How to Beat the Casinos?

(Note:  This column was original published in Gaming Today in early November, 2016)

            If you're reading this, it's either Election Day or shortly thereafter, which means that hopefully we all survived it.  Well, you did.  You'll know I survived it if there is another column from me NEXT week!  I look forward to going to my mailbox and not having 10-12 postcards every day telling me how to vote.  Aside from the name of who NOT to vote for, I don't think I actually learned anything about any of the candidates.  Frequently, the opponent would take some little piece of information, exaggerate it out of proportion and give the mailing a great big title to catch your eye.  Something like "HOW TO BEAT THE CASINOS!"


            Oh wait, that wasn't a political mailing.  That was the hype I recently saw regarding an interview over a new gaming book.  I will not name the book, the author or the interviewer for a variety of reasons.  While the headline of the video implied that the conversation and the book was about how to beat a particular casino game, I never actually heard the author say this in the interview.  He talked about his system and how he wins often and how as a result many other Players in the casino ask about his system.  But, I never actually heard him say you will win in the long run.


            I'm very suspect when people claim that they have a system to beat a game and write a book about it.  This is for a couple of reasons.  The obvious one is that if you can beat a game, there should be more money in beating it than there is in writing a book about it.  If there really is some way to beat a game that most anyone can follow, then the casino is going to do some countermeasures.  A paytable will be lowered so that the system no longer works.  Or, in the most drastic case, the game will be removed.  This won't help you beat the game OR sell books as who is going to buy a book about a game that doesn't exist?


            There are generally two ways a game can get beaten.  The first usually involves counting and a shoe.  Games played out of a shoe are more vulnerable than a single deck game because as the cards are dealt, the composition of the rest of the shoe is no longer the same 'random' as a fresh shoe.  If halfway through a shoe, a Player realizes that all 24 Aces have been dealt, he can forget about getting a Blackjack.  If all the Queens are gone, then wagering on a sidebet like Lucky Ladies would be foolish.  Is counting real and do Players do it?  Absolutely.  But, it's not an easy thing to do and casinos spend a lot of money trying to find counters and ban them.  Also, turning a game into 100.5% from 99.5% doesn't really guarantee a short-term win and even a significant long-term win is not easy to do on a mere 0.5%.


            Single Deck games are not subject to the same randomness issue.  A fresh deck is used for each deal, so each deal is completely random.  The strategies for these games are based on the assumption that the Player has knowledge of only his cards and the cards that are normally dealt face up.  If Players share information (i.e. the values of their cards) with each other, then strategies can shift and probabilities can change and Players might be able to get an advantage.  There are still significant issues with this.  Sharing of information is most definitely frowned upon in the casino.  Technically, it is considered cheating to the casino.  We could argue that point for a bit.  But, your opinion and mine on the subject is meaningless to the casino.


            Now, if a husband and wife, or two friends are sharing their hands to one another all in good fun, the casino is not likely to intervene.  The average Player isn't looking to collude.  But, if they suspect that a group of Players is playing as a team, they may ask you to leave.  Also, unless you are talented at gaming analysis, you're probably not going to know how to alter the strategy when you are sharing information.  Years ago, someone prognosticated that Ultimate Texas Hold'em would fail because Players would share information about their hole cards and turn the tables on the casino.  The example given was that if a Player has a Pair of Queens and his buddies had the other two queens, he wouldn't bet 4x before the Flop as he normally should.  My response was to run the scenario through my program and find out that even in this case the Pair of Queens warranted the 4x wager.  So, if this situation comes up, the Player is less likely to win the hand (vs if any of the queens are still in the deck), but that it DOES NOT change the strategy the Player should use and thus it doesn't change the overall payback of the game, knowing this additional information. 


            I know there are situation where the strategy does change as a result of knowing additional card values.  But the probability of the instance occurring, combined with the impact of holding off on a 4x wager is SO minimal that even if you could play with a computer at your side, I'm not sure the game goes positive.  The strategy for UTH as I drew it up (for a human) is hard enough for a human to play.  For one to try to memorize hundreds if not thousands of minute exception that might lead to a 0.1 or 0.2% Player advantage would be foolish.


            My books (and columns) are not a gimmick telling you how to beat the casinos.  They are a math based analysis of the game that has determined which human playable strategy will provide the Player with the highest possible payback.  This will provide you with the best chance to win in the short run, while minimizing your loss in the long run.  Yes, you read that right.  If you are playing a game with a house advantage, you will lose in the long run.  But, with games paying 98-99%, it is possible to play for a long time on a relatively small bankroll.  The choice is yours.