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The odds of winning are against you, but one can always hope

By Frank Scoblete


Almost all casino players know this truth: given some time, or a long time, or starting right now this morning, this afternoon or tonight, they will wind up losing. They know that the house has the edge over them in every game.

Certain sessions and even certain multi-day trips, the player will win. A back and forth happens, but the forth, meaning the casino gets the players’ money as opposed to the players getting the casino’s money, is the norm.

Players know all this. In fact, it is a part of the emotional package the players take to the casino. It is true of all the table games and all the machines. The players expect to lose but hope to win.

Unless the player is somewhat mentally removed from what really happens in a casino, losing is the obvious truth of the games. The casinos have to make money, after all.

So how do players feel when they lose?  Generally, sad, but not devastated.  After all, the expectation is to lose. They hope for one result but they expect the other result.

How do the players feel when they win? Jubilant! Winning is the most fun, as I have said for three decades. Winning  means the player has overcome the casino’s edge for that session or sessions or trip. Come on, that is a wonderful experience.

Still, there is another type of player that makes up a small percentage of the player population, the advantage player. That’s right. There are some players who have managed to gain an edge over the casino so that when they go to a casino they expect to win.

These players can be card counters at blackjack; dice controllers at craps; Pai Gow Poker players who can know when the game favors them; some video poker players on certain (very rare) machines; and some slot players on now really, really rare machines.

Such players are not a large percentage of the casino population but nevertheless the casinos are not enthralled that these players even exist.

But they do exist.

Blackjack, the number-one table game in the casino, appeals to about 10 percent of the casino players. While the computer- derived basic strategy is available for any blackjack player to use— and it should be used—this strategy cannot give the player an edge. All it can do is keep the game a close contest between the player and the house. Maybe the house will have an edge over the player of about one-half percent, give or take, depending on the rules of the casino’s game.

Now, the card counter can keep track of the relationship of high cards (10, jack, queen, king and ace) to low cards (2, 3, 4, 5 and 6), and when there is a higher percentage of high cards to low cards in the deck(s), the player is the favorite over the casino. At this point the player bets more money than normal and tries to sock it to the house.

Dice controllers are a far smaller school of advantage players. While many craps players will set their dice and attempt a soft throw, the overwhelming majority of these “dice controllers” control nothing at all. Even those dice players who have taken expensive lessons fail to beat the house.

Why is that? Is the dice control skill that hard to master? Yes, it is, but that is not the actual rub. With plenty of practice, players can gain this skill. It is harder than card counting but it is achievable.

Most hopeful dice controllers are gamblers through and through. They make bets with such high house edges that no dice control skill can actually overcome them. Even some of the famed dice-control  teachers are notoriously bad bettors. Can they win money over the house in the long run? Truly doubtful, despite their protestations to the contrary.

My mentor, the late Captain of craps, said it thusly: “The smallest house edge bets with the greatest skill can beat the house.”(I paraphrase there.) Pai Gow Poker has become one of my favorite games. Yes, it can be defeated at rare times when the table is full and the advantage player has a big enough bankroll to take on every player at the table. Let me put the brakes on here: I only know two players who can do this, so becoming an advantage Pai Gow Poker player is probably not in the cards for any- one.

Do true advantage players reflect the emotional states of regular casino players? No, just the opposite.

Because the advantage player expects to win, a loss is not just bad, it is truly upsetting. Remember this—these players don’t just hope to win, they have been winning for a good period of time, so losing is a real heartache for them. Their expectation is positive, so when something negative happens it is not in their emotional scheme of things.

Intellectually an advantage player might say, “I know I can lose,” but that would be like the young Mohammad Ali saying the same thing. He doesn’t believe it.

For the regular player and the advantage player, the emotions are totally reversed.

All the best in and out of the casinos!

Frank Scoblete’s website is His books are available on, Barnes and Noble, Kindle, e-books, and at bookstores.

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