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Just Ask A.P.

14 October 1999

Dear AP:
I have a friend who swears that the physical condition of a slot machine can give you accurate information as to whether or not that machine is going to be a winner. For example: Is it true that if you touch a slot machine and it feels hot, you should pass it by because it has already given out all the payouts it's programmed to give on that particular day?


Dear BM:
There are many slot playing myths and most of them have no basis in fact. How these myths start is anyone's guess. Perhaps someone won a lot of money on a physically cold machine (one directly under an air-conditioning duct?) and made a statement that the colder the machine, the hotter the payouts. Someone overheard this and put two and two together and realized that if a "cold" machine was "hot" then a "hot" machine would be "cold." By the way, I heard the same tale as you did—only with the opposite conclusion, that if the machine is hot you should start playing it because it's in a payout mode. Go figure.

Unfortunately for the purveyors of myth, the programming of a slot machine is done by microprocessor and has nothing whatsoever to do with the external temperature of the machine. According to Frank Scoblete's Break the One-Armed Bandits, slot machines are programmed to select symbols randomly by use of a random number generator (RNG). The fact that a machine may or may not have paid out jackpots on a particular day does not affect the programming one bit because the programming is not based on a given day's payouts, but on a given set of probabilities within the RNG—a set that often is in the tens of millions! Slot machines are based on science and not superstition. Knock on wood!

Dear AP:
What's the difference between single-zero roulette and double-zero roulette? Which is the better game to play?


Dear RB:
It is not a difficult procedure to establish which version of roulette is better for the player. In double-zero roulette (which is the norm for American casinos), there are 38 possible outcomes to the spinning of the ball—the numbers one through 36 and the green 0 and 00. Thus, the odds of hitting any one outcome selected are 37-1. Now, if you were to hit your number, the true payout should be $37 for every dollar wagered. However, the casino pays off at 35 to one. Thus, the casino keeps as its "tax" or "vig" two dollars from a one dollar winning wager. That translates into a 5.26 percent edge in favor of the house. That's a big edge to try to overcome.

The single-zero roulette wheel (most commonly found in Europe) has 37 possible outcomes—the numbers one through 36 and a single green 0. The true odds in this case are 36 to one. Again, however, the casino pays off at 35 to one, just as it does in double-zero roulette. Thus, the casino has a 2.7 percent edge in single zero roulette since it only keeps one dollar of a win instead of two.

So, whenever possible, a roulette player should opt for the single-zero wheel. Sometimes this is easier said than done since the American casinos are dominated by double-zero wheels. If you must play a double-zero wheel, let me suggest that you keep your exposure short and play BIG NUMBER or PIE SLICING strategies, which can be found in Frank Scoblete's Spin Roulette Gold: Secrets of Beating the Wheel.

Dear AP:
Should you ever split fours in blackjack? How about fives? Aces? And is there a difference between single-deck and multiple-deck basic strategies in this area?


Dear SW:
The key to having a chance to win at blackjack is the proper application of Basic Strategy. Basic Strategy is the computer-generated, optimal strategy for the playing of every player hand against every possible dealer up-card. According to Basic Strategy you never split fives. If you have two fives and the dealer is showing nine or less, double down. You always split aces (and eights!) no matter what the dealer is showing. However, the strategy for splitting fours depends on the rules of the particular game you're playing. If the casino allows you to double after splits, then it's a good move to split fours against a dealer upcard of five or six. If there is no doubling-after-splits allowed, then you would just take a hit. In a single-deck game with no doubling-after-splits, you would double down two fours (eight) against a dealer up-card of five or six. In multiple-deck games, you would not double on eight.

If you want to become a good blackjack player, it behooves you to learn the proper Basic Strategy for the type of game you will be playing the most. If you are going to be mainly playing shoe games, memorize the Basic Strategy for multiple-deck games. If you are going to be playing single-deck games then learn the single-deck strategies. A good basic strategy player can cut the house edge down to an almost even game in some places. At the worst, a Basic Strategy player will face a house edge of a half percent. Not bad!

