Saturday, October 24, 2009

5 reasons people lose money at casinos (Part 5 of 5): Not optimising betting strategy

(This is the fifth in a five part series on reasons people lose money at casinos).

Even if you don't gamble blindly and never go broke, you will still probably lose more games than you win at the casino due to the fact that the odds are against you. However, this doesn't mean that it's impossible to win overall.

While the casino has the mathematical edge, you too have an advantage: the advantage of choice and free will. You can decide when to play and when not to play, and devise your own casino betting strategy. Your casino betting strategy is very important. Suppose you play 100 games, losing 70 and winning 30. If you bet $10 on 60 losing games and 10 winning games, and $30 on 10 losing games and 20 winning games, you still win by $10, and even if you are unlucky enough to lose 70% of your games.

Of course, you never know when you're going to win or lose. That's why it's called gambling, right? However, any experienced casino gambler will tell you to watch out for winning streaks. Maybe the blackjack cards are super favourable for a period of time, or you just keep betting on the banker and winning at baccarat. When you're winning more than losing, increase your bets. Once you start losing consistently, lower your bets or stop playing. It's as simple as that. How high or low depends on your budget and how risk averse you are.

Obviously there will be times when your gambling luck fluctuates like crazy and every time you increase your bets you start losing. When that happens, there's nothing much you can do but try to move around more in hopes that you'll find a better table, or stop playing for a bit if you're getting bored or frustrated.

Some people like to use betting strategies like the Martingale system. This involves doubling your bets everytime you lose. So if you lose 5 times, you have to double your bet exponentially 5 times. Just calculate how much you lose if you have a 10-bet losing streak. The risks of this system are obvious: gambler's ruin, aka running out of money. It takes guts and if you have a very unlucky streak, you'll get creamed. Of course, if your gambling luck doesn't swing too much winning money is guaranteed.

Personally, I don't have the balls to use the Martingale system, and I don't recommend it. If you're thinking of using the Martingale system to bet, my advice to you is to do everything in your power to improve your gambling luck. That includes not only following all the steps in this series and using all the tips on this blog, but also learning how to calculate auspicious days for your bazi (like how people select their wedding dates), and maybe consulting a skilled fortune teller or card reader.

There's nothing wrong with flat-betting (betting the same amount each time) at the casino, of course, and you can still win money this way. But if you only flat-bet, you will only win money when you win more than you lose, so it then becomes more important to make sure you play wisely, at the right time and take frequent breaks if your gambling luck is poor.

Some people prefer to devise a strict system (ie. double bets every 3 wins, reduce bets every 3 losses) while others prefer to wing it. I suggest you come up with an approximate system and then vary it according to your mood and gambling luck, because no amount of planning will fully equip you for the myriad situations you will encounter at the casino table.

Whatever casino betting strategy you choose, the most important thing is to ensure your strategy allows you to stay within your limits, because once you run out of money no betting strategy is going to bring it back.

Friday, October 23, 2009

5 reasons people lose money at casinos (Part 4 or 5): Failing to circulate the casino

(This is the fourth in a five-part series on reasons people lose money at casinos.)

I can't understand some casino gamblers. We've all seen the player who hits a losing streak, but keeps on tossing hundred dollar bill after hundred dollar bill--all onto the same table. If you've been consistently losing at a particular table, there is either something wrong with the game at that table, or there is something wrong with your luck. Either way, you have everything to lose and nothing to gain by remaining at that table.

Some tables will forever suck

Sometimes the cards just suck and won't get better. Blackjack card counters may tell you that the count fluctuates throughout a game and a mediocre game can get better. Yes, in some cases it can. But card clumping can ensure that the entire shoe will be crappy to play throughout (it means all the favourable cards--face cards, are clumped together so you don't see them much throughout the shoe). This is a controversial concept and some critics will shoot it down. Personally, I do believe in it from my own observations. There are some blackjack decks that let all the players at the table win throughout the shoe, and there are some where everyone loses consistently.

With roulette, success sometimes is dependent on the croupier since they can control their spin and influence where the ball will land, to a certain extent (more on that here.) This means if you have a particularly sly croupier, you'll find your money spinning away along with the wheel. Sure, if you're the type who's hungry for revenge you can try to outwit and outsmart the croupier. But you'll never outlast him cos you lose money, he just stands there.

Just beat it

Like most men, some tables will never change just because you want them to. So don't pay rent for the seat you're warming. If you're losing money, move on to a different table or another game. I've covered the need to circulate the casino in more detail here.

The Long Jie cruise only has two blackjack tables on the main floor and it's usually crowded. Two tables only how to circulate! you might ask. Believe it, it can be done. I've spent hours just going back and forth between the two tables (will force myself to leave if I lose 3 hands in a row--takes discipline) until I hit a winning streak on one. Then I'll stay and ride the wave for as long as I can.

