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Crazy gamblers8 November 2007
On the boats that leave Florida ports and head out to the three-mile mark so that people can gamble without disobeying American laws, a curious phenomenon occurs every day. When the time for play is almost about to end, an announcer gets on the loudspeaker and says, "Ladies and gentlemen, there will be only three more hands or decisions for today. We will be heading back to shore now."
You would think that players would count up their chips and be happy with their wins or losses and just call it a day. Not so. The largest bets of the day are placed on those last three decisions.
My friend, the great dice controller known as Rock 'n Roller, a frequenter of the boats, said: "It's as if they are all caught up in some crazy moment. They want to get the biggest bets they can on the table. Winners become losers; losers usually stay losers - and the ships rack in the dough. I don't know what gets into people but they all seem a bit crazy."
Another boat aficionado had this to say: "I think they put out those big bets because somewhere deep inside them they think this might be their last chance to gamble forever. Maybe they think the states will outlaw international waters or something. But the desire to get those monster bets up seems almost overwhelming. Maybe they think the boat is going to hit an iceberg."
Why are gamblers so anxious to get out massive bets on the last three hands? We wish we knew. But we do know this: gamblers often make the very worst decisions when they play casino games, decisions that make it very hard for them to win in the short run and impossible for them to win in the long run. For example, in many casinos today, the slot areas will have certain clearly marked machines that are paying a guaranteed 98 percent return. Right next to these machines will be other machines, returning less (sometimes far less) than 98 percent. You will often see players playing these other machines.
It is the same in video poker. States Stickman, an expert video poker player, "You will see a 9/6 jacks or better machine right next to an 8/5 jacks or better machine. The 9/6 is returning 99.5 percent; the other one is returning much less. But you'll see someone sitting playing feverishly at the 8/5 machine and ignoring the 9/6 machine. Why would anyone give the casino those extra percentage points? That's so foolish. But I have seen this all the time."
Unfortunately, many video poker players don't know which are the good machines and which are the poorer machines - and they don't care to know it! The information concerning which machines are premium and which are low-test has been available for a decade now. You can find this information on video poker web sites, in books and tapes. Still, gamblers just ignore these avenues of enlightenment and continue to play as if every machine is the same as every other machine.
The difference of a couple of percentage points is monumental in your long-run expectation. At a 99.5 percent machine, you will lose 50 cents for every $100 you wager. At a machine returning 96 percent, you will lose four dollars - eight times as much. Yet people will gleefully play those money eaters and ignore the good machines.
Table-game players are no different. At blackjack, a basic strategy player who follows the computer-derived rules for proper play of the hands will lose approximately 50 cents for every $100 he wagers. Yet most blackjack players do not play basic strategy. They play their own idiosyncratic strategies that give the house edges up to four percent. Blackjack players even play those horrendous single-deck blackjack games where the payoff for a blackjack is 6 to 5. To make matters even worse the game hits on soft 17. The edge on this game creeps towards 2 percent - for those playing basic strategy!
At craps, the "crazy crapper" bets in the middle of the table carrying edges in the double digits; the field; hop bets and place bets carrying edges of 4 percent and 6.67 percent, are wagered all the time. No one can play a close craps game with the casino when he makes those kinds of bets. You can't give the house edges in the 4 to 16.67 percent range and expect to actually turn a profit - except on those rare nights when Lady Luck smiles upon you.
So what should gamblers do? First, don't heed the "last three hands" announcement. If you are going to continue playing, play just as cautiously as you did before. The casinos aren't going anywhere. Gambling is the all-American pastime and you don't usually have to worry about icebergs off the Florida coast.
Serious gamblers, those who wish to go to casinos as a regular recreational activity, must learn which are the best machines to play at video poker and at slots - and play those machines exclusively. You can even find some video poker machines that return almost 100 percent of all the money played in them if you know the proper strategy to play. If a slot machine guarantees a 98 percent return, play that machine. Do not play a machine that has no percentage attached to it. This is common sense.
If you are a blackjack player, learn basic strategy and play your hands correctly. Do not allow your friends or fellow players to cajole you into making stupid plays that "seem" right. For example, hit your 12s against a dealer's upcard of 2 or 3. Always split your aces and eights. Never think that how someone else plays has any effect on your cards because trillions of computer simulations show us that they don't.
At craps, make the low house edge bets - Pass, Don't Pass, Come, Don't Come with odds. In Tunica, you can buy the 4, 5, 9, and 10 - bringing the house edge down to a reasonable 1 percent or so. There is no reason to make outrageous, high house edge bets. What's good for the house is definitely not good for the players.
So when they say, "It's the last three hands," say to yourself, "Makes no difference to me!"
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 email@example.com.
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