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Best of Andrew N.S. Glazer

Gaming Guru

 

The Value of Experience

12 March 2000

Like a lot of Type A personalities, I have a self-critical side that sometimes gets a bit out of control. I often get frustrated when I don't do something perfectly right away.

One of my favorite teachers, John Soper, in trying to help me with this unhealthy trait, told me, "Well, Andy, you're trying this for the very first time. Most people find that they do things better with experience than they do without experience."

That might sound like advice from the "Duh, of course," department (my second-favorite department, right after the Department of Redundancy Department), but it has helped my self-critical side, and as you might have guessed, I'm hoping it's about to help you with your casino gambling.

I have been gambling in casinos since I was 13 years old (I was already 6'3" then; I quickly found that they'd kick me out of the slot areas but didn't bother me at the tables. These days they are better, thank goodness, about keeping kids out of casinos), and I still feel like I learn something every single visit.

Usually, what I learn isn't about a particular casino game. Although I'm open to new ideas, I think I have come close to learning all I want or need to know about most casino games. In skill games like poker or backgammon, the story is quite different: I'm still learning things about those games every time I play.

For the regular casino games, though, what I learn most visits falls into the category of human nature. Sometimes my own, and sometimes the people I watch playing.

Here's a good starter observation. Repeat after me: "Until you've been in a situation, you can't be sure how you're going to react to it."

What happens to you, for example, when you win a lot of money in a very short period of time? Do you rush back to your room to hide it under your pillow? (Good concept but bad execution; you're better off putting it in the free safe deposit boxes most casinos offer.) Do you start betting wildly and blow it all back? Do you run out and spend it crazily? Do you spend it but not so crazily?

What happens to you when you lose a lot of money in a hurry? Do you start berating your spouse? Do you rush to the ATM or (shudder) credit card cash advance machines? Do you call it quits for the night, knowing what Scarlett O'Hara did, that tomorrow is another day?

If you haven't gambled much, you might THINK you know how you'll react in these situations, but without the actual experience, you can't really be sure. That's why it's so valuable and useful to pay attention to everything you think and feel when in a casino, and why a thorough post-mortem on the drive home can be helpful too.

The experience isn't all that helpful if you aren't paying attention. If you are paying attention, it might help you prepare for the next visit, might help you anticipate, through extrapolation, what might happen if a more extreme case of "whatever happened tonight" happens the next time out.

Another good question for the X-file (experience file) is "did I have a good time tonight?" If the answer is "yeah, except for when..." then you have a chance to avoid that "when" on your next trip.

If the answer is "no, I had a lousy time, because..." then you need to ask yourself how likely the "because" is to happen the next time out. What circumstances led to the "because?" How much control are you likely to have over those circumstances?

What the X-file really boils down to is this: very few people would debate the value of experience, be it in gambling or non-gambling situations. Merely having experience, though, isn't the same thing as accumulating experience, and accumulating it isn't the same thing as learning from it.

If you remain aware of the value of experience, actively seek it out, actively try to learn from it, and can let go of your ego enough to believe that there's always more to learn, your gambling X-file should continue to add weapons to your gambling arsenal. Sometimes these weapons will be defensive, keeping you away from potential meltdown situations, and sometimes they will be offensive, teaching you how to best take advantage of opportunities.

Maybe paying lots of attention to what you're doing when you're gambling doesn't fit into your notion of a fun gambling experience. OK, recognizing that is important for your X-file too. You've recognized that you're not likely to be a very successful gambler, financially. If you're aware that you're having enough fun to justify your loses, you're behaving sensibly. I don't judge your choices. I just hope you make them consciously.

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: