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Top-10 things we'll miss about Al Krigman

21 October 2013

It's been almost eight years since I saw the "Poker Reporter" job opening at Casino City.

I was a journalist in my mid-20s who had been swept up by the Moneymaker wave, so of course it piqued my interest. But I also had some reservations. I didn't want to be a shill for a company that deluded people into thinking that they could get an edge against the casino.

So, like any job candidate, I did my research. I read articles by some of Casino City's "Gaming Gurus" to find out just what types of articles they were writing.

One of those "gurus" was Al Krigman. Al's work stood out to me because he was straightforward and honest. I loved his "just the odds, ma'am" approach, and his delivery was always entertaining. Al's articles helped convince me that Casino City was a source for honest information about the gambling industry and that I wouldn't be selling my soul to the devil if I started working here.

Unfortunately, players and casino enthusiasts everywhere have lost Al’s unique voice and knowledge. He passed away earlier this month. In addition to being a gaming expert, Al operated KRF Management, which owned and managed rental properties in West Philadelphia.

There are so many things we will miss about Al here at Casino City. Here's a list of the 10 things we'll miss the most.

10. His devotion to the math
Anyone familiar with Al's work won't be surprised that he earned degrees from MIT and Clarkson University. He crunched the numbers behind casino games in many of his columns, but did so in such a way to make it accessible to all his readers, not just those with advanced degrees in mathematics. If you wanted to understand the probabilities behind casino games, Al Krigman was required reading.

9. Charts
Al's devotion to math often manifested itself with elaborate charts that laid out various probabilities. The trademark Krigman chart involved a classic Courier New font, as its monoface qualities allowed him to get the spacing the way he wanted it.

The charts may not have been pretty, but the information was, and remains, incredibly valuable.

8. Explanation of volatility
While Al often explained how much a typical gambler should lose over time as a result of the house edge, the reality is there is a lot of variability in casino guests' experiences due to volatility. Without volatility, why would people even play? If you knew you were going to lose a nickel on every spin of a $1 slot machine, you'd never consider playing.

Al went to great pains to explain the concept of volatility and the role it played in a single casino visit. By detailing how house edge, win rates, probabilities, volatility, bankrolls and wager amounts worked together, Al gave his readers an impeccable understanding of what an average casino visit might look like, and the extremes on both the good and the bad ends. Armed with that knowledge, a gambler could make an informed decision on what games to play and at what stakes to play them.

7. Understanding of the "solid citizen"
Al loved the term "solid citizen." He used the term in no fewer than 80 articles written for Casino City.

For Al, a solid citizen was a gambler who understands the laws of probability in theory, but doesn't apply them in practice in a casino. While he was quick to point out the irrational thought process, he also understood the mindset that produced irrational behavior. He was never critical of people who relied on hunches. Instead, he used his column to enlighten those solid citizens in the hopes that they would understand not only the math, but also the psychology behind gambling.

6. The appeal of the long shot
Al was intrigued by side bets. He wrote numerous columns on the types of side bets at table games that typically don't require a big investment but can pay large dividends for the player when they hit. And once again, he showed the impact they can have on a gambler's bankroll without being critical of the gamblers who choose to make such bets.

5. Willingness to be a contrarian
There are some Gaming Gurus at Casino City who claim they would never, ever sit at a single-deck blackjack table that pays 6/5 on blackjack. They think the house edge on the game is too high for it to merit their play.

Al, however, shows that deciding to play at a game with a higher house edge such as a single-deck blackjack game with 6/5 payouts could be a good decision for a gambler looking for the best value.

Al never accepted typical gambling conventional wisdom. He always looked at each game and scenario completely before coming to a conclusion.

4. Understanding of all the games
Some gambling experts know a lot about slot machines. Others know a great deal about blackjack. Still, others can expound on a myriad of betting strategies in craps or roulette. But Al knew all the games.

We never knew what game Al's next column would be about, but it was likely to provide us with a new understanding of whatever game he chose.

3. He never judged players
Al always provided the odds for the games he wrote about. And he laid out various scenarios for how different betting strategies employed by gamblers would affect their bankrolls. But he was never critical of any approach a gambler might take.

One of my favorite Krigman columns details his approach at the craps table, where he explains what he does when it's his turn to roll.

"I set the dice, execute a fingertip pick-up with a dual table-tap, and wrist-waft them toward the end. I try for a classic table-wall-table cushion shot without hitting any chips."

But here's the best part.

"The toughest part is deciding on the setting. One reason is it probably doesn't matter" (emphasis mine).

I loved that, in the end, Al was really the same as every solid citizen he wrote about. He had those same superstitions, or at the very least loved the rituals of casino gambling just as much as the readers who pored over his columns every week.

2. Wordsmithery
Al had an amazing vocabulary. Nearly every Krigman column contained four or five words high school students preparing for the SAT would recognize. And his prose often read more like verse.

This line, for example, stands out:

"The miasma of misanthropy adds that flinging money across a table and shouting out a command is an exercise in assertiveness for solid citizens who resent routine repression by spouses, bosses, in-laws, offspring, gambling gurus, and others of the power elite."

I'm going to miss gems like these, and I know I'm not the only one.

1. Sumner A Ingmark
When I first started working at Casino City, I remember wondering who this poet named Sumner A Ingmark was. I Googled his name, and the only place he came up was in our Krigman columns. "Where did Al get so many lines of verse from an unknown poet?" I wondered.

One day, one of my colleagues let me in on a little secret, and I suppose it's okay to reveal it now. You might notice that "Ingmark" is an anagram of "Krigman." Turns out, the verses at the end of more than 900 of Al's columns were from his own pen.

There are so many things we're going to miss about Al Krigman, including Sumner. So it's probably best to end this column the way that Al would have, with words of wisdom from that "inspired inkster."

Whether your shouts are of joy or invective,
Largely depends on your gambling perspective
Aaron Todd

Home-game hotshot Aaron Todd was an editor/writer at Casino City for nearly eight years, and is currently the Assistant Director of Athletics for Communications and Marketing at St. Lawrence University, his alma mater. While he is happy to play Texas Hold'em, he'd rather mix it up and play Omaha Hi/Lo, Razz, Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw, and Badugi.

Aaron Todd

Home-game hotshot Aaron Todd was an editor/writer at Casino City for nearly eight years, and is currently the Assistant Director of Athletics for Communications and Marketing at St. Lawrence University, his alma mater. While he is happy to play Texas Hold'em, he'd rather mix it up and play Omaha Hi/Lo, Razz, Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw, and Badugi.