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Rec.Gambling General Gambling Questions FAQ:

Archive-name: gambling-faq/general
URL: http://www.conjelco.com/faq/general.html

General Frequently Asked Questions

This is the General section of the rec.gambling Frequently Asked Questions
(FAQ) list.

Changes or additions to this section of the FAQ should be submitted to:

Page last modified: 12-29-94

I wish to thank Frank Irwin for helping to compile much of the information that
appears in this list. I also wish to thank those who contributed information,
as well as those who spent countless hours running blackjack simulations in
order to help answer many of these questions.

Table of Contents

Section S: Spare us!
S1 Martingale betting systems -- just double your bet until you win
S2 The Inevitable Monty Hall
S3 How much would you pay to play this game?

Section G: General Gambling Topics
G1 What casino game has the best odds?
G2 How do you get comps?
G3 What comps are available?
G4 How do I get a casino credit line?
G5 How are "markers" used?
G6 Where can I get casino quality chips?
G7 Are chip colors standardized?
G8 What are matchplay chips
G9 What are "pit critters"?


Section S: Spare us!

These questions come up occasionally, causing a lot of heated discussions and
wasted bandwidth. The rec.gambling regulars are pretty sick of seeing these
questions, and they would appreciate it if you just didn't ask them. If you do
ask, we'll probably just say "see the FAQ list".

Q:S1 Martingale betting systems -- just double your bet until you win
A:S1 (Frank Irwin, Steve Jacobs)

From: "The Eudaemonic Pie" by Thomas A. Bass

     The word comes from the French expression "porter les chausses a la
     martingale," which means "to wear one's pants like the natives of
     Martigue," a village in Provence where trousers are fastened at the
     rear. The expression implies that this style of dress and method of
     betting are equally ridiculous.

The betting scheme merely states that you would want to double your bet after
each loss. Beginning with one unit, you would bet two units if you lost the
first. Then four, then eight, until you win a bet. You would then revert to a
one unit bet. The theory is that with each win you will win all that you lost
since the last win, plus one unit. The reality is that you will quickly come to
a betting ceiling, governed by either your bankroll or the house limit, above
which you may not increase your bet. After 9 straight losses (it's happened to
me) you would be betting 512 units.

In practice, a lot of people get sucked into betting this way because it gives
the illusion of really working. This is because most of the time, you will end
a string of bets with a win. However, on those rare occasions when you do lose,
you will lose a lot of money. So, the end result is that you win a small amount
almost always, but when you lose you will lose more than all of your little
wins combined.

The important point to realize is that most games simply cannot be beat in the
long run. In games such as craps, roulette, and non-progressive slot machines,
it is mathematically impossible to gain an advantage over the house.

Q:S2 The Inevitable Monty Hall
A:S2 (Steve Jacobs)

You are a contestant on "Let's Make A Deal", and Monty Hall offers you your
choice of three doors. One door has a prize, and the other two doors are empty.
Monty knows in advance where the prize is, and no matter which door you pick,
Monty will open one of the other doors to show you that it is empty. Monty then
offers to allow you to trade your door for the other unopened door. What should
you do?

My best advice is to grab Monty around the neck and strangle him :-)

The short answer is that you should switch doors, because it increases your
chance of winning from 1/3 to 2/3. The odds are not 50/50, because the
probability that the prize is behind the door you originally picked is 1/3, and
this probability never changes until the prize is revealed. This can be seen by
considering what happens if you decide to *never* switch doors -- in this case
you will win one time in three, since you will win only if your original pick
is correct. So, if you *always* switch you will win 2/3 of the time, since you
win whenever your original pick was wrong. Since Monty can (and will) always
show an empty door, it is as if he is saying "you can keep your door, or you
can trade it for BOTH of the other doors, and to confuse you I will show you
that one of the other doors is empty, even though you already knew that".

Some of you won't believe that this is correct. You will say "after Monty opens
a door, there are only two choices so you have an equal chance of winning
whether you switch or not". This is wrong. The fact that there are only two
choices does NOT imply that the two choices have equal probability. Still not
convinced? Suppose there are 100 doors, and only one prize. You pick a door,
and Monty shows you 98 empty doors (he can always do this, since he knows where
the prize is), and offers to let you switch. The chance that your original pick
was right is 1/100. If you never switch, you will almost always lose.
Therefore, if you always switch you will almost always win.

Not convinced? Try it yourself, but try playing the role of Monty in order to
help see how it works. Don't ask rec.gambling, because we'll know you didn't
really try it yourself.

