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The Sisyphean gambler

22 August 2011

Unless a casino player is a Golden Touch controlled shooter at craps or a card counter at blackjack or someone who knows about advantage-play slot machines, casino players enter the casino knowing the house has the edge at the games of craps, blackjack, and all the other games and machines, too.

The very casinos themselves are monuments to their edges at their games. You don't build a Las Vegas, Atlantic City or any gaming house in the Midwest by offering contests where there is an equal chance to win or lose. No casino does that. Yet, countless players come through the casino's doors ready and willing to risk their money on games they cannot beat in the long run.

So why do casino players play the games? And more important, why do they think they can beat these games with their betting systems over the long haul? Isn't that -- to be frank -- nuts? Why are these folks so deluded?

Many of our readers have heard of the myth of Sisyphus, and I believe that myth holds the key to why players play games they cannot beat in the long run. From the Internet encyclopedia Wikipedia, here is a brief description of the Sisyphean story:

As a punishment from the gods for his trickery, Sisyphus was made to roll a huge rock up a steep hill, but before he could reach the top of the hill, the rock would always roll back down, forcing him to begin again. The maddening nature of the punishment was reserved for Sisyphus due to his hubristic belief that his cleverness surpassed that of Zeus … Sisyphus overstepped his bounds by considering himself a peer of the gods who could rightfully report their indiscretions. As a result, Zeus displayed his own cleverness by binding Sisyphus to an eternity of frustration. Accordingly, pointless or interminable activities are often described as Sisyphean.

Casino play can be considered a Sisyphean labor when played against the house edge. Yet, casino players who think they are cleverer than the mathematical underpinnings of the game figure that their strategy will win out in the end and allow them to go home to their own version of Mount Olympus. "Honey, I'm home! And I just bought Bill Gates' company!"

Such playing strategies include trend-finding systems that work for or against certain events or numbers that have just appeared; psychic or mystic feelings about what shall happen next at the game and a host of other strategic concepts that have one thing in common -- they don't work; they have never worked and they will never work.

One would think years and years of losses, tantamount to rolling a stone up a hill and then seeing it roll back down time and again, would powerfully force home the point that all betting systems at random games cannot win. Still, the Sisyphean gambler just keeps pushing the rock up the hill only to watch it fall back down confident that the next roll will take him over the top and on to eternal victory.

Why does he do so? Why does he believe that his case is different than all the other casino gamblers' cases?

Perhaps some casino players and some gambling writers just believe they are smarter than the math of the games; that they are clever enough to skirt probability in favor of their way of doing things. In short, the Sisyphean gambler equates himself with the gods; those gods, in this case, being the math and payment structure of the games. These gamblers think they can change the nature of the gambling universe with their betting systems. Of course, they can't.

To make matters worse, the Sisyphean gambler usually throws aside the math of the games in favor of strategies that often call for outlandishly poor bets against the house. This comes from an idea that somehow the short run can dictate betting schemes that seem stupid in light of the long-term math but work for the "now." That is also a nutty concept.

So who are the smart players? Are there such people?

Yes, indeed, in my opinion there are. Aside from advantage players that I mentioned in my opening paragraph, smart casino players certainly do exist. Are they long-term winners? No. But they are not in the league of the Sisyphean gamblers for sundry reasons.

Knowing the math of the games allows a player to make bets with the lowest house edges. These players won't win in the long run, but the casino's hit on their bankroll will be nothing like the hit taken by the Sisyphean gambler. You can think of the smart casino player as one who only has to roll the rock about 10% up the hill before it falls down. The power -- meaning the size of the losses -- of such a rock fall will be far, far less than the power and the losses of the rock fall from the top of the hill.

Yes, losses are there for the casino player regardless of how he plays but one can limit the horror of sizeable losses by playing correctly. Casino gambling is fun, but one must recognize that very few casino gamblers can put themselves at the level of Zeus using Sisyphean betting strategies.

I guess the key ingredient in all this is to know one's place in the scheme of things.

Recent Articles
Best of Frank Scoblete
Frank Scoblete

Frank Scoblete is the #1 best selling gaming author in America. His newest books are Slots Conquest: How to Beat the Slot Machines; Everything Casino Poker: Get the Edge at Video Poker, Texas Hold'em, Omaha Hi-Lo and Pai Gow Poker!; Beat Blackjack Now: The Easiest Way to Get the Edge; Casino Craps: Shoot to Win!; Cutting Edge Craps: Advanced Strategies for Serious Players; Casino Conquest: Beat the Casinos at Their Own Games! and The Virgin Kiss.

Frank and Casino City Times columnist Jerry "Stickman" teach private lessons in dice control. Frank's books are available at Amazon.com, in bookstores or by mail order. Call 1-800-944-0406 or write to Frank Scoblete Enterprises, PO Box 446, Malverne, NY 11565. Frank can also be reached by email at fscobe@optonline.net.

Frank Scoblete Websites:

www.goldentouchcraps.com
www.goldentouchblackjack.com

Books by Frank Scoblete:

> More Books By Frank Scoblete

Frank Scoblete
Frank Scoblete is the #1 best selling gaming author in America. His newest books are Slots Conquest: How to Beat the Slot Machines; Everything Casino Poker: Get the Edge at Video Poker, Texas Hold'em, Omaha Hi-Lo and Pai Gow Poker!; Beat Blackjack Now: The Easiest Way to Get the Edge; Casino Craps: Shoot to Win!; Cutting Edge Craps: Advanced Strategies for Serious Players; Casino Conquest: Beat the Casinos at Their Own Games! and The Virgin Kiss.

Frank and Casino City Times columnist Jerry "Stickman" teach private lessons in dice control. Frank's books are available at Amazon.com, in bookstores or by mail order. Call 1-800-944-0406 or write to Frank Scoblete Enterprises, PO Box 446, Malverne, NY 11565. Frank can also be reached by email at fscobe@optonline.net.

Frank Scoblete Websites:

www.goldentouchcraps.com
www.goldentouchblackjack.com

Books by Frank Scoblete:

The Captain's Special Report

> More Books By Frank Scoblete