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Author: Mark Pilarski

Dear Mark: I enjoyed your response to a question about roulette wheel bias. I was wondering if an experienced roulette dealer could make the ball land where he or she pleases? Josh G.

What you’re asking, Josh, is whether a dealer can deliberately target and pocket a particular number when the wheel is spinning east, the ball west, with frets impeding a descending bouncing ball as it finds its way to a particular pocket. Notta chance. I just think there are to many physical variables for a dealer to control so as to land the ball at will.

There is such a thing as sector-shooting, Josh, where maybe the one in a thousand dealers can possibly put it in sections of a wheel, or, the keenest of all roulette players thinks he or she comes across that “biased wheel,” incessantly watching the dealer and ball speed, thinking they can clock the wheel, but I also lack conviction on either of those skills.

The casino needs to offer you a round-and-round she goes, where she drops nobody knows random spin, because as long as the results are random, the casino will make its ca-ching. Random games mean big built-in profits for the operators. In the case of roulette, 5.26%. When you take the randomness out, you increase the operators’ risk, decrease its reward. So, every casino has its own set of guidelines for its dealers to follow, as well as a few procedures I’m sure of that keep the wheel speed within a certain range, The last thing the casino wants is rogue dealers who at least think they can hit a number at will.

Back in the day, I was trained to either speed up or slow down both the wheel and ball delivery before each spin to avoid any kind of hanky panky, and though I spent countless hours on a dead game trying to pocket a particular number, the wheel going one way, the ball the other, with frets impelling that dippy bounce, I found it damn near impossible to forecast where the ball was going to land.

Dear Mark: Is card counting illegal? I’ve heard it is, and heard it isn’t. Confusing minds want to know. Dale C.

Technically, Dale, in most gaming jurisdictions it’s not illegal, but casino personnel can and will back you off the game if they suspect that you are counting cards.

Counting cards may give you that one-percent-plus advantage, but expect a pit boss to come and pleasantly say, "Hey Dale, we appreciate your patronage but we're going to ask you to stop playing blackjack here. Feel free to play any of the other table games we offer."

Not all casinos bar counters. Atlantic City, by law, cannot run you off a blackjack game. Yes, Dale, it’s legal to use your gray matter, but what they will do to combat your use of your medulla oblongata, is counter your counting with tougher blackjack rules, multi-deck games and limited deck penetration to keep the skilled counter at bay.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: “People who thought it was evil are playing slot machines and lightning does not strike them.” - Bill Thompson, Professor of Public Administration at the University of Nevada on the increasing number of Las Vegas gamblers