The confusion caused by this question shows that probability problems often go
against human intuition. This question appeared (several times) in the "Ask
Marilyn" column of the "Parade" insert that appears in many Sunday newspapers
in the United States. Many people with Ph.D.'s in mathematics claimed in wild
disbelief that Marilyn's answer [2/3] was wrong, and that it was a sad
commentary on the American education system. Indeed it is, because the
mathematicians were wrong. [Note: there has been some discussion as to whether
Marilyn phrased the question correctly and/or unambigously in her column. This
report is based on (possibly flawed) memory. Slight changes in the wording of
the question can result in much different answers, which obviously adds to the
confusion. --SRJ]

Q:S3 How much would you pay to play this game?
A:S3 (John P. Nelson)

     I flip a coin until it comes up tails. If it comes up tails the first
     time, you get $2; if the second, $4; if the third time, $8. That is,
     if I flip the coin N times, you get 2^N bucks. [How much would you
     pay to play this game?]

The problem is, of course, that the "expected value" of this game is an
infinite series that does not converge: The "expected" win appears to be
infinite. However, in any REAL implementation of this game, there would have to
be an upper limit to your liability: It would be unreasonable to expect you to
really pay off a win of trillions of dollars.

If you put an upper limit on the number of flips, then the expected value of
the game converges, and it is quite easy to calculate the "break even" wager.
If we limit the game to N flips, and you pay me $2^M if tails comes up on the
M'th flip and if N flips occur with no tails, you pay me 2^(N+1), then the
expected value of each game is simply N+2. (A variation on the rules: If you
pay me 0 if N flips occur with no tails, then the expected value of the game is

This is fairly easy to calculate: On each independent trial, the chance of a
tails is 1/2. Clearly, the chance of a tails on the second trial is 1/4 (1/2
chance of heads on the first trial, times 1/2 chance of tails on the second
trial). The odds of a tail occurring on the Nth flip is 1/(2^N). The payoff at
that point is 2^N. So we have the series:

1/2 * payoff-1flip + 1/4 * payoff-2flip + 1/8 * payoff-3flip


  $2     $4     $8      $(2^N)
  --  +  --  +  -- ...  ------
   2      4      8      $(2^N).

Given a maximum of N flips, the expected win is 1+1+1..., N times. Given a $0
payoff on N heads in a row, that is the total expected win: N. If you pay off
2^(N+1) after N tails, the final term is

    ----------  = 2

Which explains where the +2 in (N+2) comes from.

Section G: General Gambling Topics


Q:G1 What casino game has the best odds?
A:G1 (Steve Jacobs)

In general, blackjack is the most favorable game in the casino. The house edge
for blackjack ranges from about 0.15% to 0.45%, depending on the house rules
and number of decks. Occasionally, single deck games can be found which give a
slight edge to the player. The house edge for other casino games is listed
below. In games involving skill, these numbers assume that an optimal betting
and playing strategy is used. Note that many forms of video poker are favorable
to the player, although these machines are often difficult to find.

     Video Poker (Jacks or better): 0.5% to -0.7%
     Video Poker (Deuces Wild): 4% to -1.7%
     Progressive Video Poker ("8/5" payoffs): 2.2% to -2%
     Craps line bets with single odds: 0.8%
     Craps line bets with double odds: 0.6%
     Baccarat "bank" bet: 1.06%
     Baccarat "player" bet: 1.24%
     Red Dog: 2.8%
     Roulette, double zero wheel: 5.26%
     Roulette, single zero wheel (rare): 2.7%
     Keno (estimate): 20% to 25%
     State Lottery: 50% or more


Q:G2 How do you get comps?
A:G2 (Frank Irwin, Michael Hall, Dave Everett)

The prerequisite for getting comped is to let the floormen/pit boss know how
much you are betting. You can do this in two ways:

In Nevada, tell the floorman that you'd like to be rated, as you sit down to
the table. If your action (the amount you bet) is high enough, he will fill out
a rating slip on you. Sometimes, the floorman will approach you and ask you if
you want to be rated.

In many casinos, you give the floorman a card, much like a credit card, as you
approach the table. He will either just fill out a rating slip, as in Vegas, or
he will swipe the card through a reader. When you leave, ask for your card

The floormen will keep track of your buy-in, your initial bet, your average
bet, and how much you leave the table with. If you decide to try to decrease
the amount they see you leave with by squirreling chips away, be sure to do it
well. Those dealers are much more aware than they let on.

If there is only one person at the table getting green chips, and you are that
person, the floormen will know how many you've squirreled away by subtracting
what's in the tray from what they started with, and the difference is what you
have. Similarly, if there are only two players getting green chips, and the
other one has all his on the table, they can figure out what you have. And they
do. The floormen are better at this than they let on.

