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Best of John Grochowski

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A Shuffle Through the Gaming Mailbag

1 July 2003

Q. I took an interest in roulette about six years ago, and I've seen a lot of things happen in that time. What I find fascinating is when a streak of red or black starts going more than four or five spins. People will bet like mad, trying to guess when the streak will stop. I've seen people lose thousands trying to do this.

I play the opposite way. I always look for the streaks. On one trip out to Las Vegas, I was at a casino early in the morning. I walked up to a roulette table that had just hit two black numbers between 1 and 12. So I put $50 on black and $25 on 1-12. The next number to come up was red (making black a loser), but it was still between 1 and 12 (making the dozen a $50 payoff at 2-1 odds). I continued to play with my winnings. It hit 1-12 another seven times in a row. By the time it was finished, I had pressed my bet all the way to $2,500 and I still walked away from the table with $5,095 of the house's money. All from a $25 bet.

On another trip, I was at Bellagio, getting killed at the dice table. As I was leaving, I noticed a roulette table with two big numbers between 25 and 36 (that had hit frequently, according to the board at the table). I put a $75 bet down on the third dozen, at 2-1 odds. It hit six or seven times in a row. The last time it hit, I had pressed my bet to $1,500. I knew it was time to walk away with my winnings, $5,500.

I was staying at the Monte Carlo, so I walked back with my winnings. On my way to my room, I passed a table that had just spun two even numbers. I put $100 on even. It hit eight or nine more evens, and when it was over I had a $5,000 bet on the table. It lost, but I still cashed out $4,000 more.

You can find streaks if you look for them, because there are more ways than just red or black. You have to look at all the even-money bets and the 2-1 bets. You can get lucky occasionally, but you can't make a living at it. The house advantage is too great. Trust me, I know.

Jimmy, Harwood Heights

A. Your last paragraph says it all. Barring unusual conditions, such as a biased wheel, the 5.26 percent house edge on all but one wager on a double-zero wheel is too much for any system to overcome in the long run. The bet with a different house edge is even worse--the house keeps 7.89 percent on the five-number bet on 0, 00, 1, 2 and 3.

Now then, your system of betting with streaks combined with increasing bets after wins has been used by generations of roulette players. Absent a biased wheel in which some numbers come up more often than would be expected by random chance, streaks don't really have value in predicting what's coming next. The way gambling analysts put it is, "All streaks are historical." That is, we can see after the fact that there has been a streak, but there is no way to know whether it will continue while it is happening.

While playing the streaks can't decrease the house edge, it doesn't increase it, either. At worst, the system does no harm, and when you catch a lucky streak, the wins can be spectacular--just as you have experienced. That puts this system several notches above the Martingale system described in another column. A reader wanted to double his bets after losses instead of increasing bets after wins. In the Martingale, a losing streak increases bet size so far, so fast that the system is dangerous to your bankroll.

Q. I just recently started to play Three Card Poker. I have a question about a hand that came up at the Blue Chip Casino in Michigan City, Ind. I thought the idea was to have a better hand than the dealer. I placed a bet on Pair Plus, ante and play. My hand was a Queen and a pair of 4s. The dealer's hand was a Queen, 6 and 4. I was only paid on the Pair Plus. I felt my hand was better than the dealer's hand and should have been paid on all of my bets.

Maybe I just don't understand the rules completely. Can you explain why the dealer's hand would be better?

Mrs. Chips, via e-mail

A. Unless Blue Chip has an unusual house rule that I don't know about, you should have collected on all three bets. On the Pair Plus bet, your pair of 4s is an even-money winner. On play against the dealer, the Queen gives the dealer a qualifying hand, so both your ante and bet are in play. Your pair of 4s outranks the dealer's Queen high, so you should collect even money on your ante and on your bet.

It looks to me like the dealer read the hand as Q-6 vs. Q-4, and missed that your pair outranked his Queen. Your recourse would have been to ask a pit supervisor to look at the hand. A supervisor should have been able to correct the payoff.

Recent Articles
Best of John Grochowski
John Grochowski

John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

The Craps Answer Book

> More Books By John Grochowski

John Grochowski
John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

> More Books By John Grochowski