Stay informed with the
NEW Casino City Times newsletter!
Best of Frank Scoblete
Casino Marketing Strategy: Tell the Truth11 February 2002
Truth is a wonderful thing. It can set you free; it is the best policy and its nature, unlike a lie's nature, is not to grow into something bigger than you can handle. Once you tell the truth, it is generally over; whereas if you lie, the whole thing is just beginning. You'll have to tell many more lies to cover up the first lie you told.
Of course, some lies are absolutely necessary. When your wife asks you if she looks good in an outfit she has taken eight hours to select, you'd best say, "Yes, you look beautiful," even if she resembles the Bride of Frankenstein in it. Here the truth could get you into trouble and prolong the agony as she'll be angry with you and upset with herself.
Are casinos truthful? Yes and no. Yes, they (or rather their public relations departments and executives) are truthful in that they will openly admit that there is such a thing as a house edge (when pressed to do so), but no they aren't always truthful when they discuss individual games. I have attended about a dozen casino-sponsored classes in craps and only one gave the true odds of each and every bet discussed. This particular instructor gave his opinion as to the best way to play the game when asked by a student. The other instructors, all obviously knowledgeable, said a variation of the following to such a question: "You have to play the way you want." They avoided the question: "What do you think is the best way to play?" by utilizing the "no matter how you look, dear, you look beautiful" defense.
Even some craps layouts are misleading. The hardways bets of 6 and 8, for example, pay 9 to 1. You bet a dollar and, if you win, you get nine dollars. The true odds of the bet are 10 to 1, so the casino has a hefty edge of 9.09 percent. However, some table layouts state that the payout for a hard 6 or 8 is 10 for 1, because they include your one dollar bet in the payout. So you win nine dollars, plus get your one dollar back, which equals ten dollars. If you didn't know the real deal, you might think the casino was actually paying the true odds on the bet -- which are 10 to 1.
These "for" layouts will express all payouts in such terms to make them appear better than they actually are. Is this a lying layout? Not technically. It's more of an equivocation on the part of the layout maker and the casinos that use this layout. An equivocation, in this context, is a technically truthful statement that will often mislead people who are not astute or savvy. The equivocator is well aware that people will be misled but can always fall back on the fact that what was said was "true." Perhaps these layouts were made by law firms as equivocation is at the heart of the legal profession, or, at least, it seems to be. Recall how our former "first lawyer" Bill Clinton defended himself against charges of obstruction of justice: "It depends on what the meaning of is is." I still can't figure that one out.
The opposite side of the coin is this: Just how truthful should casinos be in describing their payouts, percentages, and odds? Would craps players want layouts that said the following: "Hard 6 or 8. Pays 9 to 1. 9.09 percent house edge. Very bad bet!" I doubt it. No one would want to know that he is making a foolish wager or have it pointed out in print so every one can see it.
"I'll take a hard 8 for $10," says the craps player.
"What a jerk!" everyone says. "What a fool! Don't you know the house edge is 9.09 on that bet? It says it right there! Can't you read?"
Even if no one actually says it, the player making such bets on such an honest layout will think everyone is thinking it and he'll feel just as foolish.
However, I think if a player asks a dealer what the house edge is for a certain bet, the dealer should tell the absolute truth: "Sir, it's 9.09 percent." In fact, the dealer might even want to express it in monetary terms: "For every $100 you bet on that hard 6, you can expect to lose $9.09." Such honesty might hurt the casino's pocketbook a fraction in the short run but it just might create a very loyal customer: "Hey, these guys told me the truth. They aren't just after my money. I like playing here. I think I'll come back again and again and again." In the long run, the truth would be the best policy.
There is just one fly in the ointment of all this honesty. Often dealers don't really know the true odds of the bets they deal with. They know the payouts but they don't really know the percentages and edges. Some just do the job by rote. This would, in all honesty, have to change. Dealers should be savvy in the games they deal, from both sides of the table. They should know the payouts and procedures perfectly, but they should also know the odds and percentages of every single bet on the layout.
For craps dealers such knowledge is not very hard to acquire and retain, as most bets on the layout have set percentages that never waver. Once you know that a hard 6 has a house edge of 9.09 percent, it isn't likely to change any decade soon.
The Greeks probably said it best: "Moderation in all things." Casinos don't want to be off-putting and brutally honest about their games (they could lose business) but simultaneously they shouldn't be disingenuous either. A middle ground is best when it comes to overt advertising and layout design. However, when it comes to point-blank questioning, the truth should be told straight up with no equivocations.
This article is provided by the Frank Scoblete Network. Melissa A. Kaplan is the network's managing editor. If you would like to use this article on your website, please contact Casino City Press, the exclusive web syndication outlet for the Frank Scoblete Network. To contact Frank, please e-mail him at email@example.com.
Best of Frank Scoblete