The amount of your comp worth is generally half of your average bet per hour.
In most Las Vegas casinos (except places such as the Mirage and Caesars) you
are expected to play for 4 hours/day at an average $25 bet to qualify for a
room. A sample comp chart, from the Stardust Casino, follows.

[The amount of the comp is worth some constant fraction times the average bet
per hour, that constant depends upon the casino management's evaluation of
their advantage per decision, and the number of decisions per hour. Half is
high. A quarter is more likely for blackjack out of a shoe. --Dave Everett]

Q:G3 What comps are available?
A:G3 (Frank Irwin)

The following is a listing of the comp schedule for the Stardust Casino in Las
Vegas, Nevada. This can be considered typical for a Las Vegas casino (casinos
such as the Mirage or Caesars may require more action).

  Player Line or    Average     Hours       Complimentaries
   Front Money        Bet       Played         Extended

                        $25       4         Comp. Room
                        $50       4         Comp. Room,
                                            Limited F & B

  $5,000                $75       4         Room, Food
                                            & Beverage
                       $100       4         RFB & $150
                                            Airfare Reimburse

  $10,000              $125       4         RFB & $250
                                            Airfare Reimburse
                       $150       4         RFB & $400
                                            Airfare Reimburse
                       $175       4         RFB & $575
                                            Airfare Reimburse
                       $200       4         RFB & $750
                                            Airfare Reimburse

  $20,000              $250       4         RFB & $1000
                                            Airfare Reimburse
                       $300       4         RFB & $1200
                                            Airfare Reimburse
                       $400       4         RFB & $1500
                                            Airfare Reimburse
                       $500       4         RFB & $1500
                                            Airfare Reimburse


  A.  These requirements are based on four hours play per day.  Excess playing
      time reduces the average bet requirement and higher average bets reduce
      the playing time requirement.  For Example:  A $200 bet for 2 hours is
      equal to a $100 bet for 4 hours.

  B.  Airfare reimbursements are based on a minimum of 12 hours playing time.

  C.  Complimentary food and beverage are to include the player and one guest.

  D.  Size of bet in dice is the sum of all flat, place, proposition, field,
      come and buy bets.

  E.  Excessive RFB usage reduces airfare reimbursement amounts.

  F.  Please let our friendly floor staff know who you are when you initiate
      play at any table.


Q:G4 How do I get a casino credit line?
A:G4 (Frank Irwin)

This is easy. Just call up one of the casinos and ask for a casino host. Tell
him that you would like to set up a line of credit. Either he'll ask you some
questions, or send you to someone who will. They just take down your name,
address, phone, place of business, what you do, and a bank account number. You
can ask for a particular credit line, but what they give you will depend on how
much you have in your account. If you have a savings account that contains more
than your checking account, give them that number.

Q:G5 How are "markers" used?
A:G5 (Frank Irwin, Dave Everett)

At the beginning of your first trip to a casino after establishing credit, you
will be required to go to the cage to sign some papers and let them copy your
driver's license. You will also indicate how you wish to pay for any
outstanding markers upon your departure. If it's your first trip, they may want
you to settle before you leave. Later, you may be able to work our some sort of
payment plan.

When you walk up to a table, ask the floorman for a marker. He'll get your name
and go away for a little while. When he comes back, he'll give you a bank check
to sign. This is a counter check, which is a form of bank draft, and has the
legal force of a regular check. They may take money out of your account on this
check. Additionally, these markers may require manual intervention and
attention when presented to your bank for processing. If you don't want your
banker to know where your money is going, don't leave behind a marker; pay it
up with a regular bank check.

If you win at the table (and don't squirrel chips away :-), the floorman may
ask you to buy back your marker. This is exactly what you do; you give the
dealer chips equal to your marker, and the floorman gives you your bank check.
In many casinos, markers are not redeemed at the table, but the player must go
to the cashier's cage to buy back the marker. In order for you to establish a
credit line, Atlantic City casinos commonly have you sign a statement in which
you agree, more or less, not to "walk" with chips when you owe them money for a
marker. This also means that you are not supposed to convert chips to cash
while they hold your marker. This is usually not interpreted as being on a
daily basis, but rather on a trip basis. That is, if you've signed markers for
$1000, and have 7 black chips in your possession, they do not want you to cash
the 7 chips, and walk with their $700 while you owe them $1000. They want you
to turn in the chips, and owe them $300.

Q:G6 Where can I get casino quality chips?
A:G6 (Michael Hall)

  ================= ============== ============== ============== =============
  The Poker Store    Stanton, CA   (714) 895-3783  ?               $55/100
  Paul Son           Las Vegas, NV (702) 384-2425  $.35/each       $.40/each
     "               ???, NJ       (609) 348-8771  $.35/each       $.40/each
     "               Reno, NV      (702) 786-2465  $35/100         $40/100
  Bud Jones Company  Las Vegas, NV (702) 876-2782  ?       1 color:$25/100
     "                "                            ?       2 color:$40/100
  Gambler's General  Las Vegas, NV (800) 322-CHIP  ?               $40/100

Note that the chip prices above are for CASINO QUALITY, which means they're
heavy clay and thus rather expensive. The suppliers also have lighter clay
chips and cheap-o plastic chips.

One reason you might want personalized chips, other than for vanity's sake, is
to have dollar amounts put on them. Several places said they can put your
initials on one side and the dollar amount on the other, which is kind of neat.
For their unpersonalized chips, you had a choice of a starburst or a horseshoe
insignia. Paulson was the most flexible, since they'd let you order any
quantity (not just multiples of 100) with no minimum order. All of the
suppliers had a wide variety of colors. Bud Jones Company had solid one color
chips as well as the two colored chips that many casinos use.

Q:G7 Are chip colors standardized?
A:G7 (Dave "4" Everett)

Yes and no.

In the United States, almost all casinos use red for $5 chips,green for $25,
and black for $100. In Las Vegas, other denomination chips can be any color
whatsoever, though $1 chips are generally white or blue.

In Atlantic City, they use the Munsel Color Code system, and is a matter of
regulation. In addition the "inserts" or edge marks used by each casino must be
different in color(s) than those used by all other A.C. casinos for the same

  chip value              color           Notes
  $0.50                   mustard         Never issued.
  $1                      white
  $2.50                   pink            Used for paying blackjacks
  $5                      red
  $20                     yellow
  $25                     green
  $100                    black
  $500                    purple
  $1000                   orange          larger diameter than those above
  $5000                   gray            same diameter as orange chips

Foxwoods and Turning Stone use the same scheme, though neither uses yellow.

Q:G8 What are matchplay chips
A:G8 (Chuck Weinstock, Dave Everett)

A matchplay chip is a non-negotiable chip, usually given by the casino to
induce play at their tables. The chips are good at any table game, but only for
even money bets. Thus you can bet them on craps (line bets), blackjack,
roulette (odd/even, black/red), but not, for instance, the field at craps. When
you play a matchplay chip you must match it with a chip of your own (hence the
name). For the Bally offer I understand the chips have a value of $5.00, so you
must play each one with $5.00 of your own money.

If you lose the bet, you lose your $5.00 and the matchplay chip. If you win
your bet you win $5.00 on your $5.00 and $5.00 (real money) on the matchplay
chip. However, even if you win they take the matchplay chip. (I'm not sure if
this is universal, but it certainly is typical.) I'm not sure how they pay off
Blackjack (which pays 3-2). [ They always take your matchplay chip, win or
lose. Blackjack pays even money on the matchplay chip. - FAI ] [Most casinos
don't take the match play chips on pushes and do pay even money on the match
play portion of blackjacks. Some casinos (e.g. Four Queens) pay 3:2 on the
match play portion of blackjacks. -- Michael Hall]

If you are playing in an even expectation game, you would expect to win half of
your bets. Thus the $200 in matchplay has an expected value of around $100. Of
course this is only an expectation, and you could win or lose much more than

There are also such things as match play coupons. They work just like match
play chips, but they are coupons, printed on paper. It is typical for match
play chips and/or coupons not to be allowed on games where the payout odds are
other than 1:1. In most casinos, a bet consisting of a $5 regular chip and a $5
match play chip will result, if it wins, with a payout of $10 and forfeiture of
the match play chip. If a blackjack occurs, the payout will generally be $7.50
for the regular chip and $5 (even money) for the match play chip, for a total
of $12.50, not $15. At some casinos, they _do_ pay that blackjack as though it
were a $10 bet, and it gets $15.

Another aspect of match play chips/coupons is whether their face value counts
toward meeting the table minimum. At some casinos it does, and at some it does
not. At some casinos, a $5 regular chip and a $5 match play coupon played
together will be considered a $10 bet and will qualify for play at a $10
minimum table. At other casinos, the match play value must be played in
addition to the table minimum in regular chips.

Q:G9 What are "pit critters"?
A:G9 (Steve Jacobs)

Casino personnel who are responsible for supervising the games and dealers are
often "affectionately" referred to in rec.gambling as "pit critters". The
various species of pit critters are described below:

     the lowest level of pit critter, and the most likely to be encountered by
     The floorman is usually responsible for only a few tables.

pit boss
     the next level of pit critter, responsible for several floormen and their
     This pit critter supervises one "pit" in the casino.

shift supervisor
     the head pit boss during a particular shift.

casino manager
     the mother of all pit critters [and usually the owner's son. -- Blair


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