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!

Read more:

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!

Read more:

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!

Read more:

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.


Read more:

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

What do you think of the Singapore Integrated Resorts casino entrance fee for Singaporeans?

I knew it was too good to be true. Right after casino gambling was legalized in Singapore, the powers that be happily decided to slap a S$100 entrance fee on all Singaporeans and PRs. This means that while their neighbours in JB can drive across the causeway and waltz into the casinos without spending a cent, Singaporeans will lose S$100 even before placing a single bet. The explicit purpose of the entrance fees is to discourage problem gambling, and effectively let the casinos earn tourists' money while leaving Singaporeans untouched.

At first I thought it would be dumb to pay S$100 just to step into a casino. It's not nice to start gambling with the sinking feeling that you've already lost money.

But if you look at it from another angle, a weekend in Genting Highlands costs about S$100 as well, plus you have to endure the long drive there and back. The Singapore IR casino is probably nicer than the Genting casino anyway, so you get better value for money. A weekend in Macau costs a few hundred at least, so entrance fee notwithstanding the Singapore IR is still the cheaper option.

On the other hand, S$100 does not buy you a weekend in a hotel and access to the casino all weekend. It buys you entry into an Integrated Resorts casino on that day only. So you are probably paying S$100 for at most (at least for regular people; the truly hardcore who can sacrifice sleep can probably stay inside for 24-48 hours) 12 hours of casino time.

Cost comparison: Alternatives to spending that S$100

So what are your options? Let's take a look at how far your money can go (values are approximate and adjusted for people based in Singapore).

Under S$50 - Long Jie/Royale Star/Leisure World cruise. Depending on which ship you're on, you may be able to get away with paying only $10 for entry if you change a certain amount into rolling chips. Disadvantages include an unglamorous environment, bad food, lengthy travelling time (about 2 hours each way), sitting on bumpy ferries and having to change boats.

S$100 - 1 day at a Singapore Integrated Resort casino. Luxurious, new and surrounded by lots of other facilities. Downside: one day only, once you leave there's no going back. This brings with it a whole host of other disadvantages--for instance, gamblers will be more compelled to try to win their money back even if their gambling luck sucks because they'd have to pay another S$100 to come back another day.

S$100 - 3 days 2 nights in Genting Highlands. An okay casino, decent accommodation and a passable selection of alternative entertainment (bowling alley, theme park, etc). Biggest disadvantage is the 8 hour car/bus ride each way.

S$500 - 3 days 2 nights in Macau. Tons of casinos to suit a range of budgets from the truly luxurious to the downright dodgy. A short flight away and can be quite cheap if you fly budget. Macau is also a nice city to explore if you get bored or go broke. Main disadvantage is the relatively high cost.

S$2,000 - Year-long entrance pass to Singapore Integrated Resort casinos. The advantage is easy access to what I think will be quite luxurious and professional casinos in a setting that seems like it's going to be quite happening. The obvious downside is the fact that it's $2,000. Bloody hell. To make it worth the cost you'd have to visit the casino at least 20 times within a year.

What do you think?

Do you plan to fork out the S$100 entrance fee just once to see what the Singapore IR casinos are like? Do you intend to go regularly? Would you rather spend the money on other casinos in the region? Or are you convinced that the S$2,000 membership is for you? Lady HengHeng is all ears.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Set up a home casino for under $40

The other day, I was wandering around Big W, which is like Australia's version of Carrefour, when guess what I saw selling for a mere $13?

Card shuffling machines! What's more they are battery operated! Slot your cards in, push a button and the thing will (I imagine) start to make whirring noises like the evil card shuffling machines at casinos.

This could come in handy at home blackjack games and illegal gambling dens.

Or you could buy it for your kids and give them a head start.

Fine, it looks a bit cheap and plasticky.

A few aisles down, just beside the Barbie dolls, they were also selling this!

Deluxe poker set for a mere $19.97! Looks presentable enough for home poker games.

The metal box looks like it could contain a gun or ransom money. Should try carrying it through customs.

