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Razzle is a game sometimes presented on carnival midways and historically, in the casinos of Havana, Cuba. The game is also known as Razzle-Dazzle. This generic name is seldom known to players, as it is generally presented as Football, Ten Points Win, Baseball, Mo-Co, Indian Poker, Cajun Bingo or other name selected to generate interest for the locals. The nature of the game makes it a particular money-maker for dishonest carnies.
Razzle consists of a playing board with numbered holes, averaging 120, upon which eight marbles are spilled from a cup. The numbers are added to a total and that total is displayed on a chart, that looks something like a calendar, with the value for that number displayed beneath it. In most Razzle set-ups, the player must bet one unit (dollar, pound, Euro) per roll, and must keep rolling until he achieves 10 points. The player does not "lose" until he walks away, but in reality the player loses the minute he steps up to the game: According to gaming expert Darwin Ortiz, the Razzle is seldom, if ever, run honestly.
The points per number chart is the secret. The numbers most likely to come up are worthless or only indicate that you have to double or increase the bet. Most dishonest razzle games also rely on a fast count by the game operator to trick the player into believing he has a better number total than he actually rolled. This is used to keep the player hooked into the game, increasing his point total periodically, causing him to invest more and more into the game. Increasingly the player believes that walking away would be a disaster; he only needs one or two more points. Unfortunately for the player, he never actually gets that last point. According to Darwin Ortiz, most Razzle operators are not satisfied until they get their mark's last dollar.
Even if the game were run honestly, the mathematical nature of the razzle board makes it entirely unlikely that a player would ever win before running out of money, or that the prizes won would ever equal the amount of money spent chasing them.
Another feature of the game is that more than one prize can be won in a game. All the player must do is score a certain number to win additional prizes. The flattie running the game, however, usually states that for every additional prize the player is aiming for, he must make another bet. In most cases the extra prize is just an excuse for the operator to hustle the player's money more quickly.
The Razzle is such a devastatingly effective scam that some crooked-booth operators have been known to even abandon their store's theme and bring out the razzle.
- T.J. English, Havana Nocturne: how the mob owned Cuba -- and then lost it to the revolution. New York: Willam Morrow (2008)
- Ortiz, Darwin, Gambling Scams, Mead, 1984
- Matthew L. Gryczan, Carnival Secrets: How to Win at Carnival Games, Which Games to Avoid, How to Make Your Own Games. Zenith Press (1988)