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Gambling tips that may float your boat

Bright lights, smoky air, the spin of the wheel, the sound of coins rushing into a bucket. With nods, knocks on the table, and subtle gestures, money passes hands.

The dealers and patrons engage in an ancient dance – gambling.

But in this dance, what you don’t know can hurt you.



The first rule – the odds always favor the house. If they weren’t, Las Vegas wouldn’t have risen from the Nevada desert to all of its commercial splendor of today. The casinos draws us, excites us, but also slightly frighten us.

The games move quickly. It seems the bet is already over before anyone gets a chance to analyze the process. It’s intimidating. After all, it’s real money on the line even if it is disguised as gaming chips.




Noel Gray is no stranger to gambling. The 43-year-old magician admits he’s had a weakness for a good game of chance ever since he was old enough to toss quarters on the sidewalk and flip baseball cards. Gray and his partner, Bill Denington are passing along their savvy to others. Their company, Basic Strategy Inc., offers gaming seminars Monday and Tuesday during the noon cruise on the M.S. Dixie II at Zephyr Cove and in the evening at the Dory’s Oar, 1041 Fremont Ave.

It’s a course guaranteed to teach things the casinos will never mention.

“The casinos do everything they can to separate you from your money,” Gray said. “We love giving people a shot. We take the intimidation out of playing table games.”

On Tuesday, Gray focussed on three games – roulette, pai gow poker and blackjack – during the more than two-hour cruise. Monday’s cruise included an in-depth craps and blackjack lesson. The paddlewheeler takes passengers on a round trip from the Zephyr Cove dock to Emerald Bay. In the boat’s stern, class was in session. It didn’t take long before Gray’s pupils were enthralled.

“It’s a physical impossibility for a roulette wheel to be perfectly balanced,” Gray said, going on to tell the tale of an engineer who used this fact to break the bank in Monte Carlo in 1890.

After four nights of “clocking” the wheel, the engineer learned there was a 10-section number of the wheel that was hitting more. On the fifth night, the engineer went in and bet those 10 numbers consistently until he’d taken it all, Gray said.

“Clocking the wheel is perfectly legal,” Gray said. “And, casinos will provide you cards to do it. They won’t tell you what they’re for, but if you ask, they should have a card.”

Gray added that there was also a number tower behind roulette tables showing which numbers were hit in the last spins, giving people a head start.

“In 45 minutes to an hour of tracking the numbers you should be able to get an idea of what section of the wheel is hitting more,” Gray said.

Looks of surprise, disbelief and finally eagerness crossed the participants faces as Gray imparted his wisdom. Gray also reminded his students that most dealers make minimum wage and depend on tips from the patrons to make their living. He urged them to tip their dealers early, not just after they’re finished playing.

Smart strategies for pai gow poker and blackjack were discussed, and Gray also cautioned against “sucker” bets.

“If the house offers you anything it’s in whose favor?” he asked.

“The house,” his students replied.

“If you don’t remember anything, remember that.” Gray said.

Money management was another important lesson in the seminar. Even armed with all of Gray’s inside tips and advice, there are some nights when the player isn’t going to win.

“If you sit down at the blackjack table and lose $20 in four straight hands – go home,” Gray exclaimed. “It’s not your night.”

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