To these items (okay maybe not the card shuffling machine) you just need to add 2 six-packs (of beer not muscle) and 20 packets of instant noodles, and voila! A houseful of happy guests!

Read more:
Buy your own roulette wheel

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Can your face tell you if you're going to have good gambling luck?

One of the books I'm currently reading is Joey Yap's Mian Xiang Discover Face Reading- Your Guide to the Art of Chinese Face Reading. I'm still in the middle of it but I'm already dying to test out the face reading techniques on real people.

According to Joey Yap, one way to determine if your gambling luck is good on a particular day is to check the Fa Ling (法令), or Laughter Lines, on your face. These are the lines extending from the sides of the nose to the sides of the mouth; if you are quite young they probably can only be seen when you smile or laugh. If yours are dark in colour or look dull against your overall complexion, it's a sign of poor luck. Conversely, I assume that a bright or radiant Fa Ling area signifies good luck.

The book actually warns you to stay away from gambling if your lines are greenish or blackish but, eh, I don't think I've ever seen anyone with lines of that colour?! If you have green lines on your face then I think you have a lot more to worry about than gambling!

If you want to read this book too, please consider getting it from this link as I'm an Amazon affiliate and purchasing your copy through my links will help me to continue contributing to this site! Yay!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Be a casino butterfly and flit from table to table

Ever wonder why sometimes you think you haven't been that unlucky, but then after 1 hour at the blackjack/roulette/baccarat table you suddenly realise you've lost way more than you thought?

Well, maybe it's because you have been sitting at the same table for 1 hour.

Usually, out of 100 tables at a casino, only a handful will be dealing games that are great for the player. The rest will be mediocre, or even bad. If I can't find a blackjack table where the dealer just keeps busting, or a really predictable roulette croupier, what do I do? I just move around until I find one, and if I can't, I circulate around different tables playing a few games here and there.

When you play short spurts at any table, your luck will probably fluctuate. Sometimes you'll be unlucky and start losing straight away. Sometimes your luck will be up for a while before it goes down. I try to take advantage of this by staying at a table while I'm winning, and leaving once I start losing. For example if I'm playing blackjack, unless I've already won quite a bit at a particular table and it has thus proven itself (usually at such tables there is a reason like a great positive card count or favourable card clumping, but the bottom line is, I have been winning at the table), I will make myself leave if I lose 3 hands in a row.

How many times have you stayed at a table despite knowing full well you were losing money? You probably weren't really even convinced you were going to start winning money at that table. More likely, you were lazy to leave, or you were just passively sitting around waiting to see what would happen.

If you were at a party with 100 people and you wanted to make friends, you would circulate the room, right? If you met one person you really liked, you'd spend a longer time with them. But if you spoke with someone you thought was totally obnoxious, you'd find an excuse to escape so you could talk to someone else instead. The same goes for casinos--ditch the nasty tables and find nicer ones. Flit from table to table like a hummingbird looking for nectar.

It all sounds so simple... but even I, Lady HengHeng, sometimes fall prey to staying in abusive relationships with nasty tables far too long.

Here are some reasons players, including myself, sometimes get stuck playing at tables they should be ditching. Try to avoid getting yourself into such situations unless you want your bankroll to suffer:

1) Hot guy(s)/girl(s)/dealer/croupier at the table - Never underestimate the power of this trap. Even if you are aware of the dangers and insist that you'll be able to tear yourself away when you start losing, trust me, when the Megan Fox lookalike across the table starts making eyes at you over her chips you will stay for at least 3-5 more hands. If you're betting $20 that's already $60 to $80 gone.

2) Playing with friends - Likelihood of getting hooked increases with the number of friends playing at the same table. If everyone's having too much fun to care about losing money even when the table is lousy, you won't want to spoil the fun.

3) Ordering drinks - Once you have a beverage set nicely on a coaster in front of you, you start thinking you're in a bar instead of a casino and get too comfortable to leave. When you start losing you tell yourself you'll leave once you've finished your drink. This effect is magnified 10 times if your drink is alcoholic.

