Take It Easy

I remember when I was a teenager experiencing my first bout with alcohol. At the time in New York City the drinking age was 18 and at 18 – vavavoom! I went to my first bar in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. I think the bar was on 98th street on 4th Avenue in the St. Patrick’s parish near Fort Hamilton. (I wonder if that bar is still there?)

I ordered a beer. My friend also ordered a beer. We drank slowly, savoring our first taste of what had been the forbidden fruit; or the forbidden fruit juice. It wasn’t delicious but it was booze! I was drinking booze just like all the other grizzled men at the bar. I wasn’t grizzled at that time in my life but I felt a part of a larger society, men who drink.

My second glass of beer went down more smoothly and a little faster at that. The third went faster and my taste for the beer grew, in fact I ordered another before I even finished the one I was on.

The night started to get hazy and I was now socking them down. My friend socked them down too and then he went to the bathroom. I am not quite sure when. I had a few more beers by the time he came back to the table.

“I got sick,” he said.

“Ha! Ha!” I laughed. “You can’t hold your booze like I can.” I then patted what I thought was my cast iron tummy. “Ah ha!” I rejoiced.

Somewhere in a dim dizzy world I was walking down 4th Avenue towards the Verrazano Bridge which had recently been completed. I found myself puking all over myself and everything near me. I rolled into the bushes and passed out. I had no idea what happened to my friend. In fact, I never even thought of him.

A light was shining in my face. “Uh, uh,” I mumbled.

The cop said to someone behind him, “Is this your son?”

My father came forward and said, “Yes.” Dawn was at hand. I had been in the bushes all night.

I don’t remember how I got home. I do remember that my father and I did not say a word to each other, or if we did I have no recollection of it.

At home I took off my clothes, got into the shower, and all was hazy but my growing headache. I went to sleep and when I woke up late that afternoon I asked myself, “What did I do? What the heck did I do last night? The whole evening was shot to hell.”

And that is what many casino gamblers feel the next morning after a night that started off slow and happy while ending fast and horrible.

Casino gambling can be like drinking. You start off totally in control, play in a relaxed fashion, but as time passes you play faster and faster. This is especially true of slot players. If that slot player also drinks as well then…well, then I am sure you get the fast-motion picture.

Table-game players increase their bets as they hang around the tables and if those players drink…well, then I am sure you get the expensive picture.

The next morning many casino players ask themselves the same question I did so long ago, “What did I do? What the heck did I do last night?”

I am not telling people not to play casino games; these games are fun. I am not telling casino gamblers not to have a few drinks (only a few mind you). But I am saying this: Restrain yourself. Do not increase your speed of play; do not bet more as the night wears on.

I no longer have to worry about winding up in the bushes under the lights of the Verrazano Bridge. I know how much I can drink and I know I do not have a cast iron stomach. I know that if my father were still alive he would not have to scour Bay Ridge to find his unconscious son.

Casino gamblers should learn such a lesson as well.

[Read Frank Scoblete’s books I Am a Card Counter: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Blackjack, I Am a Dice Controller: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Craps and Confessions of a Wayward Catholic! All available from Amazon.com, on Kindle and electronic media, at Barnes and Noble, and at bookstores.]

Slots vs. Table Games: No Contest!

Slot machines and table games are two very different things – and the casinos know this quite well. Slot machines are the cash cows of casinos, bringing in often more than twice the money as table games.

It is easy to get a good idea of why such a case holds true. If we take a one-dollar slot of the traditional three reels variety, we can speculate how much money this machine will make for the casino. We can then make a comparison with a table game. Obviously this comparison will be a generalization but it will hold.

Let us say that a slot player puts in three dollars per spin every six seconds, meaning 10 spins per minute. That’s $30 per minute. If the house has an edge of 10 percent, the player can expect to lose $3 per minute over time. In an hour that comes to $180. That’s what the player loses and that’s what the casino makes.

Now let us look at a $10 blackjack player. He plays two hands a minute which comes to $20. The house edge is around one-half percent, meaning he loses 50 cents for every $10 wagered. In a minute he loses one dollar. In 60 minutes he loses $60.

We can see that a one-dollar slot player loses three times more money than a $10 blackjack player.

So why would anyone play those slot machines? Well, first of all, not all slots are of the traditional variety. They come in all sorts of arrangements, from videos of movies, cartoons, television shows and outlandish multi-play machines where you can wager a few pennies all the way up to five or more dollars.

Slots offer the opportunity to hit a big one whereas a game such as blackjack would require a long string of good luck – a really long string – to bring in some big bucks. All slots come in with high house edges and can be played quite fast. The more decisions a game has the better it is for the casino. High house edges and fast speeds are the bane of casino players – and slot players know this quite well.

So if you wanted to open a casino, the crowd you’d want to bring in is undoubtedly a slot-playing crowd. If you check many of the newest casinos, they have table games all right but they are mechanized – they are slot machines!

