Last week, as part of the celebration for International Women’s Day (March 8), a statue of a defiant girl staring down the Wall Street bull appeared. Count me among those who love the statue and hope it will stay. It is no secret that women are under-represented in many fields, including the AP world, as I discussed in an earlier post. Some APs have floated the idea that if the casino’s old-boy network underestimates the skills of women, women might actually have a strategic advantage relative to their fellow male APs. These ringer women will get away with murder, and will make huge profits before they are even suspected. Well, that’s the theory at least, but are women the Dutch Book?
The Dutch Book is an economist’s justification for why certain market inefficiencies cannot exist. In the classic example, suppose a guy prefers A to B, and B to C, and C to A. Such preferences would create trouble for some mathematical models designed to predict human behavior, so economists rule out such preferences by saying that if such a guy existed temporarily, he would be eliminated from the market by some AP who would run a Dutch Book on the guy. The AP says, “Hey, since you prefer B to C, I’ll give you one B, and you give me one C plus a dollar.” (The AP has to use precisely those words.) Then the AP says, “Hey, since you prefer A to B, give me that B—plus a dollar—and I’ll give you one A.” After that transaction, the AP says, “Give me a dollar with that A, and I’ll give you one C.” The sucker is back where he started with one C, but the AP is three dollars richer, and we lather, rinse, and repeat until the sucker is broke. (This particular “AP” happens to be a poker player, by the way.)
I am using the term Dutch Book more liberally here, to say what should happen if your opponent uses any racist, sexist, or misguided strategy that is not skill-based. If opposing baseball teams are racist, and refuse to put skilled black players on the field, then an enlightened team will pick up Jackie Robinson (on the cheap!) and make the racists pay. All professional American teams now consider players of all races.
So, are female APs the Dutch Book against casinos? Casinos are sexist, and racist! No, I do not have hard numbers to back up that claim, but since a ridiculous percentage of casino bosses are white males, and the job itself takes no skill, I doubt anyone who has spent time in casinos will quibble with my inference.
The short answer is no, female players do not have an advantage. In fact, the opposite is true. A woman who is equally skilled as a man will make less money as an AP. Most of the male bosses will indeed think that the woman is not skilled, but that’s the assumption the bosses have of every person in the casino that they don’t know. Until they have reason to think otherwise, the bosses consider every customer to be a loser, a mark. They do not have a customer-service mentality, they have a hustler/carny mentality: how can we get all of this loser’s money?
So the female is not so far ahead of the game here. Making money as an AP, especially over the long term, is about game management and exposure management. Exposure is everything. And that’s where the female AP gets killed. The girl gets noticed. Male bosses notice her. Female bosses notice her, too! (A study showed that when an attractive woman is depicted on a billboard along with males, male viewers looked at the woman first, and female viewers also looked at the woman first!)
When I was a degenerate kid betting red chips, bosses didn’t notice me. Now that I’m an old guy betting red chips, bosses don’t notice me. The floormen don’t ogle me. They don’t stand around the table chatting me up. Surveillance doesn’t zoom in on my boobs (no, I am not Brian Zembic). Bosses don’t ask for my number. They don’t try to comp me or sign me up for a player’s card. They don’t ask what I do for a living. They don’t dream about me being a stripper. Other players don’t chat me up or try to become my gambling buddy. They don’t ask me to kiss the cut card. They don’t stroke my arm with the cut card (creepy!). In short, they don’t care. Apathy is our friend!
Obviously a female AP can try to dress down, but she’ll still be noticed more than a male. For the purposes of this discussion, anyone over 45 years old is considered genderless, and any Asian is considered genderless (race trumps gender). On top of gaining exposure quickly, the female has the problem that if she is made as an AP, she’ll be remembered more than the male. Again, the numbers game is partly to blame there. There are so few female APs that they all stand out and are remembered and talked about disproportionately in this mostly male industry. The personnel at Planet Hollywood were positively giddy after they caught one well-known female AP.
The female AP even brings more exposure onto her teammates. In many instances when I played with a woman, conversations about us ensued long after the woman had departed. In one case, a dealer at Bal-ly’s asked me about a girl I had played with years earlier. This dealer likely would not have noticed or remembered me if not for the girl.
If a female wants to bet the money (sometimes APs are in a situation where using a partner BP is not feasible), she has the problem that a (young) white female betting black gets noticed. It’s just not that common. With so much pressure on the few women in the game, the industry is not inviting to women considering going into it. I would stop short of calling it a vicious cycle, though, since a paucity of women as APs in casinos is hardly a societal problem. A much higher priority would be boosting the number of women in Congress.
Many times in my career, I’ve heard a teammate or a poster on a gambling Website say, “We should get a girl …” One teammate of mine even shoe-horns his young girlfriend into the role of a BP, a role for which she is entirely unsuitable. Invariably there is nothing whatsoever about the target game that would be more vulnerable to a co-ed attack. APs are capable of all manner of rationalizations. All nerdy APs want to live the fantasy of the Hollywood version of card counting: we’ll be high rollers comped to gourmet meals and lavish suites, strolling up to the tables with hottie teammates on our arms. But that has nothing to do with the game. That’s just a general male fantasy that has nothing to do with being an AP. Nice fantasy, though.
(It would be great if any female readers could comment on their experience whacking casinos.)