4) Using your membership/rewards card (the card you pass to the dealer so you can start chocking up hours to exchange for free meals or whatever) - I feel like everytime I use my Crown Card, I lose money. Even if the game's not going too well, I'll tell myself to just stay a few more hands to see if my luck changes because I don't want to go through the hassle of asking the dealer to return my card. Now if I'm playing to win I seldom use the card, unless I manage to find a good table.

5) Wearing uncomfortable shoes - You actually do quite a bit of walking inside a casino, jumping from table to table and exploring the facilities. The bigger casinos can be downright massive. If your feet feel like they are being stabbed, the next thing to get stabbed will be your wallet.

Of course, there are other reasons casinos are fun than just winning money. But if you're seriously playing to win, you have to make some sacrifices at times, and often that means dragging yourself away from the table to circulate!

Read more:
How to stop gambling when you've lost all the money within your gambling budget, aka how to limit your gambling spending

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

How to stop gambling when you've lost all the money within your gambling budget, aka how to limit your gambling spending

We've heard it all before--gambling is just for fun, don't chase your losses, decide how much you're willing to lose and if you lost that amount, call it a day.

Sounds simple enough. But when you're out of chips and faced with the decision of whether you should try and win your money back or accept your losses, things can often go either way.

What if?

Most intelligent beings can accept the mathematics of the situation, namely that you are down $x. It is also quite obvious that changing another $100 will mean you could potentially be down $(x+100). However, what makes you willing to risk that extra $100 is the fact that instead of being down by $(x+100), you could potentially recoup your initial loss of $x, or if your luck really turns around, you could even be up by a potentially infinite amount.

To put it simply, when you've lost all the money within your gambling budget, you always ask yourself this question:

What will happen if I change another $x? I may lose it all. But I may also win back my money.

Now, there is no need to start spouting odds or calculating probabilities. It is irrelevant how high your chances actually are of winning or losing that additional amount. Very often, the main thing that catalyses the act of changing more money (and thus exceeding your budget) is the uncertainty of what will happen if you change the money.

Even if your brain tells you you've already lost money and shouldn't risk more, and even if you know very well that your luck is poor that day and you're not likely to win much more, it is the torment of not knowing what would have happened if you had changed another $x that will often break even the most resolutely-held budgets.

When faced with difficult decisions, it is human nature to try to predict what may happen as a consequence of making either choice. Often, after electing to make a certain decision, a person is tormented by the consequences that making the alternative choice would have produced. When they say the grass is greener on the other side, the 'other side' is that other choice, the one you didn't make.

When the gambler who's just lost everything in his budget is called upon to decide between changing more money or not, he already knows the consequences of one of the choices--walking away having lost everything he agreed to lose. It is the consequences of the other choice, changing more money, that remains a mystery. And dying to know whether that consequence would have allowed him to win back his money is what makes many a gambler plonk down the extra cash.

Be kind and give yourself a second chance

First things first, I am not saying you should change another $500 if you've already lost your entire gambling budget of $500.

Since we've established that people often exceed their gambling budgets because of a burning curiosity to see what would happen if they changed money again, the best way to combat that is to allow yourself to change another sum of money if you lose--but factor that sum into your gambling budget.

For instance, if your budget is $150, instead of changing $150 all at one go, you could change $100 (the initial injection) first, treating that as you would your entire budget, and leaving $50 (the rebuy amount) for emergencies. If you win money, obviously there is no need to change anymore. If you lose less than $100--suppose you lose $70 and are left with $30, you can decide whether you wish to stop playing right then and there, or wager the remaining $30.

Some of you may decide to break $150 into two sums of $75 instead. Do whatever works best for you, but I prefer to let the initial injection ($100) be larger than the rebuy amount ($50) because it is more effective in preventing further rebuys, as explained later.

When you've lost

It is only when you've lost your initial injection of $100 that the extra $50 comes in handy. If, after losing the $100 you are still dying to know if you can recoup some of your losses, change the extra $50 and see what happens.

Two possible scenarios may arise:

1) You win money, which may or may not be enough to cover your previous loss of $100. Whatever the case, at least you'll leave with more than you would have if you hadn't changed the $50. You can now go home pleased that you made the right decision.

