July 27, 2009

Always Bet on Black?

As a former dealer – slapping the cards at a casino, nothing to do with offering nickelbags at a discounted price to those with a valid school ID – I have seen it all. Most of the people who gamble at the casino understand that odds are they will lose. After all, that multi-million dollar hotel/resort you’re gambling in didn’t build itself. It has been paid for primarily from those wagerers who have no grasp of the simplest tenets of mathematics.

Take roulette for example. There are many different kinds of bets you can make on each spin of the wheel, but the simplest one is to bet on whether or not the number that will come up will be RED or BLACK. Now if you go to a casino and ask people making this bet what their chances of winning are, the overwhelming majority will say “50-50,” which is completely untrue. Why? Because on most roulette wheels in the United States, there are two “GREEN” numbers – zero and double-zero. If either of these numbers come up, you lose only half your bet, but a loss is still a loss.

But essentially, they are indeed correct. The odds of that little ball bouncing around the wheel coming to rest on top of a red number is EXACTLY THE SAME as the odds of it finding refuge on a black number, and of all the bets in the casino, this has one of the best chances of paying out. However it always amused me no end to watch what happened when one of the wheels had a bit of a “run.”

For those of you unfamiliar with the inside of a casino, next to the roulette wheel is usually a giant display outlining the sequence of numbers that have “won” over the last twenty or so spins on that particular table. What inevitably happens, over the course of an eight-hour shift and hundreds upon hundreds of spins, is that a run of numbers of the same color appears. And that’s when the “experts” come running.

After ten straight red numbers, it is not uncommon to see people sprinting across the casino to get a bet down on the next spin. Of course, about half of them are convinced that this is a lucky wheel – and that red is “hot” and will surely continue to hit. The other half are equally convinced that black is “due” since “what are the odds that red will ever come up 11 times in a row.”

Of course, each spin is an independent event, so the odds or the next number being red are still EXACTLY THE SAME as it being black. Nothing has changed, except the shorting out of all logic and sense in the gamblers’ minds.

You simply cannot predict red or black with any degree of success, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use the past results of a roulette wheel to help you increase your chances of winning. Dealers work a long shift, usually on very little sleep, and quite frankly, the vast majority of them aren’t aware of the past numbers they have hit. However, what happens is that most dealers will get into a rhythm – spinning the wheel at the same velocity, dropping the ball at the same release point – and as a result, the ball oftentimes ends up in the same “section” of the wheel.

Now, a good dealer knows that the “bosses” always pay more attention to a dealer who is “dumping” – in other words, giving out way too much money. In order to prevent any undue attention, the veteran dealers will be sure to mix up their spins to ensure the ball moves all around the wheel, and doesn’t remain in any one section too long – especially if nobody is tipping. However, if you see a relatively disinterested dealer spinning a wheel where the sequence of winning numbers are constantly in the “0, 2, 14, 35, 23” section of the wheel, for example – odds are that the next spin WILL in fact continue to stay in that neighborhood. Tracking dealers in this fashion is pretty much the only “system” that has any true chance of being successful, and even so, there’s no guarantee.

After all, if it were a sure thing, we wouldn’t call it gambling, now would we? Sorry, Mr. Snipes.

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