Several days ago, I caught up with an old friend here in town. As we were discussing a variety of people we knew, a “condition” was mentioned with at least a couple of them – “gambling problem.”
Living in Las Vegas, you meet a variety of people who gamble for a living. A few are moderately successful and most, regrettably, are not. The ones that are successful are generally poker players, sports gamblers, video poker players and blackjack players – probably in that order.
There’s a reason why these four games are the games of choice for the successful gamblers. Poker is a game of math, but also one of true skill. You are playing against other players and thus it is very possible for you to be better at the game than the others. I’m looking forward to casinos putting in more games of skill.
I’m an okay poker player, but I would think I can potentially have an advantage at some games of skill over others. A few months ago, I played a skill-based poker game at a table game convention. It was a Three Card Poker variant where you can pick your cards by being faster than the other players.
Two skills are needed – recognizing which cards you want and quick reflexes. I’m good at both of those. I’m looking forward to this game being in the casino someday. At the demo, I didn’t win every round, but I won more than my fair share, which is all you need to do when playing against other humans.
Next up are sports gamblers. I love sports, but I don’t gamble on it much. I used to occasionally do a $5 parlay card during football season to keep it interesting, but not in a few years. I know a few guys who do this well. They have a lot of data they pour through to try to get an edge. While the wagers are made with casinos, you are to some extent wagering against other players and if you know how to parse the data, this is another area where you can gain some advantage.
The latter two are more of my zone. They are video poker and blackjack. Not a surprise that they have a lot in common. Both games are routinely close to 100%. In the case of video poker, you need to seek out the 100%-plus games. It has gotten harder, but they are still out there. You can also seek out video poker tournaments and maximize cash back and comps to keep the game incredibly close to 100%.
Blackjack is a lot like video poker. You can play the basic game at 99.5%, and with comps and cashback and some tournaments, you can keep it very close to 100%. If you learn to count, then it is like seeking out the 100%-plus games of video poker, except that counting is technically not allowed and you might get banned from a casino.
That leaves all the other games for the not so successful gamblers. Now, if you’re just a tourist coming to Las Vegas for a week to have some fun, playing the other table games is not going to ruin you. Most games have a 1% to 2% house edge and if you wager $150-$500 per hour, you’re talking a loss rate of $1.50 to $10 per hour.
Even if you play for 20 hours across a week, you’re still talking about a maximum of $200 over your trip. This is not a lot of money for a week of fun. And it is not exactly a guarantee of a loss. Over 20 hours of play, you may very well win.
The problem comes in when you start playing regularly and for more money games that simply are mathematically against you. If you don’t realize playing a game with a 98% payback means you will lose 2% of your total amount wagered over the long run, then unfortunately, you’re probably not going to realize you also need to play using the right strategy in order to keep it to that 2%.
Luck can play a part, sure. Hit a Royal Flush at Let It Ride and you’ll make some good money. But, these games were all built using math and in the long run the math is always right. The reason why successful gamblers pick the game I mentioned earlier is because the math tells them you can win (or keep it very close to even) over the long run. They play those games using the right strategy.
The bottom line is that math dictates everything about every game. This is why Expert Strategy was created – to help the player learn the three key components. Know which games to play. Know the right strategy for those games. Know what to expect when you play.