Martha, Louis Theroux & the Vegas slot machines

If you’re a documentary buff you’ll no doubt be well aware of the work of the awkward yet insightful Louis Theroux. One of the most captivating documentaries he’s done has to be his Gambling in Las Vegas episode. There are some real characters there like the mattress empire owner who just couldn’t catch a break, and Dr Martha, the mellow yet mad slot machine enthusiast.  This clip from BBC Studies is a good taster of this fast paces, wacky and occasionally unnerving world.

Casino Games – Craps

Casino Games - Craps Craps is a gambling game played with two dice. The game was introduced to New Orleans by the French in the mid-nineteenth century, when it was originally known as ‘Crapaud’s dice’; historically, the nickname for any Frenchman was ‘Johnny Crapaud’ or ‘Johnny Toad’. In the meantime, craps has evolved to become arguably the most common game of its kind in the world.

Craps is played on a dedicated table, typically 12′ long and surrounded by high walls, with rubber pyramids on the back wall to prevent so-called dice control, or precision control. A distinctive craps layout, showing all the various bets available, of which there are literally dozens, is stencilled onto the bed, or ‘floorette’, of the table. A craps table is supervised by a casino employee known as a ‘boxman’. Another employee, known as a ‘stickman’ calls out the roll and returns the dice to the player throwing them, a.k.a. the ‘shooter’, while one or more other employees, known as ‘dealers’, take the bets.

The game of craps is structured around a bet known as the ‘pass line’ bet, which pays 1/1 if successful and offers a competive house edge of just 1.41%. The first roll of the pass sequence is known as the ‘comeout’ roll. A comeout roll of 7 or 11 wins a pass line bet immediately, but 2, 3 or 12, a.k.a. ‘craps’, loses immediately. All other totals establish a target, or ‘point’, which the shooter must roll again before rolling a 7 for the pass line bet to win.

Chip Chat

Chip Chat The iconic image of the casino chip exists throughout society. There are various designs and collectors and every chip has a story to tell; some hold significant value by virtue of their face value or collectability. With that in mind, let’s have an impromptu Q&A session of some of the casino and poker chip questions that may be of interest to casino goers.

How can you tell a real casino chip from a fake one?

Being that casino chips are so essential to the running of casinos, it’s of utmost importance that they remain on the premises, are not swiped from other patrons, and  are genuine rather than counterfeit. Casinos have had decades to get a structure in place to ensure that nothing untoward happens. For starters chips vary in weight from casino to casino, so this is one telltale sign of their authenticity. Chips also often have distinctive logos, colours and marking which differentiate them from that of other establishments.

Beyond this there are also often markings on the chips that only show up under UV light. More modern day measures now rely on RFID tags embedded into the chips themselves (a chip within a chip – chipception!). Casinos also have advanced CCTV and facial recognition systems in place. These protect customers (should somebody try to swipe your chips!) but primarily the casino itself. Transactions are also kept track of in a forensic manner and so if something is off it will soon be recognised.

Why Do Casinos Use Chips Instead of Cash?

It’s a valid question to ask, as surely casinos want to remove as many obstacles to gambling as humanly possible.  Gamblers aren’t always known for their patience though; they can be an impulsive bunch. The reasons are actually multi faceted. There is a security aspect to it, in line with the aforementioned measures put in place to ensure the legitimacy of chips. Where chips are stolen they can be cancelled via their RFID data, whereas if cool, hard cash was taken this wouldn’t be the case. The RFID tags also allow for mistakes to be tracked during play. On top of this it’s convenient to use chips in such a fast paced environment. Imagine roulette with endless piles of notes on the table. It would soon become unworkable.

A key factor though, is the psychological component to gambling. You see the same online; mentally it ‘feels’ very different to be handing over your money, in comparison to using casino chips or something that’s taking place in a virtual realm. Inhibitions find themselves on the back burner. The human mind is more familiar with the value of notes,  but not so much with casino or poker chips. It’s mentally far easier to push $100 worth of chips onto red or black, rather than having to count it out first.

What’s the largest ever collection of casino chips?

If you can think of it, somebody in the world is undoubtedly a collector of it. The iconic appearance of, and tales behind casino chips make them prime collector material. Some of us may keep a chip or two from a memorable visit to Vegas for instance, whereas others go the whole hog and make collecting them a passion. To ascertain who has the most casino chips we need look no further than the Guinness Book of World Records. It turns out that the Largest collection of $1 casino chips and tokens is 802 individual pieces. The record was fittingly achieved in Las Vegas, Nevada on 22th June 2019, by Paul Schaffer. He’d been amassing his collection since 2004. Some casino chips can cost hundreds of dollars and so if you’re planning on taking Paul’s record, you’ll need deep pockets.

Casino Chips Collectors

A fascinating looking into the world of casino chip collecting with Joel Reznick, owner of Frog Pond Collectables.

Ad Space on Your Face

Ad Space on Your Face We live in a pretty world time. Political turmoil the world over, growing environmental concerns, a pandemic.  As it has sometimes been said “There are decades where nothing happens, and there are weeks where decades happen“. But even after all of the current madness is factored in, my mind still returns from time to time to the woman who had tattood on her forehead.

While I would usually commend companies for thinking ‘outside of the box’ with their advertising campaigns, whoever decided to go along with this idea was clearly on a wind up that went a step too far. Not only was it ill-advised on their part, but clearly the woman in question, 30 year old Kari Smith, can’t have been the full ticket either. Admittedly it was inventive of her to come up with the idea of auctioning off advertising space on her own forehead, but the reality of the result is perhaps more a combination of sad and strange.

The winning bid of $10,000 resulted in her having the website address written on her forehead in permanent black block letters. Smith pledged to use the money for her son’s education, so there was at least one sane decision made during this process. She remained adamant throughout said that she didn’t have any regrets about getting the forehead tattoo. Much to my amusement there is, in fact, an entire Wikipedia page dedicated to forehead tattoos.

The question on everyone’s lips though, must now surely be ‘does she still, to this day, have the tattoo?’. It’s now 15 years since that fateful day, and *drumroll* I can confirm that in 2012 actually paid for her to have the tattoo removed. They no doubt wanted to step back from their more controversial advertising strategies. In the early 2000s this included paying multiple individuals, not just Smith, to get forehead and body tattoos of their web address.  They also paid $28,000 for a cheese sandwich on eBay  alleged to have the image of the Virgin Mary on it, and paid a woman $15,199 to have her name legally changes to!