PAUL'S POINTERS: A GAMBLER'S RESOLUTIONS FOR THE NEW YEAR
by Paul Wilson
BJI contributing writer Paul Wilson is a quasi-Renaissance man and graduate of Millsaps College. Some of his interests and hobbies include finance, consulting, travel, photography, and rock music. He's an avid baseball fan. Paul has done freelance writing and editing for gaming publications and takes blackjack, video poker, and sports betting very seriously. As we learned in the November 2014 issue, he also might have a "thing" for Wonder Woman.
The fireworks are over; the champagne sipped; first kisses made at the stroke of midnight; and Auld Lang Syne has been sung. A new year is upon us and by the time you read this, we're already a month into 2016. Be that as it may, it's never too late to make changes and try to improve yourself and/or your results when it comes to gambling or any other pursuits. With that said, in this month's Paul Pointer's I'm going to lay out some gamblers' resolutions that if I, and many of you, can follow will increase our chances to win or decrease our losses in the months ahead.
Some of these tips you may already follow and some may be new ideas. This list is certainly not meant to be comprehensive and I'm always open to good, new ideas. The list of resolutions is a product of things I've learned over the years and from my year-end review. The resolutions are in no particular order because what is number one on my list may not be most important for you or other readers. Let's begin.
Resolution #1:I resolve to seek out and play only the best blackjack games.
This should be simple. It's one of the reasons you read Blackjack Insider, right? Look for games that allow you to double-down on any first two cards and after splits. Though more difficult to find, try to play those games that allow you to split and re-split Aces up to four hands, especially in six-deck games. By all means, avoid blackjack games that pay less than 3:2 on player blackjacks. The market is full of 6:5 blackjack and these should be avoided as they will do serious harm to your bankroll over time. If you are a card counter, look for games with deeper penetration. You want to be dealt more hands in good game situations.
Resolution #2: I resolve to schedule my playing sessions.
If you gamble frequently or consider yourself a serious gambler, I recommend scheduling your play each week or month. Lots of factors can go into making this schedule such as casino promotions, meals, entertainment, and geography if you play at multiple properties on a regular basis. Also there are work, family, and social responsibilities and obligations to consider. By making a regular schedule and sticking to it, you should be able to reduce impulse gambling or the tendency to "just play a quick $20 or $100." Having a schedule helps you focus on the task at hand. It doesn't have to be work, but you need to be prepared to play skillfully each time you enter a casino.
Resolution #3: I resolve to maximize my video poker or slot machine play during bonus point-promotion days and limit my exposure at other times.
Let's not kid ourselves; overall, the house has the edge over the players with only a few miniscule exceptions. If you are a slot or video poker player, you need to know the payback percentages on the games or machines you play. Video poker makes this easy, because we know the long-term expected return of each pay table. For example, 9/6 Jacks or Better (JoB) returns 99.54 percent with perfect play. As players we can close the negative expectation gap by playing more coin-in (CI) on days when there are bonus point multipliers. Many casinos keep the math simple and require $1 of CI per point. If the slot club normally returns 0.15%, but offers double points, your CI can earn 0.30% if you play on those days. Add that to your expected return (99.54 + 0.30 = 99.84 in our JoB example) and you've reduced the house edge against you significantly. Granted this is an over-simplified example that assumes cash back (CB) or free-play (FP) is offered at your casino of choice. Sometimes these points have more value when used to eat in the casino's restaurants or to buy show tickets. Learn the rules of the slot clubs you play at and manage your CI to reduce loses or increase the value of your play.
Resolution #4: I resolve to take losses.
What? Take losses you say? Yes, it's ok to take losses. This is a tough one for me because I am very competitive and I never enter a casino expecting to lose. However, not all sessions are winners. Some days you start negative and it never gets any better. Looking back at my results over the past few years, I've realized so many instances where I should have just taken the small- or medium-sized loss and gotten on with life. There is a tendency to think you can rally all the way back. Sometimes you are able to get hot and turn a losing session into a winning session, but too many times the session just ends up further in the negative, requiring more work later in the month, quarter, or year. If you can minimize your losses by not being afraid to call it quits for the night when you are still negative, you can increase your chances of turning up positive in the longer-term.
Resolution #5: I resolve to not force bets whether I am losing or winning.
Don't chase your losses, by forcing bad bets or making larger bets than you normally make in hopes of catching up. There's a reason Sunday Night and Monday Night Football are the most heavily bet NFL games. If players have had a losing Sunday afternoon in pro football, they tend to try to bet these games to get even and stay out of trouble with their wives or girlfriends who probably don't approve of their betting in the first place, especially if they are using money that should be allocated to pay regular living expenses. "Double up to catch up" is not a sound strategy. Making low-percentage bets, especially for larger sums than your average bet size is not smart and over time is a path to ruin. Stay disciplined and don't go on tilt.
Resolution #6: I resolve to respect my bankroll like it's my best friend.
