One Step Ahead
Sophisticated Gamblers Use Legal Techniques to Gain Small Advantages at Casino Games
From the Print Edition:
Ron Perelman, Spring 95
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"I'll tell you one more advantage technique," Forte says conspiratorially. "Playing with a marked deck."
"But that's cheating," he is told.
"Not if the person marking the deck is the card manufacturer," Forte says, grinning.
He has me pitch him several hands of 21. After several deals he asks for the deck. "Here," Forte says, dealing two piles of cards. "You take those, and I'll take these." Forte turns over his pile: he's got all the aces and faces. The other pile contains all little cards.
"We call that playing the turn."
The vast majority of decks, he explains, including the Bee variety we are experimenting with, are cut slightly off-center. At first glance, the backs all look the same, but when you carefully examine the edges, the small "triangles" around the sides vary dramatically in size. "As he receives his cards, the advantage player simply turns them to the desired alignment. Eventually, after a few deals, he's got the deck 'marked.' All the little cards have the little triangles on top; all the big ones have big triangles on top." Playing the turn provides hole-card information and top-of-the-deck values--and it's perfectly legal.
Forte heads downstairs to one of the most famous casinos in the world.
"Unbeatable, right?" he is asked, walking past a craps table.
"Wrong," Forte says matter-of-factly. "There's a lot of controversy surrounding this game. Has a player cheated by controlling his shot? According to the law, it's impossible to dictate how to throw the dice," he says.
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