings and allows him to play a lot longer with the exact same bankroll.
Patricia (age 47): “I enjoy roulette and my method of play is very simple really. I just play these prime numbers 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, 17, 19, 23 and 31 by dividing them in half. So on one spin I do 2, 3, 5, 7 and 11. On the next spin I play 13, 17, 19, 23 and 31.
“I choose these numbers because they can only be divided by the number 1 or by themselves, not by any other numbers. I believe that gives these numbers more power over any other numbers as – in my mind – they represent the very first number and that is the number one. Yes, number one is number one!”
Please note:Patricia’s philosophy is an interesting one. She could reduce her betting levels by simply playing the “odd” proposition of the even-money wagers but that number 2 is an even number so that’s a small problem. She’d have to place a bet on that number alone, I guess, if she wants to keep this prime number idea consistent. As I stated, this is an interesting philosophy of number play. Does it give the player the edge? No, but it looks as if it is fun.
Kyle (age 61): “In my circle of friends – and most of them are craps, blackjack or slots players – I am known as Mr. Roulette. I have been playing roulette for over 40 years. I started the day I turned 21 and have been playing ever since.
“I think the main key to playing the game is to realize that the game is random and therefore no betting system can ultimately work to beat it since all these systems are based on logic and we all know that randomness has nothing to do with logic.
“Randomness is chaotic and anything can happen. It isn’t like randomness is saying five blacks have come up in a row let me fool them and another black will now come up. No, whatever comes up as the pocket where the ball lands is just random chance. That’s it in a nutshell.
“So my idea – and I have been playing this idea for about 30 of my 40 years – is to match my randomness against the game’s randomness. So without any thought at all, I will play about eight numbers selected with no idea in mind of what these numbers will be. I am not looking for streaks or colors or anything. I just choose eight numbers without thinking and let my random selection method try to beat the game’s random selection.
“Oh, I am down at the game. Don’t think I am trying to fool anyone with how I play. Randomness doesn’t compute with randomness to come up with wins; it’s not like two randoms make a positive result or anything. They have nothing to do with each other but I like the idea and play it. Not any worse than playing any other method at the game. Still, I don’t like any of the other methods of play at the game. So I stick with mine and that’s that.”
Please note: It seems to me that Kyle has his head on straight even though playing eight numbers is a large number of bets. At least I think of eight bets as a large number of bets. Still his happiness at the game is a telling tale.
Jackie (age 53): “I quit playing slots about twenty years ago. I wanted to make choices of bets at the games and with slots that really didn’t happen. I tried craps but it was too male-centric; then blackjack but there were people who were always telling other people how to play and I wanted to play the way I wanted and not the way they wanted me to play. Finally I started to play roulette.
“I like the game and I make a variety of bets at it. I’ll bet an inside number or two and I also play those outside bets. I like the ones that pay two to one on a win. Those are called the columns bet at the game. I’ll maybe two inside bets and a column bet. So I am risking three bets at roulette. I find it gives me a decent chance at a hit and I like the feel of betting this way.
“Will I change it up? Yes, I will. Generally the two inside bets will change from decision to decision and so will which column I pick. This makes the game fresh for me.”
Please note: Jackie’s way of playing does not seem too extravagant and it obviously gives her pleasure. She could, of course, bet line bets to increase her chances to win without increasing how much she would have to bet overall at the game.
So take two chips and place one on one ling bet and one on another line bet. The line bets are 1-3; 4-6; 7-9; 10-12; 13-15; 16-18; 19-21; 22-24; 25-27, 28-30; 31-33; 34-36. She would be adding four numbers that could hit without increasing her overall risk. Anyway, it is a thought.
Thomas (age 26): “I am an action player and I get everything comped. My games are roulette and blackjack with some mini-baccarat thrown in from time to time. I read what you said about action players but I find I like the attention my betting gets me. Is that a sin? Why not take full advantage of everything the casinos have to offer. I like being flattered for my play.
“So I bet spread out over many numbers; but I do not count how many bets I make. I just keep picking bets, both inside and out, and I make columns on some and on others it might just be one chip. I once did a rising group of chips on the middle numbers on the layout from the bottom on the number 35 up to the top. That got some notice by everyone at the table. One of those bets hit too!
“I do not have any illusions about beating the house but I enjoy playing and every so often I have a good day. The thrill is what it is all about. I have my comped room and my comped meals and all of that is all right by me.”
Please note: Thomas was a nice, enthusiastic young man. I should emphasize the word “young” because I am not so sure that his method of roulette play can last him very many years. It is dangerous. He is throwing way too much money out there. That 5.26 percent edge at the game can strip his bankroll quite fast.
Roulette is not as speedy a game as mini-baccarat can be but too much money just sitting on the roulette layout waiting to be scooped up by the house is – I’ll make this simple for Thomas – way too much money!
Casino playing has to be a combination of thrilling, as he says, but not devastatingly thrilling. Moderation is needed at all times. Those are words many ancient Greeks knew about and I was taught by my mentor, thelate Atlantic City legend, the Captain.
All the best in and out of the casinos!