Coin Flipper Arrested
May 3, 2008 4:00 PM   Subscribe

How popular is "Coin Flipping"?

Recently a friend of mine in Las Vegas sent me this flyer, which detailed the arrest of a man charged with "Coin Flipping". I can understand why running your own game inside a casino might be illegal, but I want to know more about "Coin Flipping". Is there something more going on here than just betting on heads or tails? Are people betting on runs of the same result? Is this the Three-card Monte of the 21st century? How does this game work?
posted by Tube to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It was very popular in my junior high school in Washington DC in the late 80's during gym class and recess. One person would flip first and if the other person matched the first flip in their own toss, they got to keep both coins (or bus tokens). There was a lot of discussion as to which was the favorable position.
posted by mzurer at 4:48 PM on May 3, 2008

we (three guys at work) flip coins to see who pays for coffee out of the machine. it goes like this:
1) everyone flips and the odd man out buys.
2) everyone flips again. the guy who is buying guesses whether each of the others' coins are the same or not.
3) if the buyer guesses right, then the loser pays him $1.05. if wrong, nothing happens.

the coffee out of the machine costs $0.35, so if you end up buying, you have the chance of getting your money back, or pocketing an extra $1.05.

it takes a little of the boring out of the day, anyway.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 5:03 PM on May 3, 2008

Maybe this will help your quest for knowledge...

Two-Up Wiki Link

Two-up is an Australian "coin flipping" game that is traditionally played on ANZAC day, in fact, I think it was illegal in Australia for it to be played on any other day for a while... that might have changed however.
posted by latch24 at 5:08 PM on May 3, 2008

Ditto AgentCorvid. I worked at my dad's mechanic shop when I was younger and the guys flipped for who had to buy the cokes.
posted by CwgrlUp at 6:52 PM on May 3, 2008

Best answer: OMG this is super common in poker games. Watch the footage from the World Series of Poker a few years ago. It's kind of funny actually.

See, when you get very near to the cashing line in a poker tournament, they wait until every table finishes the current hand before going on to the next hand. This is so all tables progress at the same rate and there's no advantage to playing fast or stalling.

The WSOP a few years ago was HUGE though and the money line was more people than entered it a few years before (that is, the number of entrants was 10 times as many as a few years before. It takes FOREVER for 100 tables to all finish a hand, and then go on to the next one. Sammy Farha, a well known poker player (who is best known for his penchant for gambling) got so tired of not being in the thick of the action that he started flipping with someone else at the table. They started at like $100 or something like that and flipped double or nothing. I don't remember where they stopped but it was well over the $12,000 that everyone was waiting to win (the minimum payout for the WSOP is usually around that)

There's a form of flipping that is very popular in online poker tournaments. Basically 2 or more people sit at a table and all agree to flip. They basically all go all in, with no respect to what cards they have, so you have an equal chance to win. This will go on for several rounds until someone decides to quit. It's just a common form of degeneracy.

Anyway, the state seems pissed because they weren't getting a cut. That's kind of funny because side-betting in vegas casinos is HUGE and rampant. In all the high stakes games as much money changes hands outside of the poker game as in it.
posted by RustyBrooks at 7:44 PM on May 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

Oh, and for a little more detail, if 2 people are flipping more than once, most commonly I just see it start at X, and one person calls and the other flips. If what the caller called comes up, he wins X. Then if they wish to continue, they flip again for 2X. If the person who won the first one loses, then they're now even. Whether they start again at X just depends on the 2 people I guess.

In my life I've seen people gamble on *pretty much* anything really. Some people will take any bet, others make a real effort to take neutral bets or bets with positive expectation. Personally if anyone asks me to make a fair flip, I'll tend to do it. I'd rather be viewed as a gambler than not.
posted by RustyBrooks at 7:49 PM on May 3, 2008

I think we played this a little differently at my junior high. Two people have quarters and one person gets to call. When you flip, they either call "match" or "mismatch", if they're correct, then they get both quarters. For three people, you all flip and odd man out wins, if they are all the same you flip again. Of course, one way to cheat the second game is to have a double-headed quarter and an accomplice has a double-tailed quarter. Then you can just go around the school playing different people and taking their quarters. My school eventually cracked down on it and we all stopped playing.
posted by bertrandom at 9:10 PM on May 3, 2008

I play a lot of red/black at the poker table. This generally means that I and another player will agree to pay each other $x every time the flop is more red than black, or vice versa. It's common to play this for a reasonable bit of money (e.g. $100/flop, which works out to a game that has no EV, but has a standard deviation of approximately $550/hr assuming about 30 flops per hour in a live game.)

Another apparently illegal action that I enjoy is to do last longer bets in tournaments, which are sometimes pooled, sometimes not, and are often for amounts greater than the tournament itself. And of course the ever-present 'save' in which players agree to give the bubble buy their buy-in back.

Combine this with my habit of betting sports against friends and acquaintances instead of the book, and apparently I'm an enormously dangerous felon.
posted by Project F at 9:26 PM on May 3, 2008

Oh, another poker-based variant of this is to do a "flipament" where two players sit at an online table with only each other, and verbally agree to go all-in pre-flop no matter what cards they are dealt.

Though yes, I've seen it done with nothing but a single coin, and sometimes for almost comically large sums of money.
posted by Project F at 9:32 PM on May 3, 2008

If you pick your "opponent" wisely, red/black has a positive EV. A lot of people suck at remembering to check flops for a win. More elaborate props can have even more of an edge if they're less likely.

Anyway yeah it sounds like your experiences are like mine, in casinos, people make side bets all the time like CRAZY. I've seen this in and out of vegas. It's hard to imagine how extreme this guys behavior was to warrant this, although I'd imagine that actually he just pissed someone off and this is all they could trump up.
posted by RustyBrooks at 10:35 PM on May 3, 2008

Response by poster: OK, thank you all for the input. I'm getting the impression that Mr. Brooking was probably already gambling, and that the coin flipping was a side bet activity. You must forgive my ignorance as I don't gamble, and so only have a rudimentary understanding of most of these games.
posted by Tube at 11:00 PM on May 3, 2008

Rusty: the variant of red/black I play is simply "which does the flop have more of" and has nothing to do with whether or not either player is in the hand, etc. Any positive EV comes solely from the opposing player forgetting to ask for their chip.
posted by Project F at 11:12 PM on May 3, 2008

Tube: If he was doing it standalone, that would be a bit odd, unless he was doing it against a friend. That said, it's not unreasonable to think that somebody would try to talk a tourist into a flip where the scam might be to simply run away, or to pay with a bogus chip.

But really, I've never seen people doing coinflips against total strangers outside of the context of existing games, so the whole thing seems a bit odd.
posted by Project F at 11:15 PM on May 3, 2008

Rusty: man I'm stupid. I read your post while drunk and saw 'people forget to check flops' and I parsed 'check flops' the completely wrong way.

I thought you were suggesting some sort of showdown based variant, in which case a hand might have more value if you checked the flop to guarantee a showdown. Forgive me, I'm stupid and drunk.
posted by Project F at 11:17 PM on May 3, 2008

Two-up is an Australian "coin flipping" game that is traditionally played on ANZAC day, in fact, I think it was illegal in Australia for it to be played on any other day for a while... that might have changed however.

Nope, still only legal on one day of the year (in NSW at least) - thanks to the Gambling (Two-Up) Act 1998.
posted by cholly at 1:58 AM on May 4, 2008

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