2) You lose the $50, bringing your losses to a total of $150. Since the $50 was taken out of your original gambling budget of $150 (before you decided to break it up into $100 and $50), you have not exceeded your budget.

Now, I'm sure some smartasses will say that after losing the $150, you'll be tempted once again to see what will happen if you change another $x.

Initially, after losing your first $100, you will be faced with two somewhat equal choices: to change an additional $x which you may win or lose, or not to change the $x.

However, after you've changed the extra $50, the two choices no longer seem as equal as before. Since you've already changed money twice, and lost both times, it appears that given your current run of luck, changing money a third time would also result in a loss.

Furthermore, people usually change the most money before they start playing; subsequent rebuys after losing money generally involve lower sums. Now that you have already lost $150, you probably wouldn't want to change another $100 (equal to the initial injection) for fear of losing way too much than you were prepared that day.

On the other hand, since you're already down $150, changing $50 doesn't seem like it would help much in helping you recoup your losses as you'd have to win three times that amount. This is why I prefer to split my budget into a larger initial sum and a smaller subsequent rebuy. It helps you start thinking of possible rebuys as smaller sums, and makes it more unlikely you'll want to rebuy more than once, since rebuys are small relative to your total losses and this makes the likelihood of recouping your losses more unlikely.

In closing

Remember, recreational gambling is supposed to enrich our lives and make us happy! If the amount of money you're losing is stressing you out, it's time to rethink your budget.

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Be a casino butterfly and flit from table to table

Friday, September 18, 2009

My own dream of 4D numbers

"A dream is a wish your heart makes when you're fast asleep"
- Walt Disney's Cinderella

The last time I wrote about the lottery (if you haven't read it, click here), I talked about the power of the subconscious mind and how it can receive messages containing lottery numbers in dreams.

I was so caught up with recounting other people's experiences that I completely forgot about a dream I myself had a couple of months back. I didn't strike 4D or Toto, in case you're wondering, so you're free to disregard whatever I say as idle chit chat.

I had gone to bed early and slumbered happily for a couple of hours when I suddenly awoke around 4am at the end of a dream (you know how the dreams you remember most vividly are those after which you immediately wake up instead of going back to sleep).

In the dream, a woman I was having a conversation with gave me the four numbers (in sequence) 3, 2, 1 and 2.

Okay, I admit my dream wasn't as mysterious or as heavily symbolic as that of the guy who dreamt of the four spears. In fact, it was pretty crude as my dream-self whipped out a 4D entry form and started busily shading squares, haha.

This led me to conclude that the dream probably wasn't a divine message from above but just a base manifestation of my preoccupation with the lottery.

Nonetheless, I jotted down the numbers and went back to sleep.

The next day, I bought 4D numbers 3212 and iBet. Because I wasn't in Singapore at the time, I called a friend back home imploring her to help me buy the numbers and offering to split the winnings 50-50 if the numbers came out. By the way, that friend's Chinese zodiac sign is my own sign's secret friend (more on that another day).

(Note to those who may be unfamiliar with Singapore's 4D lottery game: you have to choose four digits from 0 to 9 in the same sequence as the winning numbers).

Well, as I said earlier, 3212 didn't win anything in the end.

But the first prize for that draw (22 March 2009) was 3270, and one of the starter prizes was 3215. Pretty close, no?

Ah well, it was probably just a coincidence. But one can always dream....

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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Why everyone should learn blackjack basic strategy

Blackjack is one of those games that's so common that most people find themselves playing it at some point in their lives, whether at home games or in casinos, even if they're not really into gambling. It's also one of the more dynamic casino games because as players we get to make our own decisions on whether to hit, stand, double, split or surrender, rather than just put our chips on the table and pray--you'll find that players interact with each other more than usual at the blackjack table.

It never fails to amaze me when I see people play blackjack haphazardly and with clearly no knowledge of basic strategy. You wouldn't sit down to play a game of Monopoly without knowing at least that you could buy and sell property, right? It frustrates me when I see players with a 10 failing to double against the dealer's 5. A player who does that is not optimising his game when the odds are clearly in his favour.

For those who are unfamiliar with basic strategy, a quick Wikipedia search will explain things a bit. Basically, for any combination of cards (yours and the dealer's), there is one decision that will be most beneficial to you as the player.

Some decisions seem pretty obvious. For instance, if you have a 20, you stand no matter what card the dealer has. If you have 14 and the dealer has 10, you take a card even though you may go over 21 and bust, because if you don't you stand a high chance of losing when the dealer takes his second card. Pretty elementary stuff.

Of course, some basic strategy decisions are a bit more surprising to beginners but can easily be explained. For instance, if you have a 15 and the dealer shows a 4, you should stand. When the dealer shows 3, 4 or 5 he is in a good position to bust if he draws two big cards. Since your own 15 could easily bust if you take another card, it's best to just stand and let the dealer bust.

You need basic strategy to achieve the best possible results permitted by the rules of the casino and your own luck. I'm sure most of us have won money prior to learning basic strategy on very lucky days. Blackjack basic strategy can help you do even better on your lucky days; even when things aren't going as best they could, using basic strategy can at least help you to stay in the game longer.

"But I can't be bothered to memorise the whole table! It's so much easier to just go with my gut feeling."

Anyone who says this obviously hasn't put any actual effort into learning blackjack basic strategy. Many of the decisions are pretty much a matter of common sense once you gain a basic understanding of the blackjack probabilities.

Furthermore, it doesn't take very much time or practice (as opposed to card counting) to get a decent grasp of basic strategy. You don't have to go and play at actual games in the casino to drill basic strategy into your grey matter. Because the dealer does not make actual decisions but always has to follow set rules dictating whether he should hit or stand, you can just practise on the computer--there are many free options online.

Sure, some of the combinations may be a bit trickier, particularly the rules governing splits and hands with aces. But the tricky hands will appear only a small percentage of the time. Most of the time you'll be dealing with hands that can be disposed of very, very easily as long as you've spent some time learning blackjack basic strategy. Even if you don't learn basic strategy perfectly, at least getting a feel for the overall pattern of decision making helps tremendously.

If you keep at it, before you know it, blackjack basic strategy will become second nature. For the more common hands, at least, you'll be able to determine the optimum decision the second the dealer turns over the cards. It's not like card counting, which requires intense concentration and some say detracts from the pleasure of playing (card counters use basic strategy as well, all while keeping track of the card count). Basic strategy players can order drinks, socialise with other players and fiddle with their mobile phones, all while playing their cards right. Believe me, it's not rocket science.

"Why do I have to take blackjack so seriously? I just play for fun! Stop being so anal!"

If that's what you're thinking, you have the misconception that basic strategy is an esoteric science that only the truly hardcore can be bothered to master.

Did you know that many casinos in Las Vegas give out free blackjack basic strategy cards and even allow you to openly refer to yours as you play? Yes, the strategy is so basic that even the casinos think that players without it would be too severely handicapped.

Now, I know what you're thinking: if even casinos are giving out free basic strategy cards, that means blackjack basic strategy can't really help me win, right? Well, without basic strategy, players would lose money way too fast and then stop playing altogether. Casinos always try to let people win just enough money to keep them playing. If there was a game in which the casino had a 100% edge and won every single time, guess how many people would be playing? (Those numerate gamers who have the mathematics of blackjack all figured out tell us that basic strategy can reduce the house edge to under 1%. This means you have slightly more than a 49% chance of winning, making it the game with the lowest house edge.)

Anyway, what I'm trying to say is, learning blackjack basic strategy is no big feat. Of course you can bring a cheat sheet with you into the casino if they allow it, but you'll find it's much easier to just memorise the simpler combinations, just like it's easier to master basic addition and subtraction than it is to whip out a calculator everytime you want to count $1.50 for a can of Coke.

"Alright, alright, I'll learn the damned thing. But how?"