Lousy tables are like abusive spouses and shitty jobs. Leave 'em, they ain't worth it.

Read Part 5 of this series!

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Thursday, October 22, 2009

5 reasons people lose money at casinos (Part 3 of 5): Playing at the wrong time

(This is the third in a 5 part series on why people lose money at casinos.)

Anyone who counts cards at blackjack will tell you that there are times when, no matter how closely you watch the blackjack tables, conditions just never become favourable enough for you to win much. People who believe in luck (and I've seen enough not to believe that people go through marked periods of good and bad luck) will tell you that there are times when you have to just wait for your luck to turn around.

There are two scenarios which tell you you should be taking a break:

1) Conditions are not favourable: blackjack decks are producing consistently lousy cards, roulette croupiers aren't exhibiting any patterns in their spins.

2) Your luck stinks: you've been playing correctly, but somehow your stack of chips is dwindling at an alarming rate.

One major problem many of us face is having travelled hours, by land, air or sea, just to get to the bloody casino. That makes us unwilling to waste a single second which could be used to, we tell ourselves, win back our money.

The only advice I have for you is: chill. Remind yourself that the objective of going to the casino is to have fun, so if having fun means playing for 2 hours until the $200 you are prepared to lose is gone, then so be it. Instead of worrying about missing opportunities to win, tell yourself you are protecting yourself from losing for the time being... until your luck takes a turn for the better.

If your luck isn't going so well, spread out your games and circulate the casino (also covered in our next instalment) instead of fighting hand, tooth and nail to stay at one table.

If you just can't win no matter what you do on a particular casino trip, but you still want to play at least a little, try to play in such a way that you lose the least amount of money within the greatest amount of time. This means betting the minimum amount, and not betting on every single round. If games become more favourable or your luck starts improving, you can then increase your bets.

The key to avoid losing money this way is to accept that you can't win all the time. The reverse is also true: unless you manage your money very poorly, you won't lose all the time either. The casino's edge is far from 100%. The secret to coming out on top (ie. winning overall) is to avoid playing at times when you're bound to lose, and to play more at times when you're winning!

Read Part 4 of this series!

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

5 reasons people lose money at casinos (Part 2 of 5): Playing the wrong games

The typical recreational gambler will find that the casino has better odds in all the games (except Texas Hold'em, but it's not really a casino game anyway). Duh. This is not news.

However, some games are worse than others. From best to worst, the list goes something like this:

1) Blackjack - under 1% disadvantage IF you play using basic strategy. The house edge can even creep into your favour if you count cards and conditions are favourable.

2) Baccarat - about 1.1% to 1.4% disadvantage. More advantageous to bet on the banker.

3) Roulette - assuming every single spin really is random, the odds are pretty lousy. The house edge is 2.7% for roulette wheels with a single zero, but it rises to 5.26% for roulette wheels with double zeroes (0 and 00). However, as we discussed before, roulette games may not be random and your odds can improve if you know how to take advantage of this, or worsen if you yourself are exploited by the croupier. 

4) Sic Bo/Da Xiao (大小) - house edge varies depending on the casino and which bets you're placing. Betting on big or small places you at a 2.78% disadvantage. Totals of 4 and 17 have a 6.94% house edge if the payoff is 12 to 1 (apparently you have better odds in Macau and Australia), while totals of 9 and 12 give the house a whopping 11.57% advantage. There's an odds table here. I personally hate sic bo and heartily recommend that you avoid the game given the crappy odds. There is no strategy you can use to improve your chances of winning, and the fact that the dice are covered makes it dodgier.

5) Slots - worst game in the casino, can give the house an advantage of up to 15%. However, I admit I sometimes play this when I have spare change because you don't have to spend much--but I don't expect to get much/anything back.

If everybody adhered religiously to the odds tables everyone would be playing blackjack and nobody would be playing roulette, sic bo or slots. Obviously, just because a game offers lousy odds doesn't mean all players will be losing at those games all the time. Sometimes your luck sucks at the blackjack table but improves when you place random bets at the sic bo table. That's life. But when your luck is very average and conditions at all tables seem average too, choosing the right games can help you to win a little.

Combine your knowledge of which games are good with some skill and you'll be much better off.

Good luck!

Friday, October 16, 2009

5 reasons people lose money at casinos (Part 1 of 5): Not learning how to play the games properly

You wouldn't expect to speed down the highway without first learning how to drive, or dive into the deep end of the swimming pool without first learning to swim.

So don't expect to win money if you don't know how to play the casino game you've sat down at. I'm not saying it's impossible to win money--everyone has spells of blind luck now and then. But if you seriously plan on winning at the casino regularly, you should make sure you know how to optimise your game.

People usually estimate the casino's edge as being around 1-5% for each game. That only applies if you play correctly! If you pay haphazardly, the casino's edge will rise dramatically! 

