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Best of Alan Krigman

Gaming Guru

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Ask Your Cable or Satellite TV Provider for the Roulette Channel

19 July 2006

Admit it. When your cable or satellite TV provider announced it was adding the Roulette Channel to its free line-up, you weren't impressed. Unless, maybe, you were seeking a cure for insomnia or something to tune into when you want to get rid of your obnoxious brother-in-law who drops by to catch a ball game at your house.

That's what folks thought when The Weather Channel first hit the scene. "C'mon," they said, "weather 24/7? Hot and cold fronts moving through places you never heard of and won't go to? An hour of shining sun, or falling rain, or blowing wind -- with matching commercials? Who'd watch?" Of course, you hadn't anticipated the riveting dramas of "Storm Stories," or the educational segments explaining more than you thought you wanted to know about how hurricanes form, or the more-real-than-reality-show documentaries about people who chase after rather than run away from tornadoes.

Sure, the Roulette Channel has Spin Segments. But they're more than just passively observing the wheel rotate or the ball roll and bounce around. There's that delicious sense of anticipation. The ecstasy of guessing right and of urging the forces of the universe to obey your will. The agony of being ever-so-close then missing on that last heartbreaking hop, skip, or jump of fate.

But even this isn't all there is to Spin Segments. Modern digital video technology provides instant replay, stop motion, extreme close-ups, image enhancement, and whatnot -- revealing details you didn't dream existed, let alone mattered. How dealers send the ball and the impact of minor differences in finger or wrist action on the dynamics of the game. The way imperfections such as dust or surface irregularities on the bowl or ball, which you used to ignore, make or break fortunes. Play-by-play narratives by the great gurus of the game, giving you the personal benefit of expertise and experience while letting you see it all happen.

Roundtables on roulette theory are also popular. What starts as hum-drum droning often turns into knock-down drag-out bouts among advocates of alternate approaches to projecting future results, betting, charting tables, and so on. Just when you think you've heard the clinching argument about patterns or following versus bucking trends, someone devises a new twist -- often with cogent anecdotal if not significant empirical supporting evidence.

The Roulette Channel hasn't overlooked the human element, either. Interviews with and biographies of dealers, muckers, and pit bosses -- the workaday slobs as well as the superstars -- are always insightful, sometimes inspiring. As are those with solid citizens, from tourists venturing over from the slots to bet on 17 because it was James Bond's favorite number, to true roulette aficionados who enjoy the game for hours on end day after day.

And, what could be more fascinating than the "Candid Camera" takes on players at the tables. Pretending they're big shots, winning and losing, arguing with spouses who want them to quit, groveling for comps to the all-you-can eat buffet?

The nothing-is-sacred sitcom centered on croupier school, too, is a must-see. Everyone who remembers professor what's-his-name from The Paper Chase will find the lives and loves, hopes and fears, triumphs and tragedies, of the students and teachers at Connie's Croupier College no less absorbing than those at Old Siwash Law.

My personal favorite is the weekly saga, "As the Ball Bounces." Here's the premise of this spellbinder, in case you haven't seen it yet. Two individuals, down on their luck due to circumstances beyond their control, find $20 bills on the street. They come to the casino, to try to parlay the money into the answer to their prayers. They invariably bet oppositely in the same sessions, with one succeeding and the other failing. We're left guessing which it will be until the thrilling climax. And, there's an extra element to lure viewers back for future episodes. The next week you find out whether the money actually helped or hurt last time's winner, and likewise how the loser fared. The results are as unpredictable as the game itself. Which may be just the point. For, as that renown rhymer, Sumner A Ingmark, ruminated:

In fact if not fiction, little is certain,
E'en when you think that they've brought down the curtain.

Alan Krigman

Alan Krigman was a weekly syndicated newspaper gaming columnist and Editor & Publisher of Winning Ways, a monthly newsletter for casino aficionados. His columns focused on gambling probability and statistics. He passed away in October, 2013.
Alan Krigman
Alan Krigman was a weekly syndicated newspaper gaming columnist and Editor & Publisher of Winning Ways, a monthly newsletter for casino aficionados. His columns focused on gambling probability and statistics. He passed away in October, 2013.