This excellent website generates a printable basic strategy table which you can customise according to the rules at your casino. You'll probably have to do a little research to determine the rules at different casinos, but if you're not sure just enter them approximately--most common combinations remain the same for all sets of rules. Besides, once you learn one set of rules it's easy to make small adjustments where necessary. I think most casinos in Malaysia, Macau or Indonesia and those on cruises from Singapore will use at least 6 decks. The website has a few other features like tips on memorising basic strategy and a basic strategy trainer, if you really want to be spoonfed, heh.

I myself memorised basic strategy by printing out a blackjack basic strategy chart and pinning it on the noticeboard in front of my computer. Then I played blackjack on the computer for a while everyday, referring to the chart whenever I slipped up or forgot what to do.

Doubling and splitting are very important, and you should devote particular attention to this when learning basic strategy. If you don't even know how to double or split (yes it sounds silly but I know there are people out there who have a fuzzy awareness at best of these options), you won't be able to make the most of basic strategy. It is unacceptable not to know when and how to double or split as hands involving doubling and splitting are those that have the potential to make you the most money. Not doubling or splitting when you should is like driving a manual car without changing gears, and then wondering why your car doesn't go very fast.

If you haven't already learned blackjack basic strategy, please do so. It really makes playing blackjack a much better experience!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

How to pick lottery numbers

First off, I’ll be honest with you—I have never won a big lottery prize. The closest I’ve ever got was a paltry $60 in the Singapore Pools Toto Hongbao Draw. I wish I could teach you how to predict lottery numbers or write a manual on how to strike 4D. I wish I could assure you that anybody who is determined enough can master the secret to striking Toto. Unfortunately, there are some things even Lady HengHeng cannot do. However, just because I have never struck 4D or Toto doesn’t mean that you never will, or indeed that I will never have the chance to.

Based on the experiences of friends and friends-of-friends who have won lottery prizes, I believe there may be a metaphysical link to some people’s lottery wins. For instance, often an incident occurs in these people’s lives (eg. witnessing or being involved in a traffic accident) that grants them access to winning lottery numbers.

Unfortunately, this also means that lottery wins are to some extent subject to the whims of fate. Therefore, if you’re fated never to strike Toto or 4D, you may just never receive any of these hints from the powers that be.

The good news is that some of us will have chances to get our hands on the winning numbers. That’s why it is so important to be alert to the signals the universe sends us. Buying a lottery ticket will only cost you a few dollars—not buying one may cost much more. For every person who gets a funny feeling about 4 special digits and buys them on a hunch, there are 10 people who witnessed that traffic accident but didn’t bother buying the winning license plate number.

While I have to date not been lucky (or alert) enough to receive winning lottery numbers, I have heard several first hand accounts of people who have. Hopefully we can learn from their successes, hone our own observation skills and sixth senses and someday rise like a phoenix from the ashes of losing lottery tickets.

1. A particular friend of a friend has gained a bit of a reputation for having fantastic luck in 4D, having won quite a few prizes. He is reportedly a devout Taoist and prays regularly. One night a couple of years back, he dreamt of four spears whistling past in the night. The next day he bought the 4D numbers 1111 and won second prize.

Moral of the story: Be mindful of any numbers or numerical patterns that may appear in your dreams. Even in the absence of explicit numbers, pay attention to dream symbols or motifs which can be interpreted numerically. Be creative in your interpretations. Have pen and paper on hand to take down any important information before you roll over and go back to sleep.

2. The father of a friend’s boyfriend, who had never bought a single lottery ticket in his life, got a sudden and inexplicable feeling that his son’s license plate number would strike 4D. So for the first time in his life he bought $50 big and $50 small, winning a cool $25,000.

Moral of the story: Listen to your sixth sense. If a certain set of numbers (may come from anywhere: license plates, house unit numbers, telephone numbers, I/C numbers, etc) seems to trigger your intuition, it could well be the universe’s way of giving you a nudge.
3. My friend’s car was involved in a minor collision with another vehicle. She promptly bought the license plate numbers of both cars, one of which won a big 4D prize.

Moral of the story: Events or encounters which would normally not have happened may come pegged with winning numbers. Take note of highly coincidental or unexpected events such as accidents or significant chance meetings.

