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The Square Position

You can lead players to the logic, but you can't make them drink

The Square Position

In a pitchy Southern drawl:

If you’ve ever split 10s in blackjack because, and I quote, “The name of this game is Twenty-One, not Twenty,” you might be a square… If you shoot craps by dropping both dice on the table like you’re taking your turn in Monopoly, you might be a square… And if you think Omaha Hi-Lo Poker is a lewd act among three consenting Nebraskans, you might be a square.

The world of table games, like all worlds inhabited by humans, is cohabitated by superstition and silliness. Not to mention stupidity. Oh, what gamblers dare do! What gamblers may do! What gamblers daily do, not knowing what they do!

Or why they do it, right, Mr. Shakespeare? (Or Mr. Foxworthy, for that matter.)

 Speaking of do, as in without any further ado, here are the top myths, fallacies, fables and goochers that somehow, someway, manage to endure in this age of enlightenment.

Brooks Was Here

In baseball, third base is a critical position. You have to guard the line as well as the hole, charge in on bunts and drift back on pops, cover the bag and cut off throws. From Robinson to Schmidt, Brett to Boggs, the men manning the hot corner made all the difference between winning and losing.

In blackjack, eh, not so much.

 Many gamblers believe if everyone at the table follows “the book,” everyone else at the table is more likely to win. Sounds sound, but it’s not. Dopey decisions only hurt the actual dope. Sure, you can cherry-pick examples when some nudnik took a card he shouldn’t, causing the dealer to pull a seven-card 21 out of his you-know-what. But the opposite is equally as likely, where you benefit from his blunder. As the law of large numbers says, it all evens out in the end.

So Was Red

Had a girlfriend once who was convinced she could beat roulette, in part because she had never not beaten it. The secret to her success? 1. Find an anomalous trend already in progress; 2. Bet against it continuing; and 3. Double up to catch up. When she saw, for example, red had hit five times in a row, she would bet $50 on black.

 Lose the first $50? Bet $100. Red redux? Bet $200. Again? Bet $400. Again? Bet $800. Again? What, me worry? Bet $1,600.

 She argued—oh, how she argued and argued and argued—the odds against one color coming up on 10 consecutive spins were astronomical. Well, they’re actually not, unless you’re talking about green. Which she wasn’t. In double-zero roulette, red or black will hit 10 spins in a row once every 833 sequences. But the chances of it happening once the streak is already at five, her starting point, is 42 to 1.

 Forty-two to one. Those were the same odds Buster Douglas got against Mike Tyson, and we know how that turned out. All betting systems work until they don’t, and this one was designed to accumulate a series of small wins, followed by one galactically large loss. And true to form, that’s exactly what happened on a New Year’s Eve in Las Vegas, and—also true to form—that’s exactly what prompted maybe the most ill-timed I-told-you-so in relationship history.

Blame It On The Sh-Sh-Sh-Sh-Shuffler

You’ve probably never heard of “Dealer Bluff,” unless you are one of its creators (guilty), or you are a frequent visitor to Thunder Valley Casino Resort near Sacramento. The game uses a camera in the shuffler to read the dealer’s cards, and make a bet that players must respond to, either by folding, calling or raising. When the dealer bets low, he usually has a weak hand; conversely, when he bets high, he usually has a strong hand.

 Of course, with “bluff” in the title, the game isn’t completely honest. The dealer will randomly represent strength when weak and represent weakness when strong. In other words, it’s like regular poker.

 And in other, other words, it’s like New Coke or the Edsel. A commercial flop. Save for Thunder Valley, every casino that tried Dealer Bluff yanked it. Players felt the game—and its accessory before the fact, the shuffler—were cheating them. They figured if the shuffler could read the dealer’s hand (which it can and does), it must be able to read their hands (which it can but doesn’t) and then manipulate them into making bad decisions (which it could but doesn’t need to).

Gaffing a card shuffler in favor of the casino is the very definition of superfluous. Every table game already has a built-in mathematical advantage. Sometimes it’s big and sometimes it’s small, but it’s always there to ensure, barring any shenanigans, the house always wins.

Alrighty then. Case closed. The defense rests. Game, set and match. Final score: Logic 3, Hunches 0.

 Of course, come to think of it, if players truly played by the book, they wouldn’t play at all. Hmmm. Then we would have to go out and get real jobs.

Say, tell you what. How about we just keep this our little secret, huh?

Roger Snow is a senior vice president with Light & Wonder. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Light & Wonder or its affiliates.

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