Blackjack: As I've said time and again, the serious recreational player should at least be familiar with (even better to have perfectly memorised) the basic strategy table. Memorising basic strategy should reduce the casino's edge to less than 1%. Without a knowledge of basic strategy, you will bust on hands you could easily have won, fail to hit when you clearly should, and worst of all, miss out on chances to win double the amount when the odds are clearly in your favour. Trust me, your game will improve significantly once you memorise basic strategy. If casinos offer blackjack games without card shuffling machines, more avid players may want to learn card counting as well. 

Roulette: Some people say there is no strategy one can employ to reduce the house edge in roulette. Others swear by exploitable biases, which is basically a fancy way of saying that where the ball lands is not random (ie. the croupier's spin can be predicted--more on that here). Whether you believe in closing your eyes and praying to the gods to pick your numbers or you painstakingly try to analyse where the ball will next land, you should make sure you are familiar with the paybacks each square offers. Know which squares pay 36:1 and which only pay 2:1. Take the card with the diagram of the wheel and table and study it so you know what you're betting on, and avoid stupid mistakes like betting on 36 individual numbers. 

Baccarat: Unfortunately, there is no strategy that can be employed to reduce the house's edge in baccarat. No, really, there isn't. No player is better/worse off than another in terms of odds (unless someone decides to donate to the casino by betting on both banker and player at the same time). Some people argue that the banker has a very very slight advantage. This is offset by commissions that must be paid to the banker if you bet on him at some casinos (eg. Long Jie cruise). Some people try to follow trends but those occur purely by chance, so it's up to you and your gut feeling. This also means baccarat is the game that requires the least thinking. Yay? 

Texas Hold'em Poker: This is probably the game that will get you killed if you go in unprepared. Poker is a legitimate sport, so if you don't know how to calculate pot odds, analyse starting hands, analyse the board and know when to play tightly/loosely/passively/aggressively (or even know what these terms mean), you're playing with fire. If the game is no limit and you don't have a few hundred bucks worth of chips at a very minimum, forget it! My advice to you is: spend some months practising online (with real money, not Facebook poker), at pubs (if it's legal where you live) or with friends before you even attempt playing at the casino. To put it bluntly, the players at the casino are too pro already (unless your bankroll is enormous, and even then...).

Read Part 2 of this series!

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

5 reasons people lose money at casinos

Coming up soon on Lady HengHeng is a 5-part series on why people lose money at casinos.

Here's a summary of the five reasons.

Stay tuned! I'm confident this series will help you to maximise your wins and minimise your losses on your next casino trip.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Buy your own roulette wheel

There is a games shop at Royal Arcade in Melbourne, close to where I live. The other day I was walking past when I realised there was a roulette wheel in the window! I don't know anyone else who has actually tried to buy their own roulette wheel, but this one looks nice man!


For A$200, it is actually quite cheap considering it looks rather real. Obviously it is nowhere near as big as roulette wheels at the casino. Its circumference is about 30 to 40 cm. The Crown Casino gift shop sells a similar roulette wheel for a few hundred more.

If this thing was a fraction of the price/I didn't have a ton of stuff to ship back/I actually had more than 5 relatives in Singapore, I would buy this and make a killing during Chinese New Year!

The shop also has mahjong sets. I didn't check how much they were as the shop was closed but they are obviously overpriced judging from the fancy pseudo-oriental packaging and the fact that it's an Asian commodity in a Western country.


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Friday, October 9, 2009

Personalised 4D numbers

Some people buy the same set of lottery numbers every week, hoping that the numbers will win a prize one day. While there are other strategies that seem more justifiable, such as analysing numbers (4dsiao provides such a service for 4D) or scanning the environment for the right numbers at the right time, it can be comforting to have a pre-determined series of numbers. This is especially so if you have a personal connection to the numbers--if you're going through a period of exceptionally good windfall luck, buying 'your' numbers may increase your chances of striking 4D because of the close connection the numbers have to you personally.

Here are some suggestions on how to derive personalised sets of 4D numbers:

1. Last four digits of your I/C, eg. for S7834726J, buy 4726.

2. License plate number, eg. for SBZ8481A, buy 8481.

3. Flat or apartment unit number, eg. for #03-02, buy 0302.

4. Last four digits of your mobile number, eg. for 98342665, buy 2665.

5. Last four digits of your land line number, eg. for 65654434, buy 4434.

The problem with the popular Toto format (6 numbers from 1 to 45; also the format for Lotto and many other lottery games worldwide) is that it's much harder to come up with such numbers than it is to simply find 4 digits. When I buy Toto, I usually either buy Quickpick or just do my best to choose random numbers. Sometimes I buy a combination of numbers derived from my I/C, mobile and home unit numbers. (However, I am becoming disillusioned with Toto, particularly since the odds of striking a decent prize in Toto are so much lower than 4D, so I enjoy buying 4D more these days.)

Read more:
How to pick lottery numbers