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# Gambling scoreboards

14 March 2013

It was a Thursday evening, and I was walking through a casino with my friend Alex while our wives were playing the slots. Alex sticks to table games, mostly blackjack, and we were checking out blackjack house rules, craps odds, table minimums and other playing conditions.

As we walked past the roulette tables, Alex pointed to the boards showing the last 18 numbers and said, “Wouldn’t it be cool if they had boards like that in blackjack?”

I laughed and nodded.

“I mean boards that carried all the information for the hand. Each card played. They give all the information in roulette. Why not blackjack?”

He was being facetious. Alex knows enough about the game to understand perfectly why such information would never be given freely at a blackjack table, and it’s not just because a board showing every card in every hand would have to be huge. The information would give a huge head start to card counters.

“OK,” Alex said with a smirk. “They couldn’t give that away and keep the tables in business. They could in other games, though. What do you think?”

I told him they could do it in any game where the information doesn’t really matter. That’s the case in roulette. Every spin is an independent trial, and past results have no effect on future outcomes.

On a double-zero roulette wheel that has 38 numbers -- 1 through 36 plus 0 or 00 -- the chance of any given number turning up on the next spin is 1 in 38. If the board shows the last four spins have been No. 6, there is a 1 in 38 chance of it turning up again on the next spin. If the board lists no spins that have come up 6, there’s still a 1 in 38 chance of the next spin coming up 6.

The board shows us only what has been. It gives us no indication of what will be. With that in mind, what about other casino games? Problems of display size aside, where would results boards be feasible as an attraction without giving away the store?

CRAPS: With nearly all rollers, craps is as random as roulette and every roll of the dice is an independent trial. Casinos could post the last 18 rolls on a board without giving players an edge. Players could get excited about tables based on hot shooters or hot numbers, and the house would retain its normal advantage. Those who use systems such as Frank Scoblete’s 5-Count (see Scoblete’s book “Casino Craps: Shoot to Win!”) for a little self-discipline and to try to identify controlled rollers could use the information to decide when to jump in. Results boards can work here.

BACCARAT: A results board is just a large display of the information baccarat players already keep. At many tables, players are given scorecards and pencils to track results. The information is useful to those who like to play streaks, switching between banker and player whenever there’s a run of results on one side. But the info doesn’t change the house edge. A big board approach would work here, too.

THREE-CARD POKER, CARIBBEAN STUD, ULTIMATE TEXAS HOLD’EM AND OTHER POKER-BASED GAMES: Poker-based games use single deck and cards are shuffled after every hand. Results are as random as they could be. The house could post recent winners or losers without giving any of its edge, but the information would be neither interesting nor useful to players. Why bother?

SLOTS AND OTHER ELECTRONIC GAMES: Casinos know there’s no harm in giving players access to past results. Some places offer printouts showing which machines have paid big jackpots the most recently, and which machines have paid out the most money in a recent time period. Slots, video poker, video blackjack and video keno all have results determined by random number generators, and what happened on the last play, the last hundred plays or the last million plays has no influence on what’s coming next.

The nature of the games don’t really lend themselves to results boards. Eighteen plays pass in a couple of minutes. Walk away from a roulette table for five minutes, and when you return in the vicinity of 14 of the 18 plays that had been on the board when you left will still be posted. Walk away from slot game for five minutes, and 18 plays will have cycled off the board, along with 18 plays after that and maybe even 18 plays after that.

When you combine practical matters such as that along with interest to players, candidates for results boards pretty much boil down to roulette, baccarat and craps. But in almost any game, the casino could post results without cutting into its edge.

“So in pretty much any game except blackjack, they could post results if they wanted,” Alex said. “Any game except the one I’d want the most.”

Exactly.
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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.