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Ask the Wizard #38

Do you mean to tell me that man has designed a way to put three million transistors on a single chip (microprocessor) the size of a finger nail, and we don't have a way to beat a 50/50 even money game bet. I find that to be unbelievable, besides I found that computer simulations are definitely not the same as live world action. Also why don't casinos introduce video blackjack to thwart the card counters and get rid of dealers?

Mark from Chicago, USA

I have said numerous times that there is no long-term way to beat a game with a house edge. If there were a true 50/50 game with no house edge it would be impossible to guarantee beating or losing to it under real world conditions. The results always approach the house edge in the long-term. It is not just computer simulations that back this up but the fundamental laws of probability.

About video blackjack, that may be the way of the future. I have seen fully electronic tables with video display at the World Gaming Expo. I have also seen tables that with cameras can track every bet and every play each player makes. This enables the house to accurately comp players and alert them to card counters. These tables look and feel like any other blackjack table, so you card counters may be out of business if these tables are successful.

On average, during the course of 100 points being established in craps: (1) How many of those would be 4/10, 5/9 or 6/8, (2) During the 100 how many times would each point (4/10, 5/9, 6/8) vs. a 7 be made?

Jon from Danville, New Hampshire

Of those 100 points established, on average 41.67 would be on a 6 or 8, 33.33 would be on a 5 or 9, and 25.00 would be on a 4 or 10. You could expect on average 18.94 points made on a 6 or 8, 13.33 on a 5 or 9, and 8.33 on a 4 or 10.

I play blackjack using Basic Strategy. I raise my bet if I see a bunch of low cards and lower my bet it if I see high cards. On my last trip to Las Vegas, two casinos asked me to step away from the table and told me to leave! Please comment on this. It does not seem fair.

Stan from Milwaukee, USA

You obviously understand that a deck rich in high cards favors the player and a deck rich in low cards favors the dealer. Although your method is the crudest form of card counting it is still card counting. Nevada casinos have the legal right to do what they did.

In the future, I would recommend being more discrete. Never more than double your bet, preferably only after winning. If you feel you're being watched, then get up and leave before they do it for you. Don't play too long in any one place. Ian Anderson's "Turning the Tables in Las Vegas" gives lots of tips about looking like an ordinary player while card counting.

When wagering on a greyhound race, they give odds on each dog such as "9-2, 7-2, 10-1" what do the numbers represent?

Rick from Valley Center, USA

The 9-2 means that a $2 bet would win $9. So if you bet $2 you would get back $11, $9 in winnings plus the original $2. Likewise, the 7-2 bet would win $7 for a $2 bet, and 10-1 means a $1 bet would win $10.

I was playing roulette last nigh using the "Martingale" method of doubling down twice after the 1st loss. Dumb, I know, but I usually don't lose much and I gamble a long time. Anyway, what ended the game for me was I was betting even, and in four rolls the number 9 came up in three of the spins. What are the odds of that? Does that sound suspicious? For that matter, have casinos ever been caught cheating?

Jim from St. Peters, USA

The probability of getting any number three times out of 4 is 38*4*(1/38)3*(37/38) = 1/5932. However, if you play long enough you almost can't help but notice unusual events like this. This does not nearly rise to the level of being suspicious. Cheating does occur in real casinos. It is usually a rogue dealer who is caught by casino security. There have been some strong cases of cheating made against online casinos but no governmental authority has ever convicted anyone to the best of my knowledge.

Have you ever considered the impact of commissions (i.e. junket players get a commission based on turnover)? Although they require a lot of capital to begin with, commissions reduce house odds. I've done some calculations and it seems as though (if you play say basic strategy in blackjack) you can get slight odds in your favor (even without counting cards!). Have you done such calculations before and if so, what was the result?

Siew from Sydney, Australia

Assuming you could get paid for your play then yes, it would be very possible to make a profit from playing junkets, depending on if the commission is more than the expected loss gambling. I've heard of a professional gamblers exploiting such offers in Asian casinos.

Where is the best place to play Blackjack in Atlantic City and why?

Mike and Taffy M. from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The Claridge is the best. As far as I know, they are the only Atlantic City casino to offer late surrender, which lowers the house edge from 0.43% to 0.36%.

