by Henry Tamburin
Most players know that the casino has the math on its side when they gamble. So they focus on cutting the casino’s edge to the bare minimum by learning correct playing and betting strategies. That’s very important, but there is one lesser-known, equally important variable that you need to pay attention to—the speed of the game, or the number of decisions per hour played.
Casinos want fast games where there are lots of hands dealt, dice thrown and reels spun per hour, because every time you make a bet, your money is being exposed to the house edge. The faster you play, the more shots the casino has at your bankroll. So it makes sense that if you slow down and reduce your bets per hour, you can also reduce the exposure of your money to the house edge. Consequently your bankroll will last longer, and you will lose less money overall.
Most players compare the merits of one casino game to another by only comparing the house edge. But that can be misleading. For example, roulette and Caribbean stud have the same 5.3-percent house edge, hence it would seem that a player would suffer the same monetary loss regardless of which game he played. Wrong. The Caribbean stud player would lose, on average, about 30 percent more money per hour of play, because the game plays faster. At a typical crowded roulette table, a player will experience about 30 spins or decisions per hour, whereas at a crowded Caribbean stud table the number of decisions per hour is about 40. If both players bet $10 per decision, the roulette player stands to lose $16 per hour on average ($10 x 30 x 5.3%), whereas the Caribbean stud player stands to lose $21 per hour, or $5 more. That’s a big difference for every hour played.
Casinos understand that speed is in their favor, and therefore usually do whatever possible to speed up their games. One obvious way is to train their table dealers to deal lightning fast. But they’ve also gone high tech to speed things up in an unobtrusive manner. For example, it’s fairly common nowadays to see blackjack dealers dealing the cards from automatic continuous shuffling machines (known as CSMs). With this device the discards are placed back into the CSM, after every round or so, where they are randomly shuffled with the four or five decks in the machine. Meanwhile the dealer continues to deal the cards. That is, there is no need for the dealer to pause the game in order to shuffle. Casinos can pump out about 20 percent more hands dealt per hour using a CSM compared to a hand-dealt game, or one that uses a standard automatic shuffler. That 20 percent more hands per hour translates to faster games in which players stand to lose more.
Slot players can play incredibly fast since the invention of the bill acceptor and credit meter. You no longer have to deposit coins one at a time into a machine (a slow process). Instead you can quickly insert a bill into the acceptor, and if you are like most slot players, start pounding away on the credit and spin buttons to the tune of 1,000 or more spins per hour (yikes). The new coinless slots eliminate hopper fills and lugging coin buckets to the cashier (decreasing your downtime), which allows you to average even more spins per hour.
I implore you to s-l-o-w down when you play, because speed will kill your bankroll. But I’m a realist and know that it’s hard for most casino players to do this. So to help, I’ve prepared some tips.
Don’t play heads up or one-on-one against the dealer, which makes your playing decisions in the blink of an eye. Sit at crowded tables with six (or seven) spots filled instead, and take your time making your playing decisions.
Don’t play on any table that uses a CSM. They are good for the casino, but bad for you.
If you have a choice between a manually shuffled single-deck game versus a six- or eight-deck game dealt from a dealing shoe, opt for the former. This way, the dealer must stop and shuffle more often (which slows down the game). However do not play those single-deck 21 games that only pay 6-to-5 on blackjacks. (This has nothing to do with speed; the lousy payoff for a blackjack hand on this game makes it a rip-off.)
Use the “five-count” method explained by Frank Scoblete in his craps books. This method determines which shooter to bet on. When you use it, you won’t be betting on every shooter (only 50 percent on average), which will slow down your game, making your bankroll last longer.
Mini-baccarat is a fun and an easy game to play with a low house edge. But it’s also a very fast game; it’s not unheard of to have 150–200 hands dealt per hour of play. Here’s a simple playing technique to slow down your game and also help you take advantage of streaks that may occur: Only bet on the bank hand after it wins. (This will decrease the number of bets you make per hour by about half.)
Games Based on Poker
Given a choice between playing Let It Ride, Three Card Poker, Caribbean stud or pai gow poker, opt for the latter. It’s a slow moving and deliberate game with frequent ties, which results in a much slower game overall.
Here’s some helpful advice from the Frugal Princess (Angela Sparks, co-author More Frugal Gambling) about slowing down when you play the machines. Pull the handle rather than hit the spin button. Cash out more frequently and feed coins rather than using the bill acceptor or playing on credits. Change machines frequently, and choose games with long bonusing rounds (Scrabble, Word Jumble, Monopoly), since you aren’t risking money while you watch and play the bonus game. If you’re playing with a partner, take turns playing while he or she watches.
If you’re a table player, here’s another inducement to play slower—you will earn more comps for less risk. But that’s a topic for another day. So until then, be like that tortoise that beat the hare, and take it slow and steady when you play.
Dr. Henry Tamburin is a casino gambling expert and teacher of “smart gambling” to players everywhere. For details on his two-day Golden Touch Blackjack course featuring “Speed Count” call 866/WIN-BJ21. To order copies of his books and tapes at a 30-percent discount, visit www.smartgaming.com. To receive a free subscription to his Blackjack Insider Newsletter, visit www.bjinsider.com. For a free copy of his Casino Gambling catalog, call 888/353-3234.
SLOW DOWN YOUR PLAY TO PROTECT YOUR BANKROLL.