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Do As I Say, Not As I Do10 November 2005
I confess that I have made all the mistakes in the book - in fact, I've made all the mistakes in the 18 books I've written; all the mistakes I warn others about. These mistakes run from minor, putting coins in a progressive machine with a monstrous house edge in the vain hope that lightning would strike and I'd walk away a multi-millionaire, to major mistakes - losing my cool, control and entire gambling capital. Yes, in my early gaming career I went belly up one year and lost everything.
Now when I say I lost everything, I am not referring to my house or other assets, I'm talking about my entire gambling stake - a stake first raised by using a small percentage of money I made from selling a business and added to by a heavenly great trip to Atlantic City where my wife, the beautiful A.P. and I won so much money that I thought we'd buy one of the Trump properties for myself if this "streak" continued for a while.
That was our first trip as an "official" card counting husband-wife team. I remember it well. We played a four-deck game every day for over a week and just kept winning and winning. I had no idea that we were "off the charts" so to speak and that most of our win was really due to plain, dumb luck - the cards were coming out in the high counts with our high bets up and we were getting them. This phenomenal streak made me heady with success and I planned a 16-day trip to Atlantic City several weeks later.
And we were destroyed.
We lost everything - all the money we had won on our previous trip and all the money we had put aside to be "professional" gamblers. Luckily, I wasn't dumb enough to touch any of my "real" money - money I needed to pay my mortgage, my kids' schooling or other bills.
It took us another year to save up a second gambling bankroll and that bankroll has now sustained A.P. and me for over 14 years of play.
Which is not to say, I never make mistakes. I do, plenty of them. (By the way, the beautiful A.P. rarely makes mistakes. I attribute that to the fact that she is super human!)
I'll give you an example of one that happened several years ago around this time. I was in Vegas, playing blackjack and craps during a 14-day stint. My betting levels were about 20 times higher than they were a decade ago and on my very first day I took a horrendous beating. I lost five figures in a single session!
For the next 12 days, I made my comeback, slowly grinding out win after win, until I was up about $1,700 with one day to go. Now, in gambling circles, there is some debate as to what to do when you are up with just a little time left before you must go home. The astute theorists such as Fred Renzey (author of 77 Ways to Get the Edge at Casino Poker and Blackjack Bluebook) state, correctly, that quitting while you are ahead is nonsense since, if you play with an advantage, it is always best to continue playing. The cards and dice don't know that you left Vegas ahead or behind, and when you return, the cards and dice don't know you've been away. In short, gambling is all one continuous session. So Renzey would say, "play."
I was caught in a dilemma. I knew Renzey was technically right about the game. But emotionally, having made such a great comeback, I wanted to go home with some money and savor the win before I headed for Vegas or another casino venue. Even though the cards and dice wouldn't know that I had been away, I would.
A.P. gave me great advice. "What would make you feel better?" she asked. "Going home ahead a little or playing the right way, as Renzey would recommend, and take the win or the loss without getting upset? Then do what you know you can emotionally handle. That's all."
I took A.P.'s advice seriously --and I did just the opposite.
I decided that I was being an emotional infant, trying to preserve my comeback win. I had a full day of play left in Vegas and I am a good player. Why not do the "right thing" and follow the "math" and play more sessions? That's what we "pros" do, after all. We are unemotional machines! Yeah! Rah! Rah!
So, I put my emotions on the shelf and played that last day.
And I lost another five figures! I was hammered!
It was the single worst day of my gambling life. I couldn't do anything right. Or, rather, I did everything right but it all turned out wrong. The dealer sucked cards out of the deck to make every long-shot hand. The few times I'd have a blackjack, so would the dealer. I'd have 20, she'd hit to 21. Same luck at craps. I couldn't shoot worth a damn. I'd go up on myself with my big bets; establish a point - bam! Seven out!
And I learned something about myself. I should have gone with my feelings because even a win on that last day would not have had the same degree of intensity as my devastating loss had. I would not have second-guessed myself as much had I just taken the money and run. I might have just said, "I wonder what would have happened had I continued playing?"
Yes, I know that in the long run, it is better to just keep playing if you have an advantage but I could have died in the interim - before I could get back to the tables. My death would have happened then after I lost! Yuck!
So here's the conundrum. The wrong thing, in this case, for me, was the right thing to do. Take the money. Sure, I'd be back in the casinos shortly (I'm always back in the casinos shortly!) but the interim would have been so satisfying. Instead, I was kicking myself; kicking myself for doing the technically right thing when I could have savored a few weeks of self-satisfaction for once again beating Las Vegas.
Okay, I confess, if I had to do it over again I would take the money and run. That would be the wrong thing to do. I admit it. But for me, knowing myself, it's the right thing. I have never gotten to the stage of my gambling career where losses are treated cavalierly. I feel them. I hate to lose, enough so that I will violate the Renzey Rule ("Go with the math!") and, instead, impose the A.P. Rule: "Go with what you know about yourself!"
So the moral of this article simple: Do as I say, not as I do. Unless, doing as I say makes you miserable. Then, ignore 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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