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Best of Andrew N.S. Glazer

To Avoid Gambling Pain, Remember Your Driving Lane

27 June 1999

Usually I like to offer gambling tips based on the psychology of the individual and (un)common sense, rather than mind-numbing mathematical analyses, and fortunately for the mathematically-challenged, I'm sticking to form today.

Like most Californians I'm highly dependent on my car to go anywhere, and like most Californians, I face the prospect of heavy traffic anytime I'm on the road between 5 a.m. and 10 p.m. This means the only time I drive without traffic is when I'm coming home from a poker game (which is the one time I wouldn't mind it, since I usually engage in a long post-game review of what I did right and what I did wrong, and sitting in traffic is as good a place as any to do that).

So when it comes to good times for traffic, I just can't win. But today, as I was zigzagging through (and swearing at) the usual collection of right-lane inconsiderate morons slowing down to make their turns, and left-lane imbeciles who mostly drive fast but who come to a complete stop occasionally to make a left turn (I mean, everyone ELSE on the road is either an inconsiderate moron, an imbecile, or a part of the human anatomy that I can't mention in print, right?), I discovered a parallel between my driving strategies and my gambling strategies.

What's more, I think examining this parallel will help recreational gamblers develop good strategies for their own betting pace. So let's shift out of this introductory gear and drive a few points home.

To start, you need to decide, are you a right lane driver or a left lane driver? (This applies to 4-lane roads, that is, two lanes in each direction.)

On such roads, the left lane usually moves very well, until some imbecile decides that he would rather turn left and go home instead of missing his turn just so you can keep going fast. The right lane never stops dead, but right lane drivers frequently have to slow down for the inconsiderate morons who would rather slow to a safe speed to make their right turn, instead of taking the turn on two wheels.

Most of us who drive such roads have come, over time, to adopt a fairly consistent strategy, and that strategy ties in directly to your gambling personality.

Those who favor the left lane (we'll call them Lefties) are the risk takers. They would rather go fast, and are willing to take the risk that an imbecile might want to turn. If an imbecile does appear, they're willing to gamble that they can sprint into the right lane and zoom past the troublemaking imbecile. If the traffic flow of inconsiderate morons on the right doesn't allow this, the Lefties feel doubly unlucky.

Those who favor the right lane, the Righties, prefer a steady pace. To them, slowing down occasionally for an inconsiderate moron seems far better than risking a complete stop.

It shouldn't be too hard for the reader to identify himself/herself as a Lefty or a Righty. Now let's see what this means about your gambling.

If you're a Lefty, you crave fast action, and are willing to accept sudden disaster if it means you have a better chance to win. That means you probably should be playing a fast game like Craps, making both Pass Line bets and Come bets, so the action keeps moving fast and furious.

Of course, the problem with this Craps strategy, especially if you have a few Come bets going also, is that one 7 brings you to a halt in a hurry, and you're likely to consider the shooter something a lot worse than an imbecile. The 7 will also enable you to enjoy that "the Universe is out to get me" feeling that Lefties embrace whenever an imbecile impedes their progress.

If you're a Lefty and a slot player, you should probably stick to progressive slot machines (and of course, all this lefty/righty silliness aside, you should make sure the machine you pick has been building up for a long while; playing one that has just been hit is the slot equivalent of driving with your eyes closed). Progressive machines are best for people looking for that home run of a big jackpot, the possibility, however unlikely, that they can make the whole trip without a single imbecile slowing them down.

The problem with progressive machines isn't all that dissimilar to the problem with the left lane. Yes, the payoff is bigger, just as the left lane is faster, but the odds on actually hitting the jackpot are very bad. Most of the time, you'll wind up losing more by playing progressive machines.

Of course, the Lefty personality isn't well-suited to slots, because the action is too steady. If you are a Lefty slot player, my guess is you'd prefer one hour of action on a dollar machine to four hours of action on a quarter machine. Roughly the same expected result, but the risks and rewards are greater during this shorter drive.

Righties, of course, should stick to non-progressive machines. You won't get rich on one, but you'll get more frequent positive reinforcement, and make steadier progress.

For Roulette players (and please note I don't advocate Roulette to anyone, except perhaps an imbecile or inconsiderate moron who slows down my drive; the house edge is too great), the choice is easy. Righties should play Red or Black, or the 1-18, 19-36 bets. They pay at even money and you'll make that steady (losing) progress you like. Lefties should bet the individual numbers, with their 35-1 home run potential.

Poker, unless you enjoy losing, is a game for Righties. Good poker play requires discipline and the willingness to fold a lot of hands. Someone who wants to go top speed all the time, and who curses his/her bad luck when that approach doesn't work, will almost certainly be a losing player. Limit poker is a game of steady progress, of not trying to set a speed or winnings record every trip.

(The very best poker players vary their speeds and styles, sometimes seeming like Lefties and sometimes like Righties, but until you've mastered one style I would hesitate to recommend trying two.)

Keno and the Money Wheel are games for masochistic Lefties. The house enjoys an immense edge and both Righties and Lefties will get slaughtered quickly. The masochistic Lefty will get to enjoy cursing his/her bad luck. If that description doesn't fit you, stay away.

What about the casino veteran's favorite game, blackjack? This game works pretty well for both groups. The action is fast, yet you can make steady progress. As with slots, Lefties will probably enjoy playing for shorter periods for higher stakes, and Righties will enjoy longer sessions at lower stakes. Lefties can also try playing two or three spots simultaneously, although (as with high stakes action), a hot dealer can turn your session into jack-knifed tractor-trailer accident.

Baccarat, another of the best casino games (it isn't beatable by counting systems but the house edge is quite small unless you bet the tie bet, which will slaughter you), is more of a Righty game because of the steady pace. Lefties, though, can enjoy that thrill of the last card deciding the hand, and the game is so much less unfavorable than most other casino games, odds-wise, that I hesitate to warn Lefties away from it.

Well, I think you're starting to get the point. If you understand your own unique personality, you'll have a much better chance to select a game that gives you maximum enjoyment for your gambling dollar, and for all casino visitors except blackjack card counters and poker pros, maximum enjoyment for your gambling dollar is the only realistic long-term goal. A winning trip every now and then is certainly a realistic long-term goal, but every time? No.

Anyone who visits casinos regularly, playing house advantage games because they expect to win (as opposed to wanting to win but being willing to accept the thrill of the competition as a reasonable return on his/her investment)… well, if I saw you on the road, you'd no doubt either be stopped to turn left, or slowing down to 5 m.p.h. to make your right turn, and I'd know what to call you.

Even if you do currently fall into the "expect to win" category, I won't call you one of those names here, because if you're wise enough to be trying to learn more about how to gamble smarter, you are most definitely NOT a moron or an imbecile. At worst, you're inexperienced… and EVERYONE starts out inexperienced; it's no crime. If you're reading this, and/or other good gambling educational material, you won't be inexperienced for long.

Just do me one favor, OK? The next time you go to Vegas, fly.

© 1999 Andrew N.S. Glazer and Casino Conquests International, LLC
All Rights Reserved

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: