As some LCBers already know, I also write for our sister sites Wizardofvegas.com and WizardofOdds.com as well as being an active poster and Administrator at the Wizard of Vegas Forums. Furthermore, both of those sites tend to have a greater focus on Land-Based casinos than this one, so I have decided to compile a bunch of questions that I have seen posted on the Wizard of Vegas Forums multiple times over the years into one Editorial here on LCB.
The goal of this Editorial is to serve as a useful, “One-Stop,” page for many of the most common questions concerning the inner workings of Land-Based casinos. It is possible that, in the future, many of these questions and answers that I am posting here will be the subject of their own Articles, but for the time being, I want to answer the questions in a fairly general way while focusing on specific aspects of these questions at a later time.
If you have any questions with respect to Land-Based casinos that you do not see covered here, feel free to post them in the comments and, in the event that I don’t have an answer for them, I will seek out an answer and return with my findings. The one thing that I will say is that 95% (or more) of my knowledge of Table Games play comes second-hand, so questions along those lines might not be answered immediately as the better part of Advantage Play that I do and those that I know do involves machines, Promotions and mailers.
With that said, let’s get started!
1.) Is there a such thing as a winning betting system?
The answer to this question is actually a very technical, ‘Yes,’ in terms of Expectation. The reason why it is technically a yes is that any betting system is a, ‘Winning one,’ all other things equal, in the event that one is playing a positive expectation game to begin with. Effectively, all betting systems really do is change the distribution of your results rather than actually effecting the House Edge in any way.
For example, the Martingale system is a system by which a player will double his/her bet after a loss, but will return to what is called a, ‘Base bet,’ after a win. The Martingale is a system that seems unbeatable (sometimes) in the short-run because there is a high probability of eventually winning a single trial somewhere along the betting Progression. However, the results will eventually conform, in the long-run and assuming an unlimited bankroll, to the House Edge or Player Edge of the game, whichever is the case.
Imagine you make the following bets with the first one being a Base Bet and doubling the bet after a loss:
What we would call that is a nine-step Martingale in that you would have to lose nine consecutive decisions in order for that particular series to fail. In the event that the series succeeds, at any point, the player will be up a single unit, assuming this is an Even Money Proposition, which is what the Martingale is generally applied to. In the event that the player loses all nine of the bets, then the player will have lost 511 units.
Let’s assume for a second that each of the bets in question has a 49% chance of winning and a 51% chance of losing, with that on mind, the probability of losing nine in a row can be expressed as such:
(.51)^9 = .00233416517 = 1/.00233416517 = 1 in 428.42
Therefore, there is a probability of:
(1-.00233416517) = .99766583483
That the player will ultimately win a bet. If we take a look at the Expected Value of these possibilities, then we arrive at:
Despite the probability of success on any given Martingale, ‘Run,’ the player will lose to the tune of the House Edge over the long-run every single time. That is just as true as the fact that a player with unlimited bankroll will win to the tune of that Player’s Advantage every single time in the long run provided, of course, that the player is playing with an Advantage.
The immutability of the House Edge applies to any system just as much as it applies to the Martingale, it is only the distribution of the results that changes. For instance, a system could be designed around picking 30 numbers on a Roulette wheel which gives the player a high probability of winning any single trial, but those rare losses, which are increasingly rare series losses depending on how long the series can go, are such that the player is doomed to failure in the event that he/she is not playing at an advantage.
Here is one way to look at systems that makes it easy to understand why the side that has an edge will prevail in the long-run: The casino is playing the opposite of whatever system the player is.
For example, a system known as the, “Reverse Martingale,” is one in which the player will simply, ‘Let it Ride,’ by doubling his or her bet after a win as opposed to a loss until a certain win goal is reached. When a player is playing a Martingale system, then, the player is also forcing the casino to play a Reverse Martingale system as is defining the terms under which the casino will win whilst playing this Reverse Martingale. While the Martingale is the simplest system to use to highlight this opposite dynamic, it is essentially true of any system that the player attempts to utilize.
It is for that reason and no other than the side that has an advantage will inevitably win in the long-run. The only possible exception to this would be if one side did not have the bankroll to overcome the other side, but the casinos also have a work-around for this problem due to one term that they can dictate to the players, regardless of how the players want to bet, and that is the Table Maximum. With a system like the Martingale, when a player runs out of money or runs into a situation in which the next bet would exceed the Table Maximum, it’s over and the casino has won.
I could go into longer and more in-depth examples with respect to the Martingale and other systems, but it has all been done to death and can be found elsewhere. If the House has the advantage, in the long-run, the House wins. If the player has the advantage (and bankroll) then in the long-run, the player will win. It really doesn’t get any more simple than that.
