Wednesday, October 10, 2007



If the City Administration had its way a Casino will soon re-emerge in Cagayan de Oro. The PAGCOR casino’s fleeting appearance a dozen years ago was nipped in the bud by hostile reception, despite the Supreme Court’s decision of its legality. Heeding the decision’s notation that the casino operation should not be objectionable to residents (the social acceptability proviso), PAGCOR finally decided that retreat was the prudent course of action. Just a few weeks ago, PAGCOR again had to abandon plans to set up a casino, this time in Boracay, due to opposition from residents, parish leaders and local officials. If the casino does reappear in CDO, some foreknowledge of casino gambling basics might come in handy to first timers.

Casinos evolved from the card habitu├ęs of Europe and are found worldwide. The best known are in Las Vegas, Monte Carlo and Atlantic City. Gambling in a casino is an activity that involves money, but unlike a business, which requires rational behavior in making financial decisions, it can evoke hunches and all-or-nothing behavior. The atmosphere in a casino, sometimes called palace of pecuniary persuasion, ranges from the sedate Monte Carlo to the raucous Atlantic City. The rules of the game are designed to give the casino an advantage.

Studies of casino gamblers show that at any given time half of the gamblers don’t know what they are doing, and only about 10 percent are knowledgeable about odds, house edge and money management. The use of chips for gambling in a casino is another edge for the casino and is intended to make money meaningless and for the gambler to forget that money has value.

A fling at the casino can be enjoyable and maybe profitable. But the glamour and excitement of the casino action can sway even the most prudent and restrained person. The wise player takes measures to improve his statistical and psychological odds, first by following three basic rules:

1. Play only with money you can afford to lose. Set aside the amount you will play with and never, never dip into your wallet for more.

2. Know when to leave the table whether winning or losing.

3. Drink only after playing.

A player should consider certain minimums for his gambling amount. A game should be started with enough chips to cushion a bad streak then recoup. Imagine a bet as a unit. Experts believe 40-50 units is a thumb rule minimum. Since each game has minimum bets (baccarat highest and slot lowest), the player’s bankroll will depend on which game he intends to play. The edge varies widely in each game and the player has to choose with care if he is to have a fighting chance.

The usual games in a casino are blackjack (or “21”), craps (dice), roulette (steel ball rolling on a spinning carousel), baccarat (chemin de fer) and slot machines (the notorious one-armed bandit). While all games are based on chance, only blackjack offers the player to use skill (by keeping track of the cards played/discarded0 and gain advantage over the house.

Roulette has 38 numbers, going from 1 to 38, plus 0 and 00. The natural odds of betting on a number are 37 to 1, but the casino pays out only 35 to 1, a house advantage of 5.26 percent.

Dice, or craps, is played with a shooter (bettor) rolling a pair of dice (cubes with surfaces marked 1 to 6) and other bettors laying bets on the PASS LINE expecting the shooter to win, or on the DON’T PASS if they expect the shooter to lose. If the shooter makes a 7 or 11 on the first roll, he wins, but loses if he rolls a 2,3 or 12. If he rolls any other number (4,5,6,8,9 or 10) on that first attempt, that number becomes his “point”. The shooter keeps rolling the dice until his point turns up again for a win or until he rolls a 7 where he loses both his money and the dice. The house pays even money but has an edge of 1.4 percent.

The simplest game is blackjack, or “21.” Up to 7 bettors play against a house dealer using from one 52-card deck or up to six decks (which reduces the players’ memory skill. The object is to get closer to 21 than the dealer. Each card equals its face value, Aces being optional at 1 or 11, and the picture cards (J,Q or K) equal to 10. A player who gets a two-card set totaling 21 (Ace plus a 10 or picture card) is blackjack and wins 3 to 2. Any other winning hand gets even money. The edge of the house is in the players getting busted (totals more than 21, a losing hand) ahead of the dealer.

Baccarat (chemin de fer) is for the high stakes gambler, and is played with cards with up to 14 bettors seated at a table. The rules of the game again give the house some advantage, and there is no skill involved, just pure chance. Only two hands are played: the “bank” and the player hands. Each tries to beat the other by drawing two or more cards to obtain the winning total. Bettors bet on either the “bank” or the player. Each side can draw cards only in accordance with complex rules.

Slot machines are programmed to release a percentage of its coin intake during a “cycle.” Each pull on the lever located at the right side (maybe there are “lefties”? which spins the reels (3 to 5) to display one of the symbols (bells, limes cherries etc.) on each reel. Certain combinations of symbols resulting from a pull will release a specific number of coins as prize. The house takes from 10 to 25 percent of the players’ coins thus justifying the machine’s sobriquet: one-armed bandit.

Since in all games the casino has an edge, it chips away at even a prudent and cautious player who overstays — and in the long run cleans him out. The probability of loss is common to all casino gamblers, but most important to keep in mind is that losing a little for the excitement is an experience, but losing control can be tragic.

"There is no better way to exercise the imagination than the study of the law. No artist ever interpreted nature as freely as a lawyer interprets the truth." -- Jean Giradoux

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