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Getting In The Games

The difference between “passive” and “active” games, and what they reveal about you

By Frank Scoblete


Is an introspective person more likely to play the shoe games at blackjack, or prefer the spinning ball of roulette? Is the outgoing person more likely to play craps and large table baccarat?


There are three types of casino games: passive ones, where the player is merely a spectator waiting for the results to be shown; active ones, where the player’s decisions determine the outcome; and passive/active games, which have some characteristics of both.

In blackjack’s four, six or eight-deck shoe games, the dealer handles the cards, and the players make hand signals to indicate whether they want to hit, stand, double down or split. The player then wins, loses or pushes (ties). While the anticipation of seeing the results is exciting, the player is quite passive as the decisions are made.

The roulette dealer spins the ball; around and around it goes until it lands in a pocket. The player receives the decision at this time. Again, the only role the player has is to watch and wait, and hope to win. The engagement is strictly emotional – like loving a woman from afar.

However, the second type of game actively engages players in a physical, hands-on way, requiring them to engage in the actual handling of the elements of the game. Two such active games are baccarat and craps.

If you play traditional “large table” baccarat, as opposed to mini-baccarat, the players get to deal the cards. Going counter-clockwise around the table, the player who deals the cards is playing for the “bank” hand, while another player is responsible for the “player” hand. However, the “banker” deals the cards for both “player” and “banker” hands.

When you play this style of baccarat, the other players will often erroneously think that you have some control over which cards come out. You’re getting a real show from them when they react with cheers or moans, or give you the “eye” as many superstitious players will do.  Still, you do get a thrill by essentially controlling the flow of the game when you deal. Although you have no choice in what cards come out, dealing the game adds an element of excitement that is largely missing from the passive games.

Sadly, there is no way to get the edge at baccarat through card counting and the dealer is merely acting as a human RNG in distributing the cards. Still, it’s active fun!

Craps is perhaps the most active of games, at least in terms of player participation and the reactions to what a fellow player is doing. The casino will pass the dice to the shooter and metaphorically say, “Take those dice buster, shoot them, and try to beat us!”

The player shooting the dice has a sense that his throw determines everything – and it does, even though each throw represents a random result, and the overwhelming majority of shooters have no actual control over what specific numbers come up.

Unless the shooter sevens-out, ending his roll, he keeps the dice. The two greatest hands that I know about are the 154 numbers rolled by Pat DeMauro and the Captain’s 147 numbers. (You can read about these rolls at

In contrast to large table baccarat, craps players who’ve developed the skill to control the dice can actually get an edge at the game. This is called “dice control” or “precision shooting.” These advantage players are changing how those dice react, in terms of what numbers come up or don’t come up. This influence is not perfect, but statistically, it can change the game to favor the player.

The third type of casino table game are moderately active games that can be called active/passive, such as single-deck blackjack, Pai Gow poker and some carnival games where the players get to hold their own cards and make their wagering decisions while doing so. These players aren’t dealing or controlling the flow of the game, but they do get to handle their own cards.

Machines can be divided into two basic types. Your typical, traditional slot machines are totally passive. The players play their credits but have nothing to do other than pressing a “play” button, which prompts the machine to reveal a decision. Video poker players, however, have to analyze the cards that are shown and make strategic decisions by pressing buttons indicating which cards to hold and which to discard. The players’ decisions have real effects on the game. There is far more engagement here. So, video poker falls within the passive/active category, in my estimation.

So which games should you play? Obviously, this is a personal choice. I love the games where you get to actively participate, but I also enjoy blackjack and Pai Gow poker, two games where a player can get a slight edge if he knows “advantage” methods of play.

A psychologist might have an interesting study in trying to ascertain what types of personalities are drawn to which types of games. Is an introspective person more likely to play the shoe games at blackjack, or prefer the spinning ball of roulette? Is the outgoing person more likely to play craps and large table baccarat? Are there other individuals who enjoy playing all types of games?

I guess we’ll never know, but in my experience there are differences in the types of people who play the three types of games. I’m just waiting for a budding PhD in psychology to interview me about them.

Frank Scoblete’s newest books are Slots Conquest: How to Beat the Slot Machines, which features advantage-play slots; Casino Craps: Shoot to Win, which comes with a DVD showing unedited controlled throws. Cutting Edge Craps: Advanced Strategies for Serious Players and Beat Blackjack Now are all available from, at your favorite bookstore, or by mail-order by calling 1-800-944-0406. You can also call that number for a free brochure.

Getting In The Games.

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