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Best of Andrew N.S. Glazer

Gaming Guru

 

Beginner's Luck Not Necessarily Lucky

26 February 2000

I just finished running a rather unusual casino night for some friends. I called it "Andy's Enlightened Casino," and enlightened the games by changing game rules so that the odds favored the player, rather than the house!

I was able to do this because no money was involved. No one paid anything to play and at the end, the chips were exchanged for donated prizes. So it didn't matter if everyone won; all that mattered was each player's total, relative to the other players' totals.

The players enjoyed great success under my rules. Very few lost their stake and most multiplied it quickly. Everyone had a great time... and while that was my goal, I'm also a bit concerned about whether I really did my friends a service.

Even though I told everyone my rule changes were important and that they should NOT expect to duplicate this success in a real casino, I wonder if I was creating an unfair excitement level that could encourage these players to go to a real casino and try their luck.

I don't want to encourage people to gamble, at least not people who aren't gambling already. I've seen too many players lose more than they bargained for. I teach casino self defense to people who ALREADY enjoy gambling, because if you're going to gamble, you might as well do it well, keeping losses to a minimum and winning more often than the typical visitor.

Whenever someone tells me that they don't gamble, I tell them "Congratulations. Keep it that way." People seem surprised because of my line of work, but America already has five million problem gamblers and I don't want to add any more to the list.

The casino equivalent of my Enlightened Casino is a winning trip your first time out. This kind of beginner's luck can be very dangerous as it creates an impression that the games are easy to beat, or that you are a magically lucky player, and the mental image of first time success can remain powerful even after several later losing trips.

Even good gamblers can be seduced by selective memories and/or wishful thinking, two items that I've taken to calling the Dark Side of the gambling Force.

When I was 13 years old I was already 6'3", so I was able to play blackjack for a while in a Las Vegas casino on a family vacation. I lost $20, a lot of money for a 13-year-old in 1968. When we left, my mother gave me the $20 back, and my memory of getting knocked about was transformed into a highly fictional "well I guess I broke even."

At a conscious level I knew I'd "broken even" only because my mother had given me a gift, but at a subconscious level, all the sting of my loss was gone, and I got very interested in gambling. Fortunately it turned out that I was a pretty good gambler whose seduction by the Dark Side was only temporary.

If your own early gambling experience was neutral or positive, and things haven't been going so well lately, you might want to ask yourself some hard questions about whether you've been clinging to images and impressions that are no longer supported by the facts.

If you can do that, or indeed any honest self-assessment about what you like about gambling, how much you spend on it, and how much fun you get out of it, you won't get hurt much in casinos, and you won't have to go to an Enlightened Casino to win. You, and your own personal enlightenment, will be a winner before you ever walk in the door.

Andrew N.S. Glazer
Andrew N. S. Glazer was a blackjack, backgammon and poker pro whom Newsweek Magazine called a "poker scholar." He also was the weekly gaming columnist for The Detroit Free Press, and a regular contributor to Chance Magazine, and the top gaming information websites.

Books by Andrew N.S. Glazer:

Andrew N.S. Glazer
Andrew N. S. Glazer was a blackjack, backgammon and poker pro whom Newsweek Magazine called a "poker scholar." He also was the weekly gaming columnist for The Detroit Free Press, and a regular contributor to Chance Magazine, and the top gaming information websites.

Books by Andrew N.S. Glazer: