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5 August 2005

Dear Mark,
Do you know anything about the 8/5 betting strategy? Michael N.

The 8/5 system is a simple little betting method used exclusively in roulette and mostly in Monaco by tourist ladies with purple hair. You bet on the same eight numbers consecutively for five times. However, if your number hits on the first spin, you drop that eight-number group and pick another set of numbers. For instance, if you're betting \$1 on each number, then your total amount wagered is \$8. If one of your numbers hits, you win \$35, with a net gain of \$27.

So, let's say you don't hit any of your numbers on the first spin, but you do on the second. Again, you end this 8-number group and tot up your winnings. At this point, with your total wager of \$16, you win \$35, with a net gain of \$19.

With a hit on the third spin, against your total wager to date of \$24; you win \$35, with a net gain of \$11. How do you like this slope? If you score on the fourth spin, the total wagered is \$32, your winnings are \$35, and your net gain is \$3, price of an economy size pack of Bubble Gum.

And if you hit on the fifth spin, you are in for a total of \$40, winning \$35, and your net loss is \$5. If none of your eight numbers hits over five spins, your net loss is \$40. At this point you end your eight number group and think hard about your next move — pick another set of numbers is what the system recommends.

Now if anyone in la-la land thinks you can tar-and-feather the casino with this system, I'm thinkin' you are not putting any strain on your brain cells. Groups of eight or not, every spin is a random, independent event. The ball has no memory and lacks the artificial intelligence necessary to remember which number, or groups of numbers appeared last. In addition, the 8/5 betting in no way disarms the 5.25% edge the casino holds on every number, on every spin.

Oh sure, with any such-n-such system you might be eating chicken glazed in truffles one day, but I promise you this, it will be feathers and droppings the next.

Dear Mark,
Each year you briefly mention your betting the Indianapolis 500. I didn't see you saying anything about it before or since Memorial Day. What happened, did your luck finally run out? Sherman T.

Because I have had a penchant for open wheel racing since I was knee-high to a Coke bottle, the aroma of Gasoline Alley on Memorial weekend in Indianapolis ushers in my favorite sporting event, both to view and wager on.

As a rule, Sherman, I bet on up to six drivers based on the driver's team, the engine/chassis package, qualifying times, pit crews, and the one intangible that helps me eliminate a good number of competitors in the field; "the brave factor." This formula has allowed me to be successful in handicapping the race for umpteen years.

This year I altered my formula and went "all in," betting on just one driver that I thought capable of winning the Indy 500: Danica Patrick. Even when the country caught Danicamania, dropping her odds from 20-1 to 5-1 (always bet early for better odds), I bounced both frenzy and gender from the equation, and still saw Patrick as having the complete package necessary to win, including the brave factor; the ability to "put her foot into it."

This breakout athlete is the real deal, and she belonged at the Indianapolis 500. She gave the boys all they could handle until she had to back off in the final stages of the race for lack of fuel. Her luck ran out, Sherman, not mine. To witness history, to see the first female in the lead with six laps remaining, until being passed by eventual winner Dan Wheldon, was the best bet I ever lost.

Next year I'll be betting on her again, because I believe Danica can win and will win the Greatest Spectacle in Racing. You can bet on it!

Gambling wisdom of the week: "A team approach is needed to win the Indianapolis 500. You need good strategy, you need good pit stops, you need people with a clear idea of what needs to happen out there." -- Danica Patrick