I like the Boss Media casinos, but I never "see" anybody at Cowboy Casino (multi-player). I have more frequent long streaks of losing hands there than, say, at Gold Club. Is it possible for Cowboy (or any Boss Media venue) to opt for a tighter game or to selectively manipulate the game against a particular player?

Gordon from Charlottesville, Virginia

I have noticed that too about Boss Media casinos, I seldom see other players playing. It is possible for any online casino to do whatever they want. However, I seriously doubt Boss Media would resort to cheating. They are a legitimate company and know they have more to gain in the long run by playing a fair game.

In your rules for pai-gow poker you state that A-2-3-4-5 is the 2nd highest straight. Why isn’t 9-10-J-Q-K the 2nd highest straight. Please explain.

Gordon from Lewiston, New York

I have always wondered this myself. It is probably just one of those weird things like why we spell colonel the way we do.

I was wondering why you recommend folding a 2-3-4 straight flush hand in let it ride? I understand folding A-2-3 as there is only "one side" to match. However, 2-3-4 seems the same as any other outside straight?

Kevin from Dallas, USA

There are 2 directions to complete a 2-3-4 straight (A-2-3-4-5, 2-3-4-5-6), yet 3 directions to complete a 3-4-5 straight (A-2-3-4-5, 2-3-4-5-6, 3-4-5-6-7).

Isn't it an even worse roulette betting strategy to bet multiple numbers on the inside during one bet (as most players do) vs. making a sequence of independent bets on one number? For example, if one had $100, betting 10 bets of $10 dollars on the number "8" would lose less than betting $10 on 10 numbers on one spin? It seems to me that "hedging" just guarantees that certain (in the above case 9 bets) will ALWAYS lose? You don't address "hedging" on your page?

Kevin from Dallas, USA

See my Ten Commandments of Gambling. The sixth commandment is "never hedge thy bets." About your roulette question, the probability of losing all ten bets by betting one at a time is (37/38)10=76.59%. The probability of losing all ten bets by betting them all at once on different numbers is (28/38)=73.68%. By hedging, or betting ten numbers at once, you lower your probability of a total loss but also limit your maximum win to $26. The player betting one at a time could win up to $350. Both these methods have the same total expected return of 94.74%.

I read your page on systems and I have been telling people this for years! I deal roulette in a casino and I have seen all of the systems at one time or another. I have seen one system that, even though on a computer simulation might not work (probably won’t), "Seems" to work in real life. That means that I have seen it win more than lose.

The way it works is a player will put $75 dollars on the 1 to 18 $50 dollars on the 3rd 12 and $10 dollars on the 0-00 split for a total of $135 dollars. This covers all but six numbers (19 through 22) and will yield a 15 dollar payout every time the ball misses those 6 numbers EXCEPT when 0 or 00 hits in which case it's 40 dollars. I know it sounds nuts!!! But trust me, I'm here to tell you I have seen it win more than lose. It also works in reverse (duh). I would love to know the true odds of this system, but it's hard to tell someone that it doesn't work when they are walking off my table 2 grand richer:-)


There are 30 ways to win $15, 6 ways to lose $135, and 2 way to win $45 (not $40). The expected return of this combination of bets is ((30/38)*15 + (6/38)*-135 + (2/38)*(45))/135 = -.0526, or 5.26%, the house edge on any one bet or combination of bets as long as the dreaded 0-00-1-2-3 combination is avoided. In your observations you have likely seen fewer than expected 19-24 occurrences, which accounts for the illusion that this method is winning.

I have a question regarding Caribbean Stud. In my city there has recently started to appear a CS game without maximum ante and increased maximum pay out. Normal limits in local currency before min. 2, max 50 and max. pay out 2000. The new limits are min. 25, no maximum but max. pay out 3000 and my question is: is this good or bad for me as a player? I don't know how to calculate the odds, but maybe you can assist me? I should also add that in this town we play CS with the possibility of changing one card at the cost of the ante.

Tomas from Riga, Latvia

In games with a maximum pay out you should never bet so much that the maximum winning would be affected by the maximum. For example if the maximum pay out is $2000 and the biggest win pays 100:1 then you shouldn’t bet more than $20. Assuming the royal flush there pays 100-1, you shouldn't bet more than $30. As long as you stay under these limits the odds have not changed. The version where you can switch a card is called Oasis Poker.