Two questions on different games arrived in my email box one mid-August day, linked by a common theme: “Is this really a way to win?” A slot player and a craps player had been told of ways to beat the house edge, and each wanted to know if it was really true.
Let’s take the slot question first. Slots are the most popular games in modern casinos, and I get more questions about slots than any other game.
The initial question was whether it was possible to chart slot patterns and know when the bonuses were coming. I replied that it wasn’t, but I was curious. I asked for more detail on where the player heard that would work.
“I was playing video slots, kind of jumping between games,” she wrote. “I played a little Zorro, a little Queen of the Nile, some Jackpot Block Party. You know how it goes. I play until I go through one of those stretches where I don’t have any real winners. None that are bigger than my bet, anway.
“While I was playing the Block Party, I noticed this man just standing and watching. There was another Block Party a couple of machines down, and he was kind of walking back and forth, watching me and the other player. It started to feel a little creepy. So I finally asked him why he was staring at me.
“He looked a little surprised. He said, “I’m sorry, I’m not staring at you. I’m staring at the screen. I’m trying to chart the pattern before the bonuses turn up.
“Is that even possible? Would it even help?”
The short answer is no, it’s not possible. Video slots, just like the reel spinners, have results determined by a random number generator, and results are as random as humans can program a computer to be. Nothing in the universe is perfectly random, but RNGs are awfully close. There are no discernable patterns.
Would it help if you could spot a pattern leading up to a bonus event? Sure. You could make minimum bets until you saw the right sequence of spins, then have a max bet on the line for the bonus round. But the next player to make a long-term profit with such a method would be the first.
On to the craps question. The reader wanted to know about dice control, such as the Golden Touch method taught by Frank Scoblete.
“My brother-in-law practices craps all the time,” he wrote. “He drives my sister nuts. His hobby isn’t woodworking or fishing or sports. Whenever he has spare time, he throws dice into this box. He tries to go as long as he can without rolling a 7.
“If I accept the idea that you can control the dice, can you really make money by rolling fewer 7s?”
For random rollers, 7s turn up an average of once per 6 rolls. There are 36 possible combinations of two six-sided dice, and six of them total 7. Dice controllers attempt to depress the frequency of loser 7s.
At about one 7 per 6.3 rolls, the player has an edge on pass and come bets. Dr. Don Catlin, a retired math and statistics professor at the University of Massachusetts, calculated that on place bets on 6 and 8, the edge swings to the player when the frequency of 7s is depressed to one per 6.1428 rolls.
All that assumes the brother-in-law can depress the frequency of 7s to those points. Here’s hoping his practice pays off.
Gambling author and columnist John Grochowski’s weekly newspaper column began at the Chicago Sun-Times and is now syndicated nationally. He also regularly makes TV and radio appearances about gambling. His column appears weekly.