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Best of Barney Vinson

Gaming Guru

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Ask Barney

11 August 2002

I like to play blackjack, but I can't find a low-stake table.  Why don't the casinos have any $2 tables?
       It's almost impossible to bet less than $5 on the Strip, but you can still find $2 tables in downtown Las Vegas and in some neighborhood casinos.  If you want to stay on the Strip, play during off times (Monday through Thursday, early morning or early afternoon).  If it's quiet, the casino might lower the stakes.  Here's another tip: Take a learner's class at the casino.  At Caesars Palace, the casino sets up a $2 table for its students, and you can play as long as you want.

What if I'm playing at a $5 table and the dealer suddenly raises the minimum bet to $25?
       You'll usually be "grandfathered in," which means you can keep betting $5 while all the new players have to bet $25. 

Can I bet on somebody else's hand?
       You can, but why would you want to?  This practice is called "piggy back" betting, and it's popular in Europe where there are more blackjack players than there are tables.  In Las Vegas, there are plenty of tables to go around, so the idea of betting on somebody else's hand isn't that popular.  If you want to do it, though, go aheadâ€"but get the player's permission first.

How many decks are in a shoe?
       At blackjack, most casinos use six decks of cards.

Kim Martin writes, "I go to Las Vegas two or three times a year.  Do you know where there is a place to play darts?"
       There are quite a few bars in Las Vegas where you can shoot darts.  Certainly not in the casinos.  Otherwise, the court calendars would be filled with lawsuits from people struck by these errant missiles.  Hey, that's an idea. Forget shooting darts.  Let's become lawyers!

Why do some roulette tables have a single 0 while others have a 0 and 00?
       Playing at a single zero table gives the casino a 2.6 percent advantage.  With two zeros on the wheel, the house edge doubles to 5.2 percent.  So you figure it out.  You can find single zero roulette tables in Vegas at the Stratosphere and Monte Carlo.  Other casinos may have single zero wheels, but the minimum bet is usually higher.

FUNNY STORY.  An Asian high roller walked up to a roulette table with two stacks of $25,000 chips -- a million dollars in all.  On his first bet, he won $300,000!  After the dealer paid him, the man shoved 19 $100 chips in front of the dealer, saying something in Chinese which the dealer didn't understand.  The dealer looked at the man questioningly, and the man repeated what he said before. 
The dealer finally asked, "For me?"  The man didn't reply, so the dealer put the 19 $100 chips in his pocket.  "Thank you," the dealer said.
The man sat there for a moment, a grim look on his face, and then shoved 19 more $100 chips in front of the dealer.  Then he screamed in English, "PUT -- MONEY -- ON NUMBER -- TWO!"

How much does the casino pay for slot machines and other gambling equipment?
       Electronic slot machines cost around $5,000, which doesn't include the gaming taxes paid every year on each one.  Dice cost $2.50 a pair, and they're usually changed three times a day.  Playing cards are around $1 a pack, and the casino orders them in 60,000 to 100,000-deck lots.  Gaming chips, made of a plexiglass blend, cost around 45 cents apiece.

When I play keno, I notice the word "aggregate" next to the list of payoffs.  What does that mean?
       It means the total payoff (usually $50,000 a game) is divided proportionately among all the winners.  So if you hit an 8-spot for $50,000 (i.e., pick 8 numbers out of the 20 drawn in the game), and someone else hits a 3-spot for $210, the $210 will be subtracted from your fifty thousand.  Then subtract another one-third for federal taxes, plus a $100 tip for the keno runner and a $50 tip for the ticket writer, and that leaves you with . . . enough to play another game of keno.

What are the odds of hitting an 8-spot keno ticket?
       The odds of catching all 8 numbers on an 8-spot are 230,114 to 1.  How often does somebody hit one of these long shots?  I asked two keno writers this question.  One of them, who had been a keno writer for 23 years, has never seen it happen.  The other, a keno writer for 27 years, said, "More than one, less than five."  One of those who did hit the 8-spot was "so drunk he couldn't stand up," she said, "but did give me a $1,000 tip when he found out he won $25,000."  By the way, the man's winning numbers were 1, 12, 21, 32, 41, 52, 61, and 72.

At craps, can the casino legally change the dice in the middle of a hand?
       Yes, but everybody would scream their heads off.  Of course, that doesn't mean it's never been done.  When Morris Shenker was running the old Dunes Hotel, a New York junket was beating the daylights out of one of the dice tables.  Shenker came downstairs in his bathrobe (he lived right in the hotel), and studied the dice carefully.  Then he dropped them back on the table.  Unfortunately, it wasn't the same pair of dice.  Shenker had switched them with another pair in his pocket! 
       The new dice weren't loaded, or anything like that.  Shenker was just hoping to change the players' luck by putting new dice on the table.   (P.S.  It didn't work.)

(Barney Vinson's new book Ask Barney is filled with hundreds of questions and answers about Las Vegas.  It's available at bookstores everywhere, or from Bonus Books at 1-800-225-3775.)

Barney Vinson

Barney Vinson is one of the most popular and best-selling gaming authors of all time. He is the author of Ask Barney, Las Vegas: Behind the Tables, Casino Secrets, Las Vegas Behind the Tables Part II, and Chip-Wrecked in Las Vegas. His newest book, a novel, is The Vegas Kid.

Books by Barney Vinson:

> More Books By Barney Vinson

Barney Vinson
Barney Vinson is one of the most popular and best-selling gaming authors of all time. He is the author of Ask Barney, Las Vegas: Behind the Tables, Casino Secrets, Las Vegas Behind the Tables Part II, and Chip-Wrecked in Las Vegas. His newest book, a novel, is The Vegas Kid.

Books by Barney Vinson:

> More Books By Barney Vinson