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A Truly Thoughtless Object – the Roulette Ball

Author: Mark Pilarski

Dear Mark: While playing roulette, black appeared seven times in row, then red, then black four times, red again, then black five times, red once, then black another five times. A pattern similar to this appeared for more than two hours. It surely did not help when my favorite number is 23 (red), and making an outside bet of red. Was I looking at a roulette wheel that was partial to black appearing? Ron W.

A biased wheel wasn’t the problem, Ron, a bad streak was.

At any one session at a roulette table, there can, and most certainly will be, many deviations from the norm. If you were guaranteed in the two-hour session you witnessed black, then red, then red, the occasional green 0 or 00, then black, etc., appearing precisely the proportional amount of times you think they should, why play. The casino would automatically win with their 5.26% house edge, with you going home a guaranteed loser.

The short-term aberrations you observed can also mark our best times in the casino. Suppose, Ron, you were betting consistently on 22 (black) and black on the outside.

Streaks often occur in a casino environment, and as the ball bounces along to its destination, it knows nothing about where it is supposed to land. With the millions of trials going on in any casino on any day, the improbable is a certainty. Big wins and winning streaks happen, as do losses. The ball does not decide when to end a one streak nor start another.

Dear Mark: I have been told that when using a Player’s Club card, I will lose more often when using it than if I don’t. Any truth to what I have been told? Susan L.

You got some bad intel, Susan. Using a Players Club card has no effect whatsoever on your results, nor makes you win any more or lose any less. All the casino is doing is tracking your play with slot club system software at an undisclosed location whose whereabouts is known only to Dick Cheney.

Dear Mark: The casino where I play changed the rules of blackjack. Most of the games are now six deck shoes, and instead of staying on a soft 17, they now hit it. As a basic strategy player, what are the changes I have to make? Justin R.

With this rule change, anytime the dealer hits a soft 17, the house gets an additional two-tenths of one-percent advantage over your play.

By getting that additional hit on a soft 17, the dealer can improve his or her hand with an Ace, 2, 3 or 4, or it remains the same with a 10, Jack, Queen or King. Therefore, eight of every 13 cards either improves the dealer’s hand, or keeps it the same. Furthermore, if any of the other five cards are drawn (5, 6, 7, 8 or 9), the dealer still has some chance to increase his hand-value with yet another draw. Obviously, Justin, you want to be playing on a game where the dealer stands. However, if it’s the only game in town, a few basic strategy changes ought to be made.

With a six deck blackjack game, alter your basic strategy play by hitting an 11 against dealer ace, double down a soft 17 against dealer two, and finally, double down on soft 19 against dealer six.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: “The Journey is the reward.” —Steve Jobs