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An Ounce of Truth in a Pound of Myth15 March 2007
Long ago I heard this story about a primitive tribe along the banks of the Amazon River. Whenever a disease -- thought to be brought by the "evil one" -- would sweep through their villages, the witch doctor would bake a loaf of bread, sprinkle it with water and hang it in a special tree looked over by a very special god of goodness. Then for several days the villagers who were not yet sick would dance around the tree and sing special songs to the god of goodness who lived in the tree.
Slowly the bread would turn a kind of blue green. When this happened, the witch doctor would take the bread down from the tree and distribute sections of it to the sick tribesmen and even to the healthy tribesmen. The sick ones invariably got better and the healthy ones did not come down with the malady.
The tree god had defeated the evil one who brought the disease and there was rejoicing as once again good overcame evil.
So what was the truth of the situation? Did an "evil one" bring in the diseases that the tree-god of goodness overcame with his magic bread? Or did the illness, brought about by poor hygiene and bacteria, respond because the bread had actually developed a penicillin-like mold that rapidly cured those who were infected and protected those who were not yet infected by a germ?
According to the professor who taught this story, the truth of the matter was the latter and all the other elements of the story were mere myth believed by the tribesmen but completely irrelevant to what was actually going on. The tree was just a tree; the dancing and singing did not bring out the god of goodness and a celestial ear did not hear all the fervent prayers lifted into the air.
And thus it is with many of the various myths in casino gambling. There are kernels of penicillin in the most outlandish of the myths that many of us believe in and that's why these myths endure. Here are some examples:
Tribes of casino slot players believe that when a property first opens there are more jackpots hit on opening night than on subsequent nights because the casinos make sure all the machines are loosened. Therefore, when a casino opens get there for that first night and you have a much better chance of winning the BIG one than on any other night.
If you take a look at the opening of many of the casinos across the country it does appear as if many more jackpots were hit on opening night than at other times. The fact is that more jackpots are hit on opening night because usually opening night is packed with players, the sheer numbers of which lend themselves to long shots coming in with some regularity. It has nothing to do with loosening the Megabucks programming or any other programming for that one evening. More players just equal a greater chance that more jackpots will be hit. Unfortunately for you opening nighters, it doesn't mean your chances of hitting the BIG one are any better than on any other night.
Many of you have heard that the secret to winning at casino gambling is to "quit while you're ahead." There is some truth to this myth. If you got ahead in a game and quit and never came back to the casino, you would be a long-term winner. How many of you reading this article actually did that? I'll wager…none? Or why are you reading a gambling article since you've quit?
Okay, let's see how this myth works itself out in reality. You buy a plane ticket, book your hotel room for four nights in Vegas, get into town, go to the tables or machines, win on the very first decision. You are now ahead. You beat the house edge. If you quit, what are you going to do for the next four days?
Say you decide to just quit for the night. You go to a show, then you go to sleep, and the next day, you try your luck again. You might even win the first decision again. Another short night.
Here's the kicker in the myth of "quitting while you're ahead" -- at some point of continuous play (be it hand after hand, pull after pull, or one hand on one night after one hand on another night for a string of nights), the house edge is going to catch up with you. And the longer you play the more chance it has of doing so. There are very few casino players ahead of the game of their choice after any kind of extended play. The "quit while you are ahead" myth is a feel-good myth that has truth in the short run only. In the long run, it isn't going to be applicable because you're not going to be ahead.
Many gamblers believe that you are better off wagering into a streak than against a streak. Others believe equally as fervently that you are better off betting against the streak than with a streak. Well, here's the ounce of truth.
In blackjack, you are better off betting against a streak for two reasons: First, the player tends to lose approximately 52 decisions and only win approximately 48 decisions, so losing streaks will tend to last longer. Second, when player-winning streaks occur there is a slight correlation with high cards coming out of the deck -- which means the dealer will tend to be favored on the next round. So once you win a blackjack bet, the ounce of truth is that you are a teeny-tiny bit better off lowering your next bet!
In roulette, you should bet with a streak because there is an outside possibility that the wheel is "off," making some numbers or sectors come up more than other numbers or sectors. There is also the remote possibility that a dealer might be consciously or unconsciously landing the ball approximately the same number of pockets away from his last hit because of the way he throws. This is called a dealer signature. Is this likely? No. Is it more likely than totally erroneous? Yes. An ounce's worth of likelihood.
In craps, you want to bet with the streak because it is possible that the shooter is influencing the outcome of his rolls by physical techniques. You can watch him closely and if you see the shooter taking great care with setting and launching of the dice; he might just be that rare breed -- the dice controller. Bet with him, not against him. Of course, about 35 percent of the dice shooters can now be described as "careful shooters," which means that there will be tons and tons of random shooters who take great care and an ounce of them will actually have the ability to change the nature of the game.
In slots losing streaks will predominate because the machines are programmed to return their money explosively -- many losses followed by a big win. Don't pour more money into a losing streak because it is more apt to continue than to abate. In Let It Ride, you only win about 25 percent of your decisions -- so losing streaks will dominate that game as well.
So the ounce of truth about playing streaks is this: Some games favor going with the streaks and some games favor going against the streaks and all of these games favor these strategies just a little bit. You just have to know which game favors which strategy and not think because you know this you have solved the riddle of existence because you are still the odds on favorite to lose, whichever strategy you use. Or, you could take a loaf of bread, put it in a tree, and dance away the days and nights - and guess what? While you do that, the tree-god will protect you against the all the ill effects of the house edge. That's a sure bet! Why? Because you won't be playing.
This article is provided by the Frank Scoblete Network. Melissa A. Kaplan is the network's managing editor. If you would like to use this article on your website, please contact Casino City Press, the exclusive web syndication outlet for the Frank Scoblete Network. To contact Frank, please e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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