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One Step Ahead

Sophisticated Gamblers Use Legal Techniques to Gain Small Advantages at Casino Games
Michael Konik
From the Print Edition:
Ron Perelman, Spring 95

"Let me show you something," Steve Forte says. "Go ahead, shuffle the cards."

He's sitting on the opposite side of a marble coffee table, in a hotel room 30 stories above the Strip in Las Vegas. He watches as the plastic-wrap seal is broken on a fresh pack of Bee playing cards, the brand used at dozens of casinos around the world.

"Here's what you do," Forte says. "Give them a good riffle, then cut. Then riffle again. Then cut. Then a final riffle and cut."

As directed, the cards are mixed. "Great. You've basically executed the identical shuffle used in some of the biggest casinos in
Las Vegas, the ones that take the largest bets in the world. You would think they'd go to great lengths to thoroughly mix their cards, to achieve true randomness, right?"

After a nod of agreement, Forte continues. "Deal me a few hands of 21," Forte says, pointing to the coffee table. "I'll bet an imaginary $25 a hand. Deal yourself a hand, too. And don't let me see your hole card. You're the House."

Dealing four hands, Forte "loses" three out of four hands to the House's 19. "Good. This worked out really well," he says, smiling. "It's not always this easy."

"It just so happens that the next card off the deck, if I am not mistaken, is going to be the ace of spades. Then, six cards later, we're going to see the ace of hearts. So I'll give you some decent play on those spots, like $500 a hand."

The cards are dealt. Forte's aces appear exactly as predicted. "Getting an ace as your first card in 21 gives you 50 percent advantage over the House," he explains. "It doesn't get much stronger than that."

Forte hasn't touched the cards. He allowed me to shuffle and cut the deck, and I'm certain the cards are not marked. It's like being a first-time visitor to a magic show. The only viable question is: "How did you do that?"

"Did you look at your hole card? Don't bother," he says, smiling. "It's the seven of hearts."

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