minutia press.
Casino people

My aunt just took Betsy and me to the Ameristar Casino. I've been there once before, but this time we went with her on her "premium elite gambler supremo" card. The card lets you go to the front of the line for seating at the restaurants. There is also a premium entrance and exit to the gambling hall, because, well, you wouldn't want to enter with nonpremium people would you?

We had a good time, but gambling is not my favorite thing to do. I'd put it somewhere around cleaning out the garage. I feel good when it's over but somewhat itchy to do something else while in the process.

I'm amazed at how many "sins" one can commit while at a casino: smoking, drinking. gluttony (all you can eat crab legs, shrimp, steak, etc), and of course, gambling itself.

I like black jack best of all, because of two things: 1) it boasts some of the best odds in the house; 2) there are people around with whom you can converse, and 3) it's not that hard to play reasonably well. One prof I know in our department is adept at card-counting, and if you do that, you can play unreasonably well. So well that they put your picture up and escort you out of the casino, through the nonpremium exit from what I hear.

We also played some video poker, and I admit to an uncomfortable feeling about the random-number generator behind it all. With black jack, the cards are dealt to the gambler and to the house; with video poker, only the gambler gets cards, and when you're losing you get the feeling you're being set up. For all I know, there is a tiny person inside the machine, or a not-so-tiny person outside the machine controlling what happens remotely.

A good thing about the Ameristar, besides its food and premium conduits, is the abundance of large-screen TVs from which you can watch the Blues lose to the Oilers (5-0). The loss to the Oilers isn't so great, but watching the game avoids my losses to the Ameristar. A fellow nonpracticing gambler came up to watch the game with me, while his wife entertained the random-number generators, and he remarked that we'd have no "5 for 35 cent" Tacos tomorrow.

That may be true, but I think Taco-Bell Canada runs a "5 for 35 centimes" Taco Moose special when the Oilers win.

Finally, I found a way Ameristar could make money on us even as we leave the place: let people bet on which elevator would arrive first. Also, they didn't seem to have premium elevators, so we had to ride up with some apparently nonpremium people. Is nothing sacred anymore?


The funniest part of casinos is watching people strategize when playing the slot machines. Some pull the arm, others push the button, others do some lucky maneuver before doing either, but little do they know that the minute their coin enters the machine, it has already determined whether it will payout or not.

The -273 Community: It's not just communication, it's learning.

Posted by: Chris Hill Festival at November 16, 2002 1:22 AM

I agree. I know people who think they become one with the machine, and can predict what it will do, so they keep playing to keep that harmony going. But if that's the case, why can't they know they are losing?

Posted by: rkc at November 16, 2002 10:23 AM

Of course, if you spent hours upon hours feeding the bandit, perhaps you could train yourself to recognize the internal state of the PRNG, and thereby truly know what the result of the next pull would be.

Eh, or just learn to count cards.

Posted by: Joe at November 16, 2002 12:58 PM

Coincidentally, I just finished reading a great book ("Bringing Down the House" ISBN: 0743225708) about one of the MIT blackjack teams from the mid-90's. Fascinating book... if you're interested in how one can beat blackjack (and the consequences of doing so) it's a quick and entertaining read.

Posted by: Adam at November 17, 2002 8:21 PM