Slots are more economical for casinos too. Not only do they make far more money but they cost far less to buy and/or rent. Slots don’t need salaries, sick leave, medical insurance, and they don’t get into arguments with players. People are far tougher to handle than machines.

In the contest between slot machines and table games, well, it is actually no contest.

[Read Frank Scoblete’s latest books I am a Dice Controller: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Craps and I am a Card Counter: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Blackjack. Both available from Amazon.com, kindle, Barnes and Noble, and at book stores.]

The Slot Machine Martingale

 

His eyes were feverish; his hands trembling. “Oh, my lord!” he thought excitedly. “I have found a sure fire way to win at gambling. It is so simple; I am amazed no one ever thought of this before! I am brilliant!”

He turned to his wife, “Honey, we are going to own the world! This betting system will always win; it has to always win. It can’t lose.” He was ecstatic; that is, he was ecstatic until the system crashed and burned and took away everything he had previously won using it. He was crestfallen.

That “he” was me 27 years ago and that “can’t lose” system I invented was called a Martingale – a system also invented by countless thousands of gamblers for centuries and played extensively at roulette by the aristocracy of Europe in the 18th century – before those aristocrats became peasants because they used it and lost their fortunes.

I think just about every casino gambler, especially at the start of his or her career, will discover the Martingale and think, “I can’t lose with this – it has to win! Honey, let’s buy a gargantuan safe.”

The simple Martingale is a double your bet after you lose system. I bet one dollar; I lose one dollar, I now bet two dollars. If I win the second bet, I have made up for the loss of that one dollar and made one dollar in profit. If I lose that second bet, well then my next bet is four dollars. If I win that, I get back the three dollars I lost plus one dollar in profit. And up it goes until I inevitably win.

Yes, it does sound like an unbeatable system but two things prevent it from being successful in the real world of wagering. If there is no cap on your betting, you need an infinite amount of money to keep going “up, up and away!” when you hit a prolonged losing streak. And all gamblers, using all betting systems, will run into long losing streaks. If you don’t have the cash you are doomed, as I was, to crash.

In casinos, the house betting limits stop the players from going to extraordinary levels of betting using the Martingale. Usually seven to nine increases in one’s bet hits the highest limit and nothing higher can be wagered. That’s what did me in. I lost seven spins at roulette in a row, couldn’t bet enough on the next spin to get it all back, and I went down to peasantdom like those 18th century aristocrats.

But what about using the Martingale on slot machines? Could the slots, with their amazing variety of denominations and potential number of coins played, be the first and only successful use of the Martingale betting system?

Let’s take a look at how one could go about structuring a Martingale at slot play.

Go to quarter machines and play one coin. Say the jackpot line is $600. Once you have lost more than $600, you will have to now start putting in two coins. If that jackpot is $900, then you have a $300 loss limit before you have to go to three coins. If the jackpot is $1,200, as soon as you have lost another $300 playing three coins you can no longer get an overall win on that quarter machine.

Yes, you will have some bigger and smaller non-jackpot hits, so really playing as described in the above paragraph is simplistic but it makes a valid point. You will sooner or later have to jump up the bets to stay in the game. With slots, you might not lose that $600 or $900 or $1,200 for quite a while or you might lose it in a few dozen blinks of the eye. That is all a matter of luck and math.

Once you have lost all on the quarter machines, you must now go up to the 50 cents machines; then the dollar machines; the five dollar machines and higher. Remember, playing the Martingale means you must win back all the money you lost to show a profit. Yes, the profit will be small – perhaps just a dollar – and the risk will be greater and greater as you go up in denomination, but that is the Martingale at work.

I am guessing that with careful pen and paper work, you can make a chart of how much money you would need to take the slot machine Martingale through the roof.  I am also thinking that the amount would be staggering.

The bromide, “Well, I have to win sooner or later,” while sounding good, really has no meaning. You actually don’t have to win sooner or later. You can wipe out your bankroll, indeed, you can wipe out every penny you have, if you keep going higher and higher in a Martingale and lose until you have nothing left to bet anymore.

Certainly, it would be a rare occasion to go through the roof on a slot machine Martingale system but the more you play, the better the chance that probability will catch you in its claws and send you through the roof and send your money down the toilet.

In such a dire situation – one that I experienced – you are risking everything for a little return. Is such a gamble worth it? True, you will have many wins along the Martingale trail but as you proceed down that road, a big, hungry monster is lurking in the woods, getting ready to pounce and eat you all up.

It is best to avoid the Martingale. It is an unbeatable system…until it loses.

[My book Slot Conquest: How to Beat the Slot Machines is available from Amazon.com, kindle, Barnes and Noble, and at bookstores. Yes, this book has beatable machines – if you can find them!]