Dear AP:
What are worst games in the casino? What are the best?


Dear GD:
The worst game—by far—is Sic Bo, where the casino can have edges of over 40 percent on the player. It's a pretty game where the casino's layout lights up, but you'd be a moth to a flame if you play it.

Just a bit better than the worst are the Big Wheel and Keno, where the house has edges of 11 percent up to 35 percent or more. Also, proposition bets in craps are terrible. These are called Crazy Crapper bets by The Captain of Craps and can be found in the center of the craps layout. The five-number bet in roulette (on the double-zero wheel) is another awful bet with a house edge of over seven percent.

The best games in the casino often depend on how well you play them. Thus, what can be considered the "best" games are therefore much harder to determine for, despite what some critics of gambling contend, skill is an important factor in long-term expectations. If you count cards and/or play perfect Basic Strategy at blackjack, or play a strong game of poker, or know which machines to play and how to play them in video poker, or play the Captain's "Supersystem" in craps, you have an excellent chance of being a long-term winner or at the very least a tough player. Ignorance is the greatest enemy of the casino player because the casinos offer a variety of pleasantly-packaged games—-some of which are deadly for your economic health. If you are a novice player, you should seriously consider reading everything you can get your hands on concerning the games you want to play. In gambling, as in most endeavors, knowledge is power.

Dear AP:
What does it mean that the casino has a certain percentage edge on a given game? For example, I read that the casino has a 5.26 edge in roulette. So? I love to play roulette, why should that edge mean anything?


Dear MDP:
Unfortunately, it means a lot. We always express the edge the casino has over a player as a percentage. It is relatively simple to translate this into a monetary figure that will give us an idea of how much money we can expect to lose based on our betting levels. In roulette the casino advantage of 5.26 percent means that for every one hundred dollars we bet, we can expect to lose $5.26. Now, you might say to yourself: "Well, I only bet five dollars at a time. I'm not going to lose too much." Wrong! First of all, your money is going back and forth across the table. In the course of two or three hours of play, you will be betting hundreds of dollars—-even if your minimum bet is only five dollars. Secondly, the casino edge is not smooth. You could win a few early spins, be way ahead and then get blown away. My advice and the advice of most gambling writers is to try to keep that casino edge under two percent. If you enjoy the game of roulette, look to play the tables with only one 0, as opposed to the tables with 0 and 00.

For more information about slots, we recommend:

Break the One-Armed Bandits! by Frank Scoblete
Victory at Video Poker and Video Craps, Keno and Blackjack! by Frank Scoblete
Slot Conquest Audio Cassette Tape (60 minutes) with Frank Scoblete
Winning Strategies at Slots & Video Poker! Video tape hosted by Academy Award Winner James Coburn, Written by Frank Scoblete
The Slot Machine Answer Book by John Grochowski

For more information about blackjack, we recommend:

Best Blackjack by Frank Scoblete
Winning Strategies at Blackjack! Video tape hosted by Academy Award Winner James Coburn, Written by Frank Scoblete

For more information about craps, we recommend:

Beat the Craps Out of the Casinos: How to Play Craps and Win! by Frank Scoblete
The Captain's Craps Revolution! by Frank Scoblete
Sharpshooter Craps Audio Cassette Tape (60 minutes) with Frank Scoblete
Winning Strategies at Craps! Video tape hosted by Academy Award Winner James Coburn, Written by Frank Scoblete

For more information about roulette, we recommend:

Spin Roulette Gold: Secrets of Beating the Wheel by Frank Scoblete
Alene Paone
Alene Paone is the publisher of Paone Press which specializes in gaming books, videos and audio cassettes. For a free brochure call: 1-800-944-0406.
Alene Paone
Alene Paone is the publisher of Paone Press which specializes in gaming books, videos and audio cassettes. For a free brochure call: 1-800-944-0406.