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Should You Go With or Against a Trend?22 October 2001
I know a kid who has memorized 250 integers of Pi -- the number that never ends. He isn't so great, of course, when you compare him to the Japanese fellow who has memorized 50,000 integers. (Talk about needing to get a life!)
So I asked this kid to write out the number of numbers of Pi that he had memorized and he did so. I was struck by something that always strikes me when I see a list of numbers -- the remarkable streaks that occur. A bunch of 1s in a row, weird patterns of 5s and 2s, and what not. As a gambler I think to myself: "If I were betting on what would be the next Pi number in the streak (without knowing in advance by doing the math, obviously) would I go with the numbers that have been occurring -- or would I go against those numbers?"
If we take the numbers of Pi and call them roulette decisions, or craps rolls, the question remains -- do you bet with the trend or against the trend?
Now, all mathematically inclined gamblers and gaming gurus know that in independent-trial games -- that is, games that are strictly random and where the last decision has nothing to do with the next decision -- it doesn't really matter what you do, the odds remain the same and so does that damnable house edge. Thus, if red came up ten times in a row at roulette, black is no more likely to show on the next spin than is red (each has 18 possible ways of showing). Yet, yet...it is tantalizing to think around the curve, so to speak.
Here is what I mean.
It is no secret that in roulette some wheels (very, very few I will admit) are biased, which means that certain numbers will come up more than other numbers because of a physical imperfection in the wheel. It is also no secret that speculation is rampant concerning the possible ability of some roulette dealers to control, consciously or unconsciously, how far the ball lands from its last number. This is called a "dealer signature" and some gaming aficionados swear this is a real phenomenon. Okay, if the above possibilities are actually possible, then at roulette it is always best to go with the trend in the off-chance that such trends indicate a possible physical change in the nature of the game.
Of course, a player checking a scoreboard and seeing that number 33 has come up three times, or that the distance between the various numbers recorded ranges between eight and eighteen pockets can't be sure of anything. More than likely, nothing untoward is happening. Granted. Yet, yet...if he bets with the trend and the game is actually random, the player has not increased the casino's 5.26 percent edge. He is merely playing the same game he would be playing if he bet against the trend in such a case. No harm done. But...and this is the crucial but...if the wheel is a little off, or if the dealer is slightly on, then betting with the trend increases the likelihood of winning, and betting against the trend increases the likelihood of losing. So, at roulette betting with the trend is either neutral or positive but betting against the trend is either neutral or negative. Thus, go with the trend at roulette.
Craps is another negative-expectation game that is set up to be random. Shoot the dice out of a dice-shooting machine, and let them bang and bounce all over the table, and the game is indeed as random as random gets. If the 6 has shown three times out of four, the chances of the 6 appearing again are 5 in 36 -- it will always be 5 in 36 in such a case. It doesn't matter then whether you go with or against the trend in such a case.
But put those dice into the hands of a careful shooter, one who sets the dice a certain way each and every time, and lofts them just the same each and every time so that they land more or less the same way each and every time and more may be going on than meets the math. Here it might be the wise thing to bet on the numbers this particular shooter is hitting. If he has hit the 6 three times out of four (especially if he hits it the same way, say 4:2), then maybe a place bet on the 6 is called for.
If the shooter actually has no control over his roll, then betting with him is not increasing your likelihood of winning or losing. It's strictly random. But if he has some control, however slight, it is best to bet with the trend in such a case because to bet against it could hurt you. As in the roulette example above, betting with the trend at craps is either neutral or positive; betting against the trend is either neutral or negative. At craps, bet with the trend therefore.
And what of blackjack? Do we bet with a winning streak by increasing our bets? Or do we bet against a losing streak by increasing our bets? Or do we decrease our bets after a win or loss? Or do we just flat bet and pray?
Blackjack is not like roulette or craps. If all the aces come out of the deck, there isn't going to be any blackjacks or soft doubles until after the next shuffle. Research has shown a slight (and I mean a really, really, really slight) correlation between winning a hand and losing the subsequent hand, as winning a hand uses up slightly more high cards (high cards favor the player) and thus more low cards remain in the pack for the next hand (and low cards favor the casino). So, if you want to go with or against a winning streak at blackjack, assuming you aren't counting cards, that is, then it is probably best to lower your bet after a win and raise your bet after a loss.
However...and this is the crucial however...the correlation is so slight that you should only slightly raise or lower your bet after a loss or win and not double up.
So, in craps and roulette go with the trend; in blackjack, go against the trend. Playing this way may or may not make you money but it sure as heck beats memorizing Pi places!
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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