All’s fair in love and war. In the battle between player and casino, the spoils are shared and the odds are no secret. The casino’s profit is represented by the house edge: the margin of money that ends up staying at the table, when all the bets are paid.
It’s no secret that a casino wants to make a profit. It’s a business. Some games – like Craps – give players a good edge. Some games – like the lottery – are a long shot. Play them for fun – not profit.
As with most things in life, there are good players and bad players. This week, we are looking at the crème de la crème of casino players. These are the people that didn’t need to cheat to beat the house.
The Card Counter
These days, every casino on the planet knows about card counting. They’ve even made films about it. However, in the early 1960s, the phrase ‘card counting’ didn’t even exist.
Edward Thorp – a mathematics professor with a masters in physics and a doctorate in mathematics – is the father of card counting and the man who invented the original system.
After a visit to Las Vegas, he became fascinated with the game of Blackjack and convinced himself that there was a way to beat the odds. He was right. First, he taught himself the programming language Fortran. Next, he used the code to program a massive IBM 704 computer to carry out billions of calculations.
The calculations analyzed the game of Blackjack and determined that the probable outcome of a hand was related to the cards remaining in the deck.
Thorp had discovered an edge. In a nutshell: if there were a lot of picture cards in the deck, the player had a 1% to 5% advantage over the house.
Casino bosses were mystified. No one knew what card counting was so they couldn’t figure out how Thorp continued to win. They studied. They watched. They gave up and just asked him to leave.
Thorp went on to make millions on the stock market and was eventually inducted in the Blackjack Hall of Fame.
The Wheel Watcher
Roulette wheels are precision instruments but they are not perfect. This simple fact made Spaniard Garcia-Pelayo an estimated $1.5 million before he called it a day and had been banned by every casino on the planet.
His crime: nothing. All he did was exploit wheel bias by watching and watching and watching and watching. Every roulette wheel has a certain bias. It could be the size of the wheel, the balance, variations in pocket size, or the gears of the mechanism.
Garcia-Pelayo would spend hours staring at a wheel watching 1000s of spins. He even got his kids to help him count. He would analyze the results with a computer to discover the roulette wheel’s hot numbers.
Using this information, he could turn a 5% house edge into a 15% player edge. It worked. Garcia-Pelayo cleaned up in Spain before he was forced to move to Las Vegas where he employed the same modus operandi and made a million.
One casino tried to sue him but the court ruled in his favour saying all that Garcia-Pelayo had done is use ‘ingenuity and computer techniques”.
The Dice Man
Known as ‘the Man with the Golden Arm’ and ‘The Dominator’, Dominic LoRiggio is the perfect partner for a game of Craps at the casino. LoRiggio spent years learning ‘controlled shooting’ and can throw dice to order.
LoRiggio’s skilled dice rolling technique was not illegal. It just took a lot of practise. He would toss the dice so they stayed together in the air and took a gentle bounce off the back cushion.
Armed with his arm, LoRiggio hit the strip and cleaned up. These days, casinos make shooters throw the dice in different ways to prevent another dominator cleaning up.
The Bonus Better
With so many online casinos plying for your trade, it’s not surprising that the cautious better who’s prepared to play by the bonus rules, can bank a profit. In January, 2015, Andrew Napier bought his dream car – an Aston Martin Vantage – thanks to money he had made playing at a variety of online gaming sites.
There’s no technique here. It was just a simple a case of taking your time, playing smart, and being very patient. Napier was disciplined enough to stick to the rules and win.
Have you got what it takes to play and win? These are just smart people who stuck to the house rules and cleaned up. If you can think of an angle, you could have an edge! Play safe. Play sensible and good luck.