Avoid delusions of gambling grandeur

Jan 9, 2006 1:02 AM

I’ve been reading books and columns and all kinds of articles about the gaming industry since early 1990, and although many people have a different take on any number of subjects, the one staple I’ve found is that those who say they win claim to have a whole lot of skill.

Some people cite their math skills, some brag about being able to "read" others at the tables, and some say they can count the cards with their fingers, toes, teeth, facial contortions and who knows what else.

But I know better, and you’ll never hear any of that nonsense from me. I readily come out and say what the others just don’t want to hear — that it is luck and only because of luck that I or anyone else who gambles at any casino game can win.

As a professional video poker player, for instance, I know and admit that whenever any winning hand is dealt, drawn, or improved upon, it is simply because lady luck has decided to shine down upon me.

Let’s look at some of the other casino games in order to better illustrate what it is that I’m saying. Blackjack, a game of basic strategy that if played perfectly (and who does that?) will have the player leaving a small amount in the casino banks over a very, very long term. So when card counting was discovered, the astute player ran the numbers and found a tiny mathematical edge now in his favor.

However, let’s see if you can name on just one hand, successful players other than those who say they used to kill the casinos yet now have left town, have opened up other gaming businesses, or write articles/columns/books and operate fee-based web sites for an income while giving the continuing perception that they still rule the roost! What did they do ”¦ run out of body parts to count the cards with?

The fact is, a player can have all the ability in the world, but if the cards don’t fall then the player does. The truth is, a blackjack player will not consistently win without ongoing good luck. End of story. And the critic’s response about why card counters are sometimes barred from playing? That’s easy. A casino has to assume that if every player who counted were allowed to play, the theoretical take would not be up to snuff. So they nip it in the bud — and sometimes even if it might be the wrong decision.

How about craps? You believe any of those recent stories about the guru who claims to be able to influence the roll by dice-setting? To be able to use this new-found skill (of course, you have to buy something that tells you how to accomplish this feat) it seems one must hold the dice exactly the same way in exactly the same spot and throw them at exactly the same speed at exactly the same angle, hitting the cones in exactly the same space, time after time after time. Of course, it would be a whole lot easier to say you need good luck to be able to influence the dice. Get my drift?

And what about the most commercially popular of casino games these days — live poker? Have you ever played the game? Does thinking you’re able to or actually being able to read another player’s face actually correlate to having some kind of skill? I sure hope so, because other than that, no amount of math background, psychic powers, or religious belief in Divine Intervention adds anything to a player’s so-called skill level.

Here’s another one: sports betting. Did you watch the college bowl games this season? Fully 75 percent of the games’ point spread outcomes were decided in the last two minutes of the game, many times on the last play of the game. In virtually all of those instances, it was luck that led to the outcome of the bet, not any so-called handicapping skill.

Now we’re onto my favorite subject: video poker. Time and again I’ve effectively ripped apart the so-called experts’ take on why they like to believe a bundle of skill is required to win a tiny percentage during your lifetime. Other than for marketing purposes, to justify playing far more than one should, or for making believe one is a successful player, anyone who says they’ve honed video poker skills is delusional.

Without going into the same chant of common sense, the next time you receive a pair of Jacks on the deal, think about if you’ve been lucky or you just used some of that famous optimal-play skill to get them. Then when you hit the draw button and receive a third Jack, see if you can choose which guru you can thank for that unique and skillful opportunity you just experienced. This is why I know the game is at least 90% luck, and the sole skills that are required is the administrative preparation and the ability to hit the proper buttons.

Without any doubt, success at casino gambling is simply a function of good luck and what you choose to do with it after it appears. Most people let it all slip away because that’s what the casinos expect you to do. Others make believe they’re winning phantom bucks on a per hour basis even when they lose because they like to be labeled as advantage players who just can’t lose!

There’s all kinds of wild and imaginative scenarios in the world of gambling. Maybe this treatise will help you get around all that nonsense once a week.