Your playing bankroll is your life-blood. Without it you can't play. If you want to achieve long-term success, you have to stay in the game. I'm often asked by strangers what it would take for them to be a successful gambler. The first thing I tell them is to save a bankroll that will be used exclusively for gambling, not for paying the bills. This money should be independent and fit the games and denominations of wagers you want to make. The bankroll should be large enough to withstand the ups and downs of casino math. It's ok to start small in saving this bankroll. Start with $5 or $10 per week if that is what you can afford. Use the time you are saving your cash to learn the rules and strategy for the games you want to play. Withstand the temptation to borrow from this bankroll. Also, if you plan to be a blackjack player, don't win money at blackjack and then lose it playing slots or keno. Play your best game with this bankroll and learn to play it well. Put your winnings into your bankroll and let it build over time. Never take your bankroll, or your friends, for granted.
Resolution #7: I resolve to learn the correct strategies for the games I play.
If you are just starting your gambling journey and beginning to save an initial bankroll, that's a great time to learn everything you can about casino games. You probably have an idea what game or games you want to learn, so learn the correct playing strategy. Thanks to brilliant men such as Dr. Edward Thorp, The Four Horsemen, and others, we have winning strategies for blackjack. Playing strategies have also been developed for video poker pay schedules as well. This information has been published and is available via the internet, bookstores, libraries, and specialty stores. (The Gambler's General Store and the Gambler's Book Club were regular stops during my longer visits to Las Vegas many years ago.) By learning the correct strategies for every playing decision, you can prolong your bankroll and give yourself a chance to reach the long-term EV of the games you play.
Resolution #8: I resolve to avoid playing when I am not mentally ready.
If you aren't focused, for whatever reason, you don't need to be gambling. Family, work, and relationship issues can all be distractions. Other conditions such as depression, alcoholism, or other addictive behavior - treated or untreated - won't help your game. Also, don't gamble to avoid any of the topics above. I'll admit that I probably became a serious gambler because there were other holes in my life. That's debatable. I always had the desire to bet sports, but learned blackjack while I was spending a lot of time in sports books. Video poker came much later and was viewed as a challenge and in hindsight might have been a sought-after coping mechanism. Who knows or cares? My point in this resolution is to be mentally fit and ready to go when you walk in the casino. Smart gambling is a lonely endeavor and certainly isn't for everyone. Don't let your emotions get the best of you and even if it's a scheduled playing day, it's ok to pass. Believe it or not, the casino doors will be open tomorrow and they'll still be dealing cards.
Resolution #9: I resolve to study and learn new things.
Once you learn how to play your game of choice doesn't mean you are done. There was a time when I was younger and playing blackjack regularly, I could pretty much play basic strategy in my sleep and practically did during Las Vegas visits. It took many years before I learned a simple counting method, though I was intuitively cognizant of Aces and Faces and their availability. Even in those days when I was bullet-proof, I still reviewed via a hand-made strategy card before playing trips. Like any profession, you have to keep your skillset sharp. It doesn't hurt to read new books or to re-read old favorites. Many years ago, my regular Las Vegas travel companions included Henry Tamburin's "Take the Money and Run," Jean Scott's "Frugal Gambler" and Max Rubin's "Comp City." Don't get arrogant and think you know it all. When it comes to gambling, school is never out and you never really graduate.
Resolution #10: I resolve to review my results and de-brief my sessions regularly
Spend a little brain power de-briefing your playing session after it's complete. Think about what you did wrong, as well as, what you did right. What happened on big hands? How about what I call swing-hands, those that often determine whether you go home plus or minus for the night? These are those hands where you might have an extra chip on your initial bet and the next thing you know, you've split and re-split three 8's and have doubled down on two of them. That turns into a monster hand. Two of those can really determine your fortunes over a couple hours of play. Did you play these hands correctly? Did something unusual happen? Did you learn anything for next time? If you lost, but found no flaws in your performance, keep doing what you are doing. Perhaps you won, but got lucky or struggled and got away with some less than "book perfect" decisions. If so, then go back and do some studying. Take note of playing conditions. Was the table crowded? How was the play of others on your table? What about the pace of the game? Did you bet properly? All these things and more can be part of a good de-brief.
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
This month I offered up some resolutions to incorporate into your play this year. These resolutions were not meant to be all encompassing and I'm sure there are others that I could incorporate; maybe you have your own that you live by. Perhaps in the future I'll come back and write a second edition or modify the above. For now, take these ten ideas and work them into your gambling "tool box." Some may be more important than others for you, but I'm sharing them because they are very real components and topics you will encounter on the "Long and Winding Road," if you haven't already. Remember gambling is applied mathematics and timing. Stay in the game and do all you can to give yourself the best chance to turn the math in your favor.
Until next time, be DISCIPLINED; be PATIENT.
©2015, DeepNet Technologies. No material to be copied without express permission of DeepNet Technologies.