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Don't Let Short Term Gambling Wins Fool You

5 February 2000

I bumped into a fellow at the casino buffet the other day. He said, "This has gotta be the best gamblin' house around, man. I always win here!"

"Roulette!" he responded confidently.

I didn't bother to converse with him any further. I've given up on preaching to roulette and slot players.

You see, gambling being what it is, there will be periods when somebody is winning at something and they're really not supposed to be. At those times, you'll never convince that person that it's not because of his own special strategy--when in reality, he's just been lucky.

Here's what I mean. Suppose our buffet friend was playing single zero roulette (available in this particular casino). There, the odds are 19 to 18 against red coming up (as well as black, odd, or even). That gives him a 48.6% shot at hitting any of them; not far from 50-50. But as he presses onward, that house edge begins to grind away at him.

After just 15 wagers, his mathematical chance to have won more bets than he's lost would already be down to 45%. And after 100 bets, his probability of being ahead drops off to 35%. If he keeps at it, he'll eventually have virtually no chance at all of being ahead.

Let's say this fella's success story came from playing the single zero wheel on a few occasions for a total of 12 hours. His statistical luck factor (standard deviation from the norm) over that period gives him a 28% chance to be beating the house at this point. That kind of thing happens. Even with a double-zero wheel, his chances would still be 17%. That can happen too; haven't you ever drawn one card to an open-end straight in poker and made it? Exact same odds! Below is a list of your mathematical chances to be ahead at various casino games after 12 accumulated hours of play.

 DOUBLE~ZERO ROULETTE 17% SINGLE ZERO ROULETTE 28% TYPICAL BLACKJACK PLAYER 32% PASS LINE AT CRAPS 36% BASIC STRATEGY BLACKJACK 43% PRO BLACKJACK CARD COUNTER 58%

My point is this: There are bound to be some gamblers out there who have been running lucky. But if they're not playing a beatable game with a winning strategy, they'll eventually crash and burn!

As for you, don't let any success you may currently be having with an unbeatable game like Caribbean Stud or roulette delude you into believing it's because of something you're doing right. Even if you're winning with some home-spun strategy at a beatable game like blackjack, your good fortune will end. You need to learn the right stuff to have a long-term chance at beating the game.

So then, how can you tell if you're playing well enough to win at some gambling game? Long-term results. How long? Think about this. A perfect basic strategy blackjack player has a 1/2% disadvantage to the house. But that 1/2% is so small and gambling is so volatile that there's still a 10% chance of his being a winner after 80,000 hands —- even though he's playing a losing game! That's around 1000 hours of blackjack! If you've put in over 1000 hours at your particular game and are still money ahead, it's pretty safe to say you've got the game licked. Anything much less than that could just be short-term luck.

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Fred Renzey
Fred Renzey is a high-stakes, expert poker player. On a daily basis he faces--and beats--some of the best players in the country in fierce poker room competition. Now for the first time, Renzey offers his perceptive insights on how to play winning poker. For Fred's 13-page blackjack booklet "Ace/10 Front Count", send \$9 to Fred Renzey, P.O. Box 598, Elk Grove Village, IL, 60009

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Blackjack Bluebook II
Fred Renzey
Fred Renzey is a high-stakes, expert poker player. On a daily basis he faces--and beats--some of the best players in the country in fierce poker room competition. Now for the first time, Renzey offers his perceptive insights on how to play winning poker. For Fred's 13-page blackjack booklet "Ace/10 Front Count", send \$9 to Fred Renzey, P.O. Box 598, Elk Grove Village, IL, 60009