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.

Read more:
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....

Read more:

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.

Read more: