So I got me a little snifter here. Jack’s been working his way through some freebies — a new supplier’s trying to break into supplying the casino. Reckons he needs to make sure all the right people get their taste of the good stuff and we’re both of us out to oblige him. Damn, but some of this stuff is good! Makes me wanna give up the poker and the slot machines, and settle down with a bottle or two to enjoy my retirement.
Anyways, the young fellah just called. Caught me in a mellow mood for once. He thinks — well, we can suspend judgement on that for so long as he keeps paying me — he thinks I should explain myself. In one piece I’m saying there’s, “a proper mathematical playing strategy for video poker.” In the next, I’m saying there’s a gambler’s fallacy and you can’t predict the cards. He thinks they doesn’t fit right together.
So here’s a few words to make it all crystal.
Did you ever see Ocean’s 11 — don’t matter whether it was the original Rat Pack version or the new ones with George Clooney and his pals? Did you notice how they always robbed the casinos. There was never a hint of walking through the door with a system for winning at the tables or on the slot machines. Hollywood got it right for once. The only way you guarantee a big score at a casino is as a thief — and you’ve to be lucky to enjoy your “takings” and avoid the hail of bullets if you get caught by wrong people.
Look around online. You’ll see a small army of people touting their systems for beating all casino games with a house advantage. Play slot machines, win big. Win at blackjack without counting. When I was growing up, my mother used to play 78s all the time. She loved the musicals of the 1920s. She’d never been on the chorus line, but she’d a hankering for it. Her parents disapproved of theatrical folk and that was an end of that. Anyways, one of my favorites was Banana Oil — kinda like snake oil but always applied to lounge-lizard lines. “When he tells you, ‘I adore you,’ that’s banana oil.” In other words, everything he said to get his mark into bed was bullshit.
Well, the same goes for all these salesmen pushing betting systems for slot machines. They’re trying to scam you outa your money. Take it from me. There ain’t no system around that even dents the House edge on games where the probabilities are set in the House’s favor. Math is math. Mind you. It’s not my money — you wanna fool yourself you can shade the odds in your favor on video poker, then feel free.
So, how do these systems work? You’re supposed to base your bets on the most recent outcomes. Take roulette as an example. Wait for a run of blacks, then bet on red — the longer the run, the bigger the bets on red. If you see a pattern emerging, you’re supposed to think that the probabilities of the game itself have changed. When I worked for casinos, we always nodded wisely when someone cautiously asked if they could play a system. Another little chicken ripe for the plucking.
My father was counting deaths by the million over decades for the life companies. Probabilities and statistics only make sense in the long view. Short-term, you’ll find anomalies in all slot machines but, over time, the basic patterns are set in stone and in the House’s favor. You’ll see lucky streaks that look like they’re never going to end. But, so long as the House keeps its nerve, the winner will lose it all back again.
It’s the same with the so-called systems. They aim to build up the small wins to offset the big losses. If you’ve the bankroll, you can often win over a session. But you’re obsessional kind, ain’t ya? You’ve invested that money in a system. You’re not going to quit while you’re ahead, are you? Which means that any small winnings you picked up on the good days will all get given back to the casinos on the bad days. It’s just the way the House edge works. Like I say, you can’t beat the math.
Which leaves me with my strategy, which I’ll get back to when I’m good and ready.