As a break from things serious, consider this scenario:
In a New Jersey casino, you walk up to an electronic slot machine, stick in a buck and punch the buttons. You win fifty. It happens. Flush, you venture another buck. You’re still up a bunch. You win another fifty. Figuring why not, you bet again. Another win. Say, this is getting good. Another bet, another win. And so on for forty-one—that is 41—times in a row!
Ah, but then four beefy guys named Guido finger your collar, drag you back to your room and bounce you up and down a bit, hoping to dislodge a device you don’t have, a device which they imagine could have secretly controlled the slot machine. In saunters a pencil necked manager wearing an expensive but garish suit and says he’s not going to pay since he claims the machine is busted.
Out the door you go…straight into a lawyer’s office? Are you upset that you didn’t pocket the proceeds? Or do you figure that this is what happens when you flirt with fortune?
I say, write the whole thing off as a lesson in how not to gamble: viz. don’t gamble. Especially in New Jersey—New Jersey, for crying out loud.
The scenario painted above happened in a sort of way. In New Jersey at the Golden Nugget. According to the AP, several players at a game of mini-baccarat
kept seeing the same sequence of cards dealt, over and over and over again, their eyes grew wide and their bets grew bigger, zooming from $10 a hand to $5,000.
Forty-one consecutive winning hands later, the 14 players had racked up more than $1.5 million in winnings — surrounded by casino security convinced they had cheated but unable to prove how.
The Casino blamed their playing card source, Gemaco, Inc., which was supposed to send them the painted boards pre-shuffled. Only this time, they forgot. Also, this wasn’t the first time: “the Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort used unshuffled mini-baccarat cards for 3 1/2 hours before realizing something was wrong.” You may wonder at the level of minds that take three-and-a-half hours to discover the decks of cards they’re using are unshuffled.
The Golden Nuggest, after they finally figured—after seeing forty-one straight hands with the same damn sequences over and over and over again—their cards were rigged, weren’t such bad sports about it. It “let nine of the players cash out $558,900 worth of chips.”
But poor Hua Shi of Brooklyn wasn’t one of them. He says he went back to his room after the game to knit the raveled sleeve of care, but then in busted a quartet of Planet of the Apes cast members “who pinned him against the wall and searched him and his belongings” and then kept him there overnight.
Hua Shi’s lawyer says he got the business because he was Chinese and that his treatment had nothing to do with the winnings he racked up from the stacked decks.
Recapitulation: forty-one—41!—consecutive winning hands are dealt, Casino realizes something fishy, notices unshuffled card; casino sues Gemaco, shakes down a player Hua Shi for winning too much; Hua Shi sues Casino.
I haven’t any idea how to compute the probability of 41 identical hands, because it would requiring knowing how many players played, the numbers of decks used per game, whether every player bet the same way each time, and so forth. But good grief, quantitative probability isn’t needed! Maybe, just maybe, after seeing the second hand identical to the first, we can imagine a pit boss saying, “Well, it could happen.” But after three? And then four, and even five?
The suspicion is either we’re not getting the whole story, or that casinos would not be the best hunting grounds to search for Mensa members.
If I were the judge, I’d throw out all the suits—and I wouldn’t apologize for the bad pun.