Note: Those who live in Singapore and have the luxury of playing both Singapore Pools Toto (similar to Lotto in many countries; first prize involves picking 6 winning numbers out of 45) and 4D (first prize involves picking 4 winning digits in the correct order) should be aware that in general (okay I cannot actually substantiate this but then I have never heard of anyone receiving 6 Toto numbers from 1-45). Many people just buy Quickpick for Toto anyway. However, if ever you suspect you may have Toto numbers on hand, don’t let the opportunity pass you by.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Casino Review: Crown Casino (Melbourne, Australia)

When relocating overseas I usually check for the closest addresses of three places: the supermarket, Ikea and the casino. Having spent most of my life in a country where casinos were illegal (though lately that has changed), heading down to Crown Casino is always a bit of a treat. I usually go a few times a month as long as I'm having decent luck.

The nice thing about Crown Casino is that it's also part of the massive Crown Entertainment Complex, so there's lots to do... meaning your friends/family/other half can entertain themselves while you gamble.

Crown Casino in Melbourne is the biggest casino in the entire state of Victoria (actually, it's almost the only casino), and is very conveniently located just behind Flinders Station and within walking distance of most of the city's major hotels. You can stay at Crown Towers if you really plan to spend your entire holiday at the casino, never to emerge into natural light outside, though there are cheaper options not far away, including Crown Promenade Hotel and smaller hotels and hostels on the other side of the Yarra river.

Crown Towers


Note: Photo-taking is forbidden in the casino. Lady HengHeng was warned by casino staff but managed to escape with these exclusive photos!

Crown Casino has a nice mix of games and isn't overly dominated by baccarat like many Asian casinos are (though there are sizable baccarat rooms to cater to the Asian clientele). I have found the dealers to be very professional. They know what they are doing and seldom make mistakes. Some are quite friendly, particularly the blackjack dealers. The roulette croupiers and baccarat dealers tend to be a little more reserved.

The interior is enormous and you will get lost amidst the dizzying carpet patterns and the ringing of the slots machines. After my tenth visit I still had trouble locating the change counters and the escalator to the second floor. Getting lost isn't that bad though, since the casino and even its toilets are extremely clean and quite attractive. Different areas are even matched with different styles of background music. The more spacious and posh-looking rooms have more jazzy, mellow tunes, haha. There are 2 floors of games; many of the lower minimum bet blackjack tables are upstairs so don't forget to go up the escalator if you're a blackjack fan.

There are two or three major concentrations of blackjack tables ($10, $15, $25, $50, $100), though they can be found all over the place. Hardcore players will be happy to know that they use at least six to eight decks, stand only on hard 17, allow doubling on 9, 10 and 11, allow doubling after splits, allow no surrender, and the dealer doesn't peek for blackjack.

Some of the blackjack dealers are really funny and a pleasure to play with; others are quiet but always very quick and efficient. There are other variants of blackjack like Crown pontoon, pontoon pandemonium and sports blackjack with funny rules like having the 10s removed, etc, but I don't advise you play them seriously because they all have worse odds than regular blackjack.

Standard blackjack table

One thing that seriously annoys me is the use of card shuffling machines at all blackjack tables. After every hand, the cards used for that round are immediately fed into the card shuffling machine. This wasn't the case before, but in about June this year they placed this evil device on every single blackjack table. This means not only that you can forget about card counting, but also that the days of crazy winning streaks may be over and the game is now much more random.

There are two major concentrations of roulette tables ($2.50, $5, $10, $25) on the lower gaming floor, as well as rapid roulette (electronic version, can go as low as 50 cents per bet) on both floors. The behaviour of croupiers varies though they are generally quite professional. I have come across a few, however, who were very impatient and didn't give players much time to place their bets.

There are both American-style wheels with 0 and 00 and European-style wheels with just one 0. There seem to be more of the single zero variety. I suggest you stay away from those with 0 and 00 since they offer worse odds.

Rapid roulette

There are two rooms dedicated almost entirely to baccarat ($10, $25, $50, $100). One in particular has different furniture and carpeting from the main area and is more spacious and pleasant. As you would expect, most of the people playing baccarat are Asian tourists. There's rapid baccarat on the ground floor as well which works in the same way as rapid roulette--the dealer stands in the centre while players place bets on their own computer screens.

Aunties and uncles in the baccarat room

There a few other novelty games like the wheel of fortune, sic bo or da xiao, pai gow and some poker variants like caribbean stud poker. If you're there with people who don't gamble much, they tend to be strangely attracted to wheel of fortune and sic bo. There is also a craps table; not many people are familiar with the game which is a shame. And as if that's not enough, there's a sports bar with a big screen and sports betting facility.

Wheel of fortune

Oh yah, there are also slots machines everywhere, mostly occupied by older people.

Ang moh aunties and uncles playing slots

Texas hold'em fans will love the Crown Poker Room, which is located two floors below the casino. Most games are no-limit with small blinds of $2, and there are computerized and automated tables for beginners.

Entrance to Crown Poker Room


Crown isn't as crazy as many of those themed casinos in Las Vegas and Macau. There are no wild animals walking around or fake historical landmarks. Those of us who are used to more gimmicky casinos may find the decor a bit nondescript. However, Crown is by no means modest--the complex's interior is sprawling and quite tastefully blinged out (for a casino anyway).


The Crown Entertainment Complex boasts quite a wide range of foods for most budgets. Outside the casino there are expensive restaurants like the overhyped Nobu. The A$60 buffet at Conservatory is quite good value for money, while the famous cakes at Greco are so-so. Cheaper options also exist in the form of a food court right outside the East entrance of the casino and a pizza stand, as well as good old McDonald's, KFC and Krispy Kreme at the other end of the building.


If you can't even bear to step out of the casino, you can always eat inside the casino itself. The more prominent restaurants are Margo's, which serves affordable pasta, and Shò Noodle Bar, which serves A$10++ soups and noodles. There are bars as well if you feel incomplete without an alcoholic beverage.


Random bar

If you want to eat inside the casino, but don't want to spend more than A$10, head to the East2West food court where you can order fried rice or noodles and choose from a variety of economy rice-style dishes. The food is, as expected, not fantastic, but still way better than the free buffet on the Long Jie cruise.


If you want to save even more money, there are a few snack bars hidden inconspicuously throughout the casino. If you go up the escalator to the second floor of the casino you can find one of these snack bars about 10 metres to the right of the change counter, beside the $10 blackjack tables. The snack bars serve quick and greasy fare like burgers and fish and chips. I heard the fish and chips used to be only A$2; unfortunately times have changed.

If you are really cheapo and don't want to spend a single cent (or you've lost money, hey it happens to the best of us), you can still order free drinks as long as you are sitting at one of the games. There is usually a lady pushing around a drinks cart with free coffee, tea, soft drinks and mineral water. These drinks are only available to slots players, but if you're really desperate you can strategically position yourself nearby and pretend to be fishing for coins to feed into the slots machine just as she walks past.

The eateries inside the casino usually don't close before midnight and may even stay open until 1 or 2am on weekends, so don't worry about losing track of time.

Other Entertainment

As its name suggests, Crown Entertainment Complex offers quite a few amusement options including shopping. Those who have won at least A$2,000 at the casino can part with their winnings at Prada and Burberry. Those who have only won A$200 can still shop at FCUK and Witchery.



There are also clubs, bars, a cinema, a games arcade and a bowling alley within the complex. Hopefully these are enough to keep everyone else entertained while you gamble.

If you don't want to spend money on non-gambling related entertainment, take a stroll along the banks of the Yarra River right outside Crown. At night, columns lining the Yarra Promenade right outside the casino spew forth noisy and startling fireballs. These mini volcanoes pollute the air and kill quite a few unsuspecting birds. I'm quite certain the riverside location and fireballs contribute to good feng shui.

The outside world


Classy casino in a nice city with a wide range of games and great service. Pity about the blackjack card shuffling machines.

Games: 8/10

Atmosphere: 8/10

Food: 7.5/10

Other entertainment: 8/10

Address: Southbank, Melbourne, VIC 3000, Australia
Website here.