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Best of Alan Krigman

Gaming Guru

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Why Risk Missing-Out? Here's Hints to Beat 'Em at the Buffet

31 July 1995

Strategies exist for every casino bet. Some are simple, for instance how much bankroll is needed to outride normal downswings in reel-type slots. Others are complex, like when to hold and dump cards in video poker or split pairs and surrender in blackjack.

Most approaches advocated here are based on laws of probability. Other strategies, even some used by "old hands" who ought to know better, are mathematical malarkey. Such as gambits to break bankrolls into "session" stakes or gimmicks to guess "overdue" craps numbers. The very vogue of these silly "systems" shows how badly bettors want to believe they're in at least partial control.

So, it's weird that, 'til now, nobody's presented strategies for the biggest casino attraction of 'em all. The "sure bet" that draws more patrons than most alternate activities combined. The stomach-stuffing belly-busting feeding frenzies at the cornucopias of cholesterol, also known as all-you-can-eat buffets.

As usual, no one right way is best for every solid citizen every time. But, here are hints, culled from faceless tete-a-tetes with bona-fide buffet buffs, to get you rolling along the right road.

1) "Case" the whole soup-to-nuts melange before digging-in; elbow your way into line where the primo stuff starts, rather than at the beginning where they stick the cheap institutional chow.

2) Don't grab a saucer-size dish from the stacks near the salad and desserts; get a big platter from the pile near the meat.

3) Avoid food that might be good for you like veggies, fruit, or yogurt; you didn't come to the casino for your health.

4) Shun anything easily made at home, ordered at a fast-food franchise, or bought ready-to-eat off-the-shelf at the Acme or Pathmark. This includes items such as macaroni salad, coleslaw, meatballs, fried chicken, scrambled eggs, Jello, fish sticks, pizza squares, and Velveeta Cheese cubes.

5) Test unlikely combinations; you won't know unless you try.

6) Don't bother with U-peel shrimp, clams or oysters in-the-shell, escargot, corn-on-the-cob, whole artichokes, or anything else with a do-it-yourself tinge; besides being messy and too much work, these items carry a lot of "excess baggage" that wastes valuable space on your plate.

7) Skip rolls, grits, pomme-de-terre, and pasta dishes not bursting with meat and cheese; you'll just get bloated with starch and won't have room for the epicurean edibles which have put casino buffets on the map of gastronomic history.

8) When possible, get your main courses from a section served by someone in a chef suit; examples are prime rib or ham sliced-as-you-wait and eggs or waffles cooked-to-order.

9) Heap your plate scientifically so nothing falls off en route to your table. The old saw about "heavy items on the bottom will last you through autumn" has been disproved in practice as well as on the computer; huge slabs of meat, giant spatula-loads of lasagna, and so forth on top form a cohesive cover that stabilizes small items below.

10) Leave room for dessert. Actually, if you've paid up-front then find that the hype hid ho-hum entres like flounder and meat loaf behind a seductive screen of sybaritic sweets, pass up the run-of-the-mill meat-and-potatoes bread-and-butter grub entirely; instead, pounce right on the pastries, puddings, and other posh provender novices save for last.

Sumner A Ingmark, the celebrated poet known as a gourmand as well as a gambler, was so overwhelmed by a casino all-you-can-eat extravaganza that he vaunted over it in verse as soon as he overcame the ensuing digestive jolt:

Sweet Mary had a little lamb,
Two bowls of chowder made with clam,
A rib of beef, a hock of ham,
Potatoes, rice, some candied yam,
And cold cuts not at all like Spam.
Dessert was pastry filled with jam,
A bit of ice cream, just a dram,
And coffee creamed with low-fat sham.
Ere Mary out the door did scram,
She used her fanny-pack to cram,
'Nuff tuna fish to feed her Sam,
Who couldn't come that day, oh damn!
And on the trip home, to friend Pam,
Said Mary, "Whew, how stuffed I am,
I couldn't eat another gram."

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.