2.) What are the best games to play in casinos?
The answer to this is simple: The best games to play in casinos are those in which a player has an expectation of winning either straight-up, or by way of some angle or method of playing (such as a Bonus) that yields a positive expectation. In this regard, the best games will vary from casino to casino and from situation to situation depending on what the conditions are or what the angles are that the player is seeking to take advantage of. I have highlighted some specific plays, particularly a few that can be found by way of utilizing Online Bonuses, in previous editorials.
Aside from that, the, ‘Best,’ game is usually meant to mean the one in which the player is expected to lose the least, and usually, those games are Blackjack, Craps or Video Poker. However, even, ‘Loss,’ is a somewhat loaded term because it can be looked at in terms of the House Edge (what percentage of a player’s action on a particular bet or combination of bets can the player be expected to lose) or it can also be looked at in terms of Expected Loss per Hour, which is then based on the House Edge, the bet amount, and how many bets the player is going to make in an hour.
In this sense, a player who is playing a slower game with a higher House Edge, such as Pai-Gow Poker may have a lower Expected Loss Per Hour than a player playing a lower House Edge (but faster-paced) game such as Blackjack, especially depending on the Blackjack Rules and whether or not the player is playing Optimum Strategy.
Personally, if one is going to play a Negative Expectation game, then I think that a player would be well-advised to understand the House Edge of the game and perhaps set a certain Expected Loss to which the player wishes to play for a particular session. Obviously, pragmatic consideration might come into play such as a player losing all of the money he/she brought with him/her prior to reaching the Maximum Expected Loss that the player set for him or herself, but aside from that, I think that this is a good way to look at things because it is a constant.
In other words, a player may play at a faster or slower pace than the player originally planned on, so considerations such as, ‘I want to play for at least two hours,’ are silly and might result in an Expected Loss such that the player would never actually play for that period of time if you told the player, ‘You will absolutely lose x amount of money.’ It is for this reason that looking at the game in terms of setting a limit for Expected Loss might be beneficial.
In some cases, players tend to set a bankroll target saying that, ‘The most actual money I will lose is xx,’ or alternatively, ‘I will lose up to x, but I will stop and take my winnings if I win y.’ In far too many of these cases, the player does not stick to these arbitrary thresholds because the player will often begin to, ‘Chase losses,’ or try to capture bigger wins than the player has already won, in the event that the player is winning. Another thing that a player might eventually start doing is what I call, ‘Chasing wins,’ which simply means that a player will reach a high point during a session and then, having dropped below that high point, will endeavor to get back up to that point again.
No matter how a player looks at it, it seems more common than rare that a player will often not have the discipline to adhere to the limits he has set for himself or herself, and as a result, will simply play until he or she has lost the maximum amount of money that he or she can stand losing, or in the cases of online casinos, losing the entire amount that the player deposited.
However, imagine that a person was playing a Video Poker game with a Return-to-Player of 99.54% which reflects a .46% House Edge. This would mean that the player is expected to lose $4.60 of every $1,000 bet. In this instance, a player might say, ‘I am going to stop when I have an Expected Loss of $10.’ If the player is losing .46%, then you look at 10/.0046 which would result in a total coin-in of $2,173.91 which, at a bet of $1.25 per hand, would be 1739 hands approximately.
That stopping point, in my opinion, seems to be a little less arbitrary and more based on what the player will endure as an Expected Loss for a given session. I’m not sure whether or not it would be easier, in practice, for a player to end up stopping having reached the desired number of hands, but if a player can take Expectation into consideration as opposed to actual results, (and this is something that Advantage Players actually have to do all the time) then that might be a better way to keep things under control.
3.) How Can I Keep my Free Play Where It Is At?
In many cases, people will occasionally be surprised when they get used to receiving certain Free Play offers from casinos and then those offers seem to suddenly drop off precipitously. In these events, players can often find themselves shell-shocked as they do not believe that their play levels changed substantially, or in some cases, they actually lost more money in the casino than they normally would.
When it comes to Free Play offers for machine players, most casinos deal in a concept called, “Average Daily Theoretical,” which is a theoretical loss amount the casino assigns to a player after taking coin-in into consideration and determining an average House Edge the player is bucking. Most people are not privy to the specific numbers that a particular casino utilizes and they certainly change from casino to casino as many houses do not differentiate between Video Poker and Slots in this regard, though others do.
Anyway, the offers that a person gets from a given casino are no exception, so often when the offers change it is be cause someone either used the card for something such as parking and that got counted as a trip, or someone picked up some free play without putting any other play on the card.
The concept is actually pretty simple